What Do I Do if My Car Overheated and Then Locked Up?

Please help! I was driving home and my engine started making these weird knocking noises. I noticed that the engine temperature was really high, and then the whole thing just sort of stopped all at once and a little smoke came out. My neighbor said it might be locked up. What does that mean, and what can I do to fix a locked-up engine?

Patrick Price · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Uh oh! That’s really unfortunate – I’m so sorry! Brace yourself for some bad news—if your car overheated and then locked up, you’ll probably need to completely replace your engine.
A seized or “locked-up” engine means that the components have ground against each other causing friction until they actually fused together.
Overheating often does precede a lock-up, so that may very well be what happened. If so, you probably would have noticed a knocking noise, decreased engine performance, and the check engine light before it seized.
You can check for these clues to tell if your engine really is seized:
  • Electronics still work but the engine does not
  • Knocking sound when you try to start the engine
  • Smoke, fire, or fumes coming from the engine
  • The piston may be visibly protruding
Based on the symptoms you’re having, it sounds like you may indeed have a seized engine. The most likely cause is a lack of sufficient engine oil. You might have had a leak, a bad pump, or just waited too long to change the oil. In any case, there is a good chance that your car is totaled.
There may be one or two parts that can be salvaged and reused, but overall the engine is ruined. Your only real options are to buy an entirely new engine or sell the car for parts.
If you’ve followed standard maintenance procedures, your insurance will hopefully cover the damages—in the end, it comes down to what caused the engine to seize.
Having the right
car insurance
can make all the difference in situations like this. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your coverage, regularly review your policy, and make sure you’re getting the protection your need for a price you can afford.
can help with that! Jerry is a licensed broker and the world’s #1 rated insurance app. Drivers who use the free Jerry app to shop for great deals, save an average of $887 each year on coverage!
View full answer 
Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.

Join 4M+ members in lowering their car insurance

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings