Should You Rebuild or Replace?

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  • #503466
    EricTheCarGuy 1EricTheCarGuy

      I see this question on the forum a lot. This video has my opinions on the subject. What are your thoughts?

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    • #503471
      A toyotakarlIts me

        Great Video!

        Completely agree about replacing rather than rebuilding… with the exception of a muscle car/collector car where the numbers need to match for the overall value of a car.

        You mentioned boring, but honing is key as well… I have seen this messed up 3 ways from Sunday where the rings bind/won’t ever seat properly…. Guys trying to save a buck or two end up killing their engine or having to replace it with another one because they can’t afford to pull it and get it machined properly to fix their mistake..

        Salvage yard engines… Wow this is a crap shoot… My experiences since last June…

        I replaced my car engine with a salvage yard engine from a place around 50 miles south of Columbus… runs great, no issues…. My daily driver… Total cost of engine: $550

        I then went to another salvage yard closer to home in Columbus and bought an engine (cost $550) to put into another car… It promptly blew the head gasket… All my time (about 10 hours in that car) was gone and while they gave me a replacement engine, I had to do it all again….(the second engine worked just fine), so there was another 10 hours.. Then on that car the 3 speed tranny went out… Got a transmission from that same place (cost $300)….That was another ten hours… And the Transmission still had issues as well!!! I put over 30 hours into a $2000 car….Arghhh!! all because of getting bad parts!!!

        I then helped out my neighbors BIL and put an engine in his car, a Chevy 2.2L he bought for $450, note it also came from the same Salvage yard where I got the bad engine and transmission…30 days later it had a blown head gasket… Now he expects me to replace the engine for free because I charged him $500 for installation….

        The point is, I am never going back to that one junkyard… Too many issues… Go figure, they were the cheapest source of engines/transmissions…. I will drive 50 miles further for a better source of engines…

        I had another car I put an engine in that I had delivered to my house, found that engine on EBAY… The guy was local, so he dropped it off with his truck…. It was a good price ($800) for a 1.8 VVT… Hooked it all up and noticed that the intake manifold was split where it looked like it was dropped. I had to replace the intake manifold with the one from the bad engine (luckily it was about a .5 hour job) and also had to replace the fuel injectors because someone overtorqued the fuel rail… So around $150 later I had a good running engine and it still is fine…

        I had a Lexus that I replaced the 3.0 with one from yet another local scrap yard… This had 137k miles on it and was around $900…Absolutely no issues with that engine.. That engine runs perfect…

        Serious Caveat Emptor to buying a scrapyard engine. Although the Scrap Yards all around me offer anywhere from a 30-90 day guarantee, doing the job over again is never fun… Do a good inspection and buy from someplace reputable, or you will be eating the labor again… JMHO…

        Once again, great video, thanks!


        P.S. All the local scrapyards around me will ask if you have gotten a price yet from another supplier, then they give you their price… Seems to me that on occasion they buy from a 3d party supplier.. Some will say they have it on the shelf and others need a day or two to get it…


          $1800 for a used engine? Yikes, that’s half the price of what the whole truck is worth with a running engine. I didn’t know prices were so inflated up North. I see them used for $600 to $800 with something of a guarantee.
          At that cost I suppose I have to start asking myself is what’s left of the vehicle worth putting a new engine in. For under a grand it would be worth it to take a chance and see how many more miles I could get out of a used engine. Over that I think I would just buy one already running and keep the other for spare parts. I would hate that kind of expense and then you have an expensive engine in a vehicle with everything else wearing out and falling apart.

          Matti PulkkinenMatti Pulkkinen

            If you’re doing up your daily driver then replacing is probably the way to go.
            But if you’ve got a project car and it’s a lot of work anyway, I can easily see a lot of people wanting to rebuild some parts just for the sake of rebuilding, and not really caring about it being cost effective. A learning experience, making the car really yours, and all that stuff.

            Matt BrandsemaMatt Brandsema

              I feel like there are a few things to consider for this one. If a DIY’er has both the knowledge AND the time, then he should rebuild rather than replace. By knowledge I mean he has the FACTORY service manual with him with all the specs, has ALL the measuring tools, and an appointment to the machine shop for resurfacing / crack inspection and so on. By time I mean, he is able to continue his live without a working vehicle for quite some time. (Like if he has two vehicles)

              If BOTH these criteria are not met in their fullest then you should replace. A rebuilt kit is only around 5-600 bucks (at least for my engine) this cost plus the machine cost would be less than buying a used or re-manufactured one. At the added expense of time.


                does this also go the same for diesel. replace over rebulid?
                because my dad works for greyhound bus lines and they always rebulid before replace after so many miles.

                Lord IhcalamLord Ihcalam

                  if you have a classic/collector car, that is numbers matching, rebuild.
                  if you have a classic or collector car without numbers matching, replace
                  if its just your daily driver, replace
                  if you are wanting more power (boring it out, making a stroker, adding a turbo or supercharger) or are changing the overall function of the engine from stock (a car engine being used on a boat etc), or want the street cred of doing it yourself, rebuild.
                  If you want simply more power without superchargers or turbos, replace if cost is within reason. JEGS and Summit have quite a few engine options that produce more power over stock. But if you go too extreme you can spend 30k on an engine alone


                    While I can understand – and even agree with – Eric’s POV on the subject, I’ll have to take a 1/2 dissenting opinion. That is, “it depends” would be my answer. Lord Ihcalam and others have already stated various use cases that would result in one decision versus the other, which is the essence of my argument/position on the matter. That said, I’ll provide one additional scenario where a rebuild is usually the way you go, though clearly there are exceptions.

                    As a rotary engine enthusiast, once you find yourself with a tired engine, you have little choice but a rebuild. Though “rebuild” has a slightly different meaning on our world. And sure, there are used rotaries out there but they aren’t likely to be much better than what you already have. You may get a few hundred or even thousand miles out of one but it is more likely that it’ll break down prior to the point in time that you had planned for it to last. I have two 12As just sitting in my workshop ready to drop in … if I wanted to go that route, but I don’t. And factory remanned rotaries? What are those? There are shops that will “rebuild” a rotary for you, but they’re getting fewer and farther between and with the profit margins on them being so tight, it’s hardly worth it really.

                    So in the end, if you’re running a rotary, get prepared to work on the engine itself more often than you would its piston counterpart. And buy the rotary-specific tools too, ’cause they make a rebuild a lot easier. Assuming that you can even “rebuild” it, that is. The seal kits aren’t exactly plentiful or cheap. Don’t get me started.

                    Anyway, just another case where a “rebuild” is usually the best option. ‘Course most all rotary owners are DIYers like Xyius referred to, ’cause we have to be. But I digress.


                      I think it comes down to the simple thing of “COST” I’m 16 and have done two engine jobs this year. I want to say in September I started my Dads 1994 Regal 3.8 swap. Being my first swap I got an engine with 60k on it that was a whopping $275. I have a lot of tools the only thing I had to buy was the hoist but that was $200. so I spent maybe a month and a half on the car working on it after school every day. so when I was about to put the last bolt in I slipped while walking into my garage and sliced my finger to the bone that was nice. anyhow the engine started on the first turn of the key and it ran great, just had a mystery misfire but got that sorted and it was good to go. so for around $600 I did a job that was quoted at $1800 at my local machine shop.

                      about 3 weeks after I completed that job my 05 Durango’s head gasket blew, no biggie right? WRONG $2000 to do the job at the local machine shop due to it being an OHC all the timing would have to come apart, the heads would probably have to be shaved as well. So I bought another junk yard engine 4.7 with 51k on it. I really inspected this one it was in great shape. and I could tell it had been taken care of, I even got the uncut fully in tact wiring harness for the entire engine bay! I started the job on Halloween and finished it a month and a half later its running great.

                      I think if you take proper precautions with salvage engine they are a good choice. ( tranny fluid in spark plug holes i think is a must ) I don’t think its worth rebuilding unless you want to keep the #’s there is a lot of trust going into the machinist too. I would have loved to put rebuilt engines in both of the cars mentioned above but I couldn’t afford to. I’m overall satisfied with the decisions I made though.

                      college mancollege man

                        For time,money and effort. replacement. If your
                        not going to over haul the entire engine.Then don’t
                        even attempt it.I like the crate motor or reman camp.
                        This way all the guess work is done for you. The project
                        can move forward. B)


                          I agree with Eric’s opinion with caveats I feel he didn’t really cover, but others have mentioned now, as in is this a project car? Do you want to keep the stock amount of power? Etc..

                          It just really depends, although you probably should of course look more closely as to what you would be getting into, and added cost most times, which is great that Eric emphasizes.

                          Even with someone doing this for a living (rebuilding), they’re still not going to care as much as you will, since it’s your own; that’s just fact. Usually during that process so long as things get close to the tolerance they’re after, they’re done, where as to do it yourself, you’d probably not be satisfied until it was perfect (or at least I wouldn’t be).

                          Michael PMichael P

                            My old friend had an 85 4-Runner that shot a rod while traveling I-5 a few years back. After researching for about a month, he came to the conclusion to purchase a rebuilt long block. After assembling the motor to the rebuilt tranny and back into the compartment, he then hit a road block–setting the efi. This alone took close to a month to complete alone.

                            That being taught, I learned that if I was going to replace the motor on my Pathfinder (or any other fuel-injected motor), I would have to basically take a class on how to set the efi. So, if you need to do the same to yours, study hard and get to know not only the basics of adjusting the efi, but how to install it correctly so that your not playing with it for days on end with no results!!

                            The only question is this; is the efi easier/more difficult to set then a good ol’ fashioned carb? I would assume easier but then again, we thought the efi would be a cake walk. WRONG!! lol


                              I am in the replacement camp. It’s hard enough for a home mechanic to accomplish a replacement. I just did it with a 5.4L triton from Jasper and she purrs like a kitten – no regrets. A rebuild requires you to take all the pieces to a machine shop anyway – may as well let them do the tear down & rebuild for you. I am driving my vehicle instead of wondering what I did wrong on the rebuild.

                              Dustin HicksDustin Hicks

                                WOW. Eric has a lot of good points.

                                Here’s my thoughts for the average DIYer about engine and tranny rebuilds….
                                1. First, do you have the knowledge required to do it right? E.G., even with step-by-step instructions, you still have to know how to use the tools & instruments and make measurements right.
                                2. Do you have the time? Can the vehicle be unusable as long as needed? Rebuilding yourself is NOT a “one weekend” type deal. Removal, tearing down, testing parts, getting parts, machine work, reassembly, and re-installation can take weeks.
                                3. Do you have the space? Even a two-car garage is small for this type of project.
                                4. Do you have the tools? Yes, many specialty tool items can be rented, but that can still get expensive.
                                5. Is the vehicle even worth the effort and/or cost involved?

                                If #5 is no just scrap the vehicle. If #5 is yes and any of #1-4 is no, I’d recommend a good remanufactured (not rebuilt or ‘overhauled’) unit. By ‘good’, I mean an unit with a multi-year warranty. My local engine remanufacturer offers a 7-Year/100,000 Mile Non-Prorated Warranty!

                                Yes, in a lot of situations, a ‘junkyard’ unit might be acceptable. But even with short-term warranties, that’s at best a crapshoot.

                                Only if you can answer all five questions yes, or if it’s a ‘matching numbers’ collector vehicle should you consider rebuilding.

                                Performance modifications are entirely different.


                                  I’d personally have to say replace the engine. Especially because you’re already doing all the work to take the engine out so as long as it’s out why not put a new one it, because by the time you get all the parts you need for a proper rebuild, you’ve almost got as much money invested into the rebuild as you would a new engine. Not to mention all the extra time. In my case I had a Pontiac Grand am for less than 5 days, and the car developed an engine knock. Less than half an hour later, I had to leave the car on the side of the road and walk home, because it threw a connecting rod through the block. I only paid $600 for the car and I couldn’t justify putting a new engine in it that cost more than the car. And a rebuild was certainly out of the question. Long story short the car got scrapped.

                                  EricTheCarGuy 1EricTheCarGuy

                                    [quote=”jeffrey” post=50665]$1800 for a used engine? Yikes, that’s half the price of what the whole truck is worth with a running engine. I didn’t know prices were so inflated up North. I see them used for $600 to $800 with something of a guarantee.
                                    At that cost I suppose I have to start asking myself is what’s left of the vehicle worth putting a new engine in. For under a grand it would be worth it to take a chance and see how many more miles I could get out of a used engine. Over that I think I would just buy one already running and keep the other for spare parts. I would hate that kind of expense and then you have an expensive engine in a vehicle with everything else wearing out and falling apart.[/quote]

                                    I didn’t say $1800 for a used engine, it was $1500 for the used engine. The reman was $1800.


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