Social Question

Kraigmo's avatar

Have you ever known of a car that lasted 2 years after an engine replacement?

Asked by Kraigmo (9005points) December 4th, 2010

Everyone I’ve ever known who has replaced an engine in a car, including myself, had the bad luck of the engine still failing two years later. Usually these engines are rebuilt, and also if one bolt or mount is wrongly placed, that can quietly destroy a replaced engine over the course of a few seasons. Perfect mechanics are hard to find; even the dealer is risky.

Outside of a mechanic who daily babies his cars… has anyone ever known of a car to last 2 years beyond an engine replacement? If so, why do you think it lasted long, or was it just simply a properly installed engine?

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10 Answers

Fred931's avatar

I just saw a clip of someone who put a 3800 engine in place of a 3.1L into an old Grand Prix Turbo. I’ll check back in two years. I promise.


filmfann's avatar

I owned a 1982 Subaru GL Hatchback. I bought it new for $5,200.
I took it to the dealer for every routine maintenance.
In 1988, I had 80,000 miles on it. After buying a house, and trying to cut back on expenses, I took the car to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. They did not correctly tighten the oil pan plug, and it fell out while I was doing 70 on Highway 505. I immediately saw the black smoke coming from behind my car. I got the car to the side of the road, and had it towed to a mechanics garage. They replaced the plug, and filled it with oil. After that, the engine was weak.
I tried to get Jiffy Lube to pay for fixing the car, but they flaked.
I tell this story often to warn people from doing business there.
I bought a used engine from Japan (they make their car owners replace their engines every few years, rather than using anti-smog devices, I was told). A friend of my brothers removed my old engine, and replaced it with a new one.
The car ran beautifully for another 15 years or so, when it was destroyed by a head on collision. The car had over 222,000 miles on it.

So, to answer your question: it can happen. Why was this car successful? It was a 1982 Subaru. Those cars were known to last!

koanhead's avatar

A replacement engine is not necessarily a rebuilt engine. If the quality of the replacement is not verified before installation, that sucker is likely to fail. At minimum, do a compression test and hear it run. Vibration is bad.
Rebuilding an engine is not terribly difficult, but it is a time-consuming pain in the can. It costs a lot of money to pay a skilled person to do this. Lots of people will opt to pull an engine out of a junkyard donor and hope for the best, with obvious results. Another option is to purchase a new or remanufactured engine from a reputable vendor. This is likely to get you a better motor than rebuilding it yourself, but this is a situation where you get what you pay for.
Even a perfect engine will fail if it’s incorrectly installed. Again, this isn’t a difficult process, but it’s a finicky one where cutting corners will hurt you later.
Here’s a more direct answer: when I was in high school I worked in a service garage with my father. During this time he rebuilt and reinstalled several engines. I don’t think I saw any of them come back during the three years I was there.
Do it right, do it once. Do it quick, do it again.

jca's avatar

i had a 2002 Nissan Sentra with 74,000 miles on it. I was driving to work one day when it overheated. I had it towed to the dealer, and I called Nissan and told them that the oil was changed religiously, and they knew it because the dealer had all the oil changes in the computer. The radiator cap was bad and that’s what caused the car to overheat. Since the radiator cap was a Nissan part, they replaced the engine. I had the car until 165,000 miles when i was in an accident and it got totaled. It was a good car, because the engine had only 90,000 miles on it.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Yes.I had a 1983 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.It was perfect.Perfect to steal too ;(
Also a 1969 Thunderbird 429 that did quite well too :)
1983 Jeep Wagoneer that someone else has owned for quite awhile now and it still won’t die.XD
I’m now looking for a 1965 Corvair engine :)

jerv's avatar

I’ve seen a few cars and even more trucks with engines that had been rebuilt or replaced.

Like @koanhead says, it isn’t hard to rebuild an engine, but some mechanics like to cut corners since it is a time-sucking pain in the balls. After all, they are charging you for X amount of hours, and if they only spend half of that time actually working then that is free money for them. Possibly repeat business too, if you’re gullible.

Some of it also depends on the vehicle though. Doing an engine swap in a 2nd-gen Golf could be done by a one-armed spider monkey in the middle of a nine-day bender if you give it a wrench set and a chain hoist. American cars tend to be a bit of a hassle since they are designed to either last (thus not needing repairs) or be disposed of (making it moot) while newer Japanese cars often require a degree in computer science and more specialized equipment while newer VWs are just fucking ridiculous. (I swear, it was easier to replace the head gasket on my ‘85 Corolla than to change the spark plugs on an ‘01 Jetta!)

Cruiser's avatar

If you are going to re-build an engine you have to do it yourself. A rebuild sounds attractive price wise but I like you have yet to see an off the shelf rebuild last long either. Re-builds are really only good to sell off a car with a blown engine. Spend the extra money and have your engine blueprinted and feel the need for speed! ;)

koanhead's avatar

Responding @Cruiser – A remanufactured engine from a reputable manufacturer is one thing, a Pep Boys special is another. Not to single out Pep Boys, but an engine manufacturer has facilities that you as a home mechanic or even a professional mechanic may not have. Do you have a foundry, a mill center, or a flywheel grinder? I sure as hell don’t.
I definitely agree with you that if you can rebuild your engine, you should do it yourself rather than trust it to someone else. “Blueprinting” an engine, in my opinion, is just “doing it right”. If it’s not done, the motor will not last and won’t work quite right- but doing it right takes a lot more time, so most folks won’t bother.

jerv's avatar

@Cruiser Umm… blueprinting may work for older American engines that were built with no regard for tolerances, but not for modern engines or any Japanese engine in the last couple of decades. Then again, aren’t you a fan of classic American muscle cars?

An old-school big-block may see performance gains of up to 20% and a newer American car may see 5–10% just by building it the way Toyota, Honda, and Nissan have been doing it for decades. Blueprinting those engines gets you such minimal gains (<2%) that it isn’t worthwhile unless you have more dollars than sense or are racing professionally.

It is also a case of “garbage in, garbage out”.though. I’ve seen shadetree mechanics do some impressive stuff with some makes/models and not so well with others. Of course than may also have to do with skill sets and not always the inherent quality of the engine. For instance, anybody who has ever straightened a head on most engines who tries it the same way with an older (‘80s) VW will bend the camshaft in a way that will cause it to break fairly soon though not immediately due solely to a lack of knowledge. That goes back to competence, since they should know enough to be familiar with the peculiarities of certain vehicles if they want to justify earning more than minimum wage.

And @koanhead is correct that many places do not have the proper equipment to do it right. I’ve seen may a garage that lacked the basic stuff like bore gauges and a full set of micrometers, so I would not trust those garages to work to within 0.050” whereas I am accustomed to working to within 0.001” in my sleep… given proper equipment, like a Haas HL-2, a nice Osaka Kiko, or even an old Bridgeport.

You would also need a good scale for making sure that the reciprocating parts are close to each other in mass. I have not seen one of those in many garages either, but if your engine has rods that vary from each other by more than ~0.5 grams then you are going to have balance issues that will tear the engine apart over time.

Or you could just get a Japanese engine that is already effectively blueprinted since they have this little thing that I, as a machinist, am intimately familiar with. It’s a little thing called QA.

@koanhead “Do you have a foundry, a mill center, or a flywheel grinder? I sure as hell don’t.”
That is what I am here for. Give me a blueprint and I’ll see if I can whip it out during my lunch break ;)

downtide's avatar

My partner owned a Fiat which had an engine failure. We couldn’t afford to replace the car so his parents paid for a new engine for it. We had that car another 2 years, and when we got rid of it, it was because of body rust, not the second engine failing. We replaced it with another Fiat.

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