With today’s vehicles you’re more likely to see a check engine light before noticing yourself that your car or truck needs an engine repair. Even so it’s still a good idea to take note of any changes in the motor’s sound, performance, or fuel economy. Even with regular maintenance you may encounter the need for repairs, especially as the years and miles add up. Then at some point it’s time for a new vehicle or perhaps a rebuilt or remanufactured engine.
Once you’ve taken away the transmission, electrical and ignition system, brakes, suspension, and cooling system there’s still a lot that can go wrong. Besides the belts, hoses, and other parts you can see there’s a timing belt that synchronizes the camshaft and valves that you can’t see. It’s proper functioning is critical for performance and fuel economy, and a breakage stops your motor entirely. Then there’s the camshaft itself, plus pistons and rings, the cylinder block with seals and gaskets, the cylinder head, exhaust manifold, and so on. And with the latest vehicles, a seemingly unlimited number of sensors.
A small problem can quickly grow into something much bigger, so if that check engine light comes on have your car or truck looked at by an auto repair shop. The same goes for oil leaks and other fluid leaks, strange noises, poor performance, and rough idling. Otherwise you may find yourself needing a replacement engine rather than just repairs. As just one example, since 1990 fuel injectors replaced carburetors. Keeping them clean and adjusted is necessary to maintain peak performance, but neglected problems can eventually destroy your motor.
Expert diagnosis is the key, so be sure to go to an ASE certified mechanic. Looking up diagnostic codes is one thing, but understanding the underlying cause takes training and experience.
Engine Repair vs Rebuild vs Replace
With a neglected problem, an over stressed motor, or simply high mileage you may be faced with a tough decision between a repair, a remanufactured or rebuilt engine, a new engine replacement, or perhaps a new car or truck.
Among the first deciding factors are the cost of repairs together with the age and general condition of the motor. If you’re facing major repairs and are really happy with your vehicle, or can’t afford a new car, a new or rebuilt engine may be your answer. But don’t forget to consider the vehicle’s book-value.
If your old engine is less than 10 years old the most economical solution may be to have it rebuilt. But if it’s at over 150,000 miles, burning oil, or running poorly, a replacement is a better answer. That’s because the rebuild could be particularly expensive, with re-boring cylinders, oversize replacement pistons, and milling various surfaces together with new rods and cam bearings, a new oil pump, and so on. When that’s the case you’re better off with a new or replacement rebuilt engine that meets or exceeds the original manufacturers (OEM) specifications. That takes only a few days compared to the much longer shop-time for an engine rebuild.
If you’re strapped for cash you might install a used engine from a scrap yard, but of course that’s a risk. So if possible, pay the extra dollars it might take for some sort of guarantee.