Your car is belching smoke or refusing to start, and you take it to a mechanic, who looks at it and says the engine needs to be rebuilt. You get a quote and are shocked at how high it is. How much does it really cost to rebuild an engine?
The average cost to rebuild an engine varies widely. Expect to pay a minimum of $2,500 to $4,500. However, costs can go up depending on the engine size and the extent of the damage. Rebuilding an engine is time-consuming, so the price can be far higher than the parts themselves.
If the mechanic recommends rebuilding the engine without first thoroughly inspecting it, consider getting a second opinion. Engine problems can be signs of a minor issue, such as a faulty starter. This article will explain why rebuilding an engine can be expensive and outline your options.
The Factors That Affect the Cost of Rebuilding an Engine
Many factors affect how much it will cost to rebuild an engine, so it isn’t easy to come up with a ballpark figure. Being aware of these factors is the first step toward helping you decide whether you want to have the engine rebuilt.
- Amount of damage. The extent of damage to the engine is the most significant factor. Damage to cranks, rods, bearings, and pistons will be at the lower end of the cost. Damaged cylinder heads require more labor and bring the price up much higher.
- Labor costs. Labor costs can vary from 50 to 100 dollars per hour, depending on where you live. Count on a minimum of 10 hours of labor.
- Parts. The parts you need might cost a couple of hundred dollars if you are lucky, or you could shell out more. A crankshaft is one of the cheaper replacements that you should be able to find for under $1,000. A cylinder head will cost $1,500 on average, and the engine block can run you $5,000 or more.
After the mechanic gives you an estimate, ask for specifics about what could be wrong. A good mechanic should be able to justify the expense. If that person can’t, find another mechanic.
The Engine Could Be Overhauled Instead
An engine overhaul means taking the engine apart, cleaning it, and replacing broken seals or damaged parts. Mechanics sometimes refer to it as an in-chassis rebuild. Since they don’t have to pull the engine out, the labor costs will be much lower.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know whether your car will need a full or in-chassis rebuild. It’s a question for the mechanic, so don’t assume you can figure it out yourself just by looking under the hood.
Signs Your Engine Needs To Be Rebuilt
Engines that need to be rebuilt or overhauled exhibit several specific signs. If your car has one or more of these symptoms, it needs more than a tune-up.
Smoke From the Exhaust
Seeing heavy white or blue smoke pouring from your exhaust regularly is never a good sign. If your exhaust is constantly spewing out clouds of smoke, your engine is probably burning oil.
The most common cause of your engine burning oil is worn-out seals.
If the smoke is blue, it suggests oil is getting into the combustion chambers. If it’s white, water or coolant could be getting into the chambers. This can be caused by various factors, including a broken engine block or a burst head gasket.
A Clattering Engine
If your engine clangs and clatters while you accelerate, it’s likely that the pistons are moving loosely in the cylinders. Mechanics refer to this as Piston Slap, and if you continue to ignore the problem, it will only worsen.
The problem could also lie with the timing belt. The timing belt or chain synchronizes the pistons, and if it doesn’t work properly, the engine will not run smoothly.
A Knocking Engine When Idling
If your vehicle rattles while idling, there’s a significant likelihood that something is really wrong with it. Worn-out bearings often generate a knocking sound. A damaged timing chain can also cause the sound.
However, you may be in luck, and your car simply needs a tune-up and new spark plugs, an inexpensive fix.
Engine Won’t Turn Over
If your car clicks while you turn the key, don’t assume the worst. Have the mechanic check the battery, starter, and wiring first. A broken starter will cause the same clicking sound. If those are operational, you might be dealing with a severe problem—a seized engine.
A seized engine means that the engine parts that rotate, such as the pistons and crankshaft, are stuck.
Other Options To Consider
If your vehicle’s engine has suffered significant damage, you have several options besides having the engine rebuilt or overhauled. These include:
- Buying a used engine
- Buying a new engine
- Selling or trading in your car
In the rest of this article, we will explore each of those options.
You Could Buy a Used Engine
Buying an old engine rather than rebuilding one can be a less expensive choice. Used engines can be found on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or local junkyards. In some cases, the user replaced the motor for improved performance. Or the junkyard removed the engine before scrapping a car if they think they can sell it, either whole or for parts.
Before buying a used engine, you need to ask your mechanic if you need a short or long block. A long block engine is an entire engine that replaces your current engine. A low block includes the engine block, including the crankshaft, rods, pistons, and bearings.
Although a short-block engine is likely to be less expensive, you will need to locate and pay for the missing parts, such as head gaskets and valves.
You Could Buy a New Engine
Buying a new engine can make financial sense if you are not making payments on your car anymore and it is in good condition. If the interior, body, brakes, air conditioning, and suspension are acceptable, you might come out ahead by installing a new engine.
If your current car is paid off and will run for another three years, for example, spending $5,000 to $8,000 on an engine might be less expensive than monthly payments on a new car. Of course, your financial situation might not allow you to do so. And purchasing a new engine for an older car is probably not a good investment.
Is It Cheaper To Rebuild an Engine or Buy a New One?
With the expenses of replacing or rebuilding an engine, it might be cheaper to buy a new one. Or perhaps it is time to abandon your car and buy a new vehicle. Each option has advantages and disadvantages.
It might seem like buying a new car might cost you more money up front, but it might cost less over time than rebuilding an engine. First, you will be able to finance a new car so that it doesn’t bust your budget. More importantly, the expenses on a new vehicle will be predictable. Once an older car’s engine has problems serious enough for a rebuild, you cannot predict the upcoming maintenance expenses.
On the other hand, rebuilding the engine maintains the investment you’ve made in your car. So another reason to rebuild the engine is for trade-in value. A vehicle with a working engine will net you more on a trade-in.
Finally, if you still owe monthly payments on your vehicle, investing in a new engine may be the most cost-effective of the two options. Ultimately, no decision can be made without looking at your financial status.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore the Problem?
When their car develops engine problems, some people will put off taking it to an auto repair shop. They’re worried about the cost of an engine repair and aren’t sure if they’ll be able to afford it.
They continue to drive their automobile around, even though it has a faulty engine, until one day it makes a loud noise and eventually quits working. This is usually an indication that the engine has seized and will need to be replaced.
If this happens to you, you’ll almost always wish you had dealt with the minor problem before paying for the engine rebuild. The expense of replacing an engine generally outweighs the cost of rebuilding one, with engine replacement exceeding $5,000.
An engine rebuild is the heart surgery of automobile repair. It is an expensive repair, and the best way to avoid it is to keep your vehicle maintained. Follow the car maker’s maintenance schedule, and if you notice a problem, don’t avoid it, hoping it will go away.