Defective engine often rhymes with expensive repair. A new motor does indeed cost a small fortune, if you can get one. If the engine repair is not worth it, looking for a used engine can be a good option: there is, in general, a large choice of used engines for all brands.

Need a new engine?

Of course, the first thing before buying another engine is to determine whether a new engine is really necessary. Wouldn’t it be wiser to scrap the car? If an engine change costs more than a similar car, then yes, scrap the car. If the car costs around 4,000 EUR, you should probably think twice. If the repair is more expensive, you probably have no choice – a car with a faulty engine simply has no value. On another side ; can the engine be refurbished for a reasonable amount with a used part?

As a general rule, it will be said that if there is a risk of metal shavings in the bearings and in the oil, it will require substantial repair work. If the engine is completely soaked, which can often happen on diesel engines, it can also be difficult to clean it completely. If the block is broken due to overloading or a broken connecting rod, it is of course prudent to change the engine. If the oil pump has stalled, there’s probably not much hope for the engine. But what to do then?

„A used motor is often the best solution!“

Where is the problem with the old motor?

This question needs to be clarified so as not to add a defective part from the old engine to the new one. There are known examples of mechanics recycling expensive nozzles from the old engine. The problem was that one of the injectors was defective, consequently one of the pistons had melted. So look for the reason – this must also be checked on the new engine before it is fitted. For further: Common Car Engine Problems: Diagnostics, Troubleshooting, and Repairs

Can you change the motor yourself?

Of course, however, it is up to you to understand the ins and outs of such a move. This repair is normally done at a professional garage, as specialist tools such as a crane are required. The home mechanic may find it easy to lift the engine using a garage hoist, however the service will not be done optimally.


New, used or refurbished

There are several options when you want to buy another engine: The engine fresh from the factory is generally excluded, unless it is a warranty repair or the price is equal to you. A rebuild can sometimes be a good idea if it is a common engine. Otherwise, there are plenty of second-hand engines still usable – especially from cars with little damage. Note that some remanufactured engines are sold in exchange for your own used engine. Be careful, the price differences on the different engines can be astronomical. For example, an inline four-cylinder engine may cost EUR 2,600 for just the engine, while a V10 for a sports car may cost EUR 25,000. A brand new turbo engine for, say, an Audi can also easily approach 15,000 EUR before installation. In this case, it probably makes more sense to use a used engine.

Long block or short block

When looking for used engines, you often come across the concept of long block and short block. A short block is the bottom of an engine – from the lower crankcase to the head gasket at the top. Therefore, cylinder head, manifold, or other turbocharger are not included. With a long block, it is a complete engine from the lower crankcase to the valve cover, however without necessarily manifolds. Whether it’s a short or long block, you’ll need to move some parts to the new engine. With a short block, the top piece must be moved and you must be completely sure that it is level. If this is not the case, you must go through the maintenance of the cylinders. The way the headpieces need to be fitted differs – some have tension bolts, others need to be tightened in a very specific way to prevent the headpiece from twisting. It’s a bit easier to work with a long block.

You may also come across the word “turn key / key in hand”. These are verified engines. This is obviously the easiest, but also the most expensive.

„The prices of new engines are often very high“

Check engine code

When ordering a new engine, it is very important that you ensure that the engine you are ordering is identical to the one you are stripping. Typically, an engine has three numbers or letters indicating the type of engine. These numbers must of course be identical, but the following numbers or letters are also important. Note that if you need to modify the engine control, sometimes it is important to get the keys when the chip in the key communicates with the engine control.


Manifold and turbocharger

Serious engine sellers provide multiple photos so you can quickly see what you need. Attention: the intake manifold, the exhaust manifold and the turbocharger are not necessarily included. The same goes for the starter, generator and clutch. Usually the steering wheel is mounted. If the turbocharger is fitted, it is also easy to check this. For further: Your guide to the components and functions of a car’s engine

What does a rebuilt engine mean?

Unfortunately, there are no minimum requirements to deem an engine to be rebuilt. You can find the words “refurbished” or “completely refurbished”, but no one agrees on what it means. Therefore, if it says the engine has been rebuilt, find out more and ask questions. Are the cylinders crushed? does it have new pistons or piston rings or oil catch rings? Does it have new connecting rod bearings? Does it have new crank bearings? Many questions that need to be answered to find out if the engine has actually been rebuilt. Find out who did the work and if there is a special warranty.

„Fitting a used engine can be complex – always get professional help“

Check clutch and flywheel

Also take a close look at the new part’s clutch and flywheel. Check their condition and if they are too worn, change them. It is much easier to change them before the engine is installed in its compartment. Also change the V-belt, belt tensioner, water pump, if present, if it is driven by the V-belt. If it is an engine that has chain or chain tension problems, change them. This may affect some TSI engines from VAG or four-cylinder engines from BMW between 2006 and 2011. If the EGR valve is installed, check for soot in it and the intake – obviously this is also much easier to be done when the engine is not yet installed. For example, if you know the engine in question has faulty dual-mass flywheel issues, you might consider upgrading to a single-mass flywheel. Just be aware that this increases engine vibration a lot, so for those who appreciate comfort, switching to a „simple mass“ may not be wise.


Want to upgrade to something bigger and more powerful?

If you must buy a new engine, look for one with more horsepower. You must upgrade to an engine that has a maximum of 20% more power than the original. In principle, you can also exceed 20% however in some countries the import tax can vary and be expensive. On top of that, the car factory has to approve it. This means, in some cases, that the car needs new brakes and in others, expensive costs will be incurred due to the validation of the model.

„Always consider a bigger and more powerful engine when buying used“

Is the mileage correct?

If the mileage is suspiciously low, then be extremely critical. Why is the mileage low? Before buying a used motor, pay attention to the warranty – this is important, because even though used motors are cheaper than new ones, they still cost a lot of money.

5 tips for buying a used engine:

  • Find the car’s VIN number, engine code, gearbox code, and date of manufacture.
  • Look for an engine that matches your criteria and opt for a low mileage engine.
  • Check if there is a warranty on the engine – this is clearly preferable for such expensive purchases.
  • If it is a gasoline engine, cut the spark plugs and check to see if they are light brown, good and even.
  • Take a good look at the oil on the dipstick – it should be dark/light.

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