Cadillac CTS Engine Locked Up (Beginners Guide)

Owning a deluxe car like that Cadillac CTS, you might assume that its engine would never disappoint or that its engine is beyond a lock-up.

It might surprise you to know that no car’s engine is beyond a lock-up, especially when poorly maintained.

However, this article presents all you need to know about a locked Cadillac CTS engine, from the causes and prevention to its correction.

A locked Cadillac CTS engine will prevent your car from starting.

When your engine locks up, the ‘check engine light comes and remains on, and further attempts to start the Cadillac would result in the emission of smoke from your exhaust.

In addition, a CTS engine will lock when the engine is not properly maintained, especially without proper lubrication.

What Causes an Engine to Lock?

Several factors can cause your engine to lock. Interestingly, these factors do not need to accumulate but can cause an engine to lock independently.

Here are some factors that could cause your engine to seize;

#1. Lubrication Problems

One among the numerous Cadillac CTS engine problems is excessive oil consumption, usually about a thousand miles consuming a quart of oil.

Without regular checks, oil is usually not enough to lubricate the engine resulting in the various parts rubbing against each other.

Heat develops due to the friction rub, which results in your engine locking up.

Excessive oil consumption can also lead to carbon build-up in the piston ring grooves.

The Carbon build-up would reduce the ability of the piston rings to wipe the cylinder walls properly.

Also, the blow-by formed goes up into the crankshaft leading to a locking of the CTS engine.

#2. Hydro-lock

Your engine can seize when water gets into the engine’s combustion chamber.

This situation usually occurs after driving through a flooded road or when an inexperienced car washer allows water into the combustion chamber.

Eventually, the engine locks up because the piston cannot reach its highest stroke due to a distorted air-fuel compression.

#3. Timing Chain Problems

When your Cadillac CTS engine timing chain stretches and skips a tooth, the strokes of the pistons get disorganized.

This uneven flow eventually destroys the valves of the pistons, leading to an abnormality in the crankshaft.

Make sure you service your Cadillac engine regularly to prevent locking up.

#4. Rusty Parts 

Allowing your Cadillac to sit for a long time without driving it or at least warming would seize the engine.

This issue develops when the engine parts become rusty over time, leading to stiffening and a lock-up. Ensure you regularly warm up your vehicle to avoid this issue.

#5. Fuel Vapor 

When you get into a traffic jam, your Cadillac could overheat and generate vapor from the fuel with your engine running.

This vapor builds up in the fuel pump lines and starves the engine of fuel, causing it to seize.

Moving forward, always turn off your Cadillac engine to keep the fuel in a liquid state when not in use.

#6. Starter Problems

A starter malformation could give rise to a situation similar to an engine lock-up. You’ll hear a cranky sound when attempting to start up the engine.

However, please don’t force it; the electric wires would overheat, melt, exude smoke and smell bad.

What Happens if Your Car Engine is Locked?

Your Cadillac engine can lock up at any time, whether at rest or in motion. Still, the consequence of a locked engine is the same.

Here’s what happens when your Cadillac engine locks up:

#1. Cranky Sound

When your Cadillac engine seizes, you’d hear a cranky sound when you try to start the car.

The reality of this issue is that you’re going nowhere; simply put the car to rest and find a solution.

Also, such a scenario can happen while you’re driving, in which case, you must pull over and park.

A cranky noise may also indicate a problem with your power steering pump.

However, if this is the case, you’ll only have difficulties controlling the steering wheel while the engine runs properly.

#2. Car Won’t Start

Driving becomes impossible when your Cadillac engine locks as the engine won’t start.

It’s usually tempting to keep trying to start the car; however, you must avoid doing such after one or two failed attempts.

While driving on the highway and your Cadillac engine locks up, it most likely would damage the engine.

When this problem emerges, put the gear on neutral and slowly pull over

How Do You Tell if an Engine is Locked?

Several factors indicate when a Cadillac engine locks. With these indicators, you don’t need a professional diagnosis to confirm that your car engine is locked.

Nevertheless, you have to be very attentive to discern these signs. Let’s go over some of them to give you an idea of what to look out for.

#1. Check Engine Light

You’d notice the  “service engine” or  “check engine light” signal on the dashboard of your Cadillac.

This signal may come on and off or stay permanently on, waiting for you to give it attention.

When you see this signal, don’t wave it off; get a professional to look at your engine performance.

#2. Exhaust Emissions

When you keep starting the car many times without any improvement, electric wires get burnt and emit smoke.

You’d also perceive a burning smell coming from the engine.

When this situation happens, know that you’ll be facing a bigger problem of replacing rather than fixing your engine.

#3. Stiff Crankshaft Pulley

The crankshaft will not turn when you try a clockwise or an anti-clockwise move via the ratchet on the center bolt.

When the crankshaft pulley turns without resistance, the piston rings in the piston grooves move easily. 

How Do You Unlock a Seized engine?

To unlock your Cadillac CTS engine, you’ll need a breaker bar to maneuver the crankshaft pulley.

Unfortunately, when you try turning the crankshaft with the breaker bar, it will resist if the engine is locked.

So do not try to force it; rather, get right into solving the underlying engine problem.

To free up an engine that has stayed without use, you’ll need to soak it with oil.

This act requires removing the spark plugs using a plug breaker bar and filling up the cylinders with engine oil.

Allow the oil to sit for a couple of days to enable distribution and lubrication of engine parts.

This process allows the engine parts to glide over each other with ease, salvaging the situation of your Cadillac engine lock.

If your Cadillac engine locks due to waterlogging, open the cylinders by removing the plugs and turn over the engine.

This act would allow the water inside the engine to move out and free up the engine. Also, You can use a suction tube to drain the fluid from the cylinder chamber.

Get some ice-cold water or ice cubes for a vapor-locked engine and pour them on the fuel pump lines.

It cools down the fuel and condenses it back to gas, easing the CTS engine problem.

To free up an engine with a starter or a timing chain problem, get the car fixed by a professional. 

Regularly check the engine oil level and top up as needed to allay an engine seize due to excessive oil consumption.

You must never drive a car with little oil in the engine for a long time before replacing it. 

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Locked Engine?

Rebuilding your engine would cost you $1000 to $4000, depending on the severity and the expertise of the mechanic you get.

However, you’d have to replace a severely damaged Cadillac, which would cost you more than when you’re just rebuilding.

What’s more, the cost of getting a CTS engine replaced would equal that of purchasing a new vehicle.

You won’t spend for a vapor-locked engine unless the heat generated is enough to damage the fuel pump lines.

In that case, you’d have to spend about $1000 to $3000, which also depends on the professional expertise you seek. 

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Read more: Most Common Failure In the 2015 Dodge Ram Power Steering System


It’s one thing to own a Cadillac CTS and another to maintain its engine, especially when you have high expectations.

But, with proper care, it’s possible to avoid the problem of a locked engine.

Anyhow, whenever your engine locks, properly identify its cause and get right to finding professional assistance. 

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