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Should you consider an engine rebuild?

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Let's face it, buying a new car these days can cost a pretty penny. In this economic downturn, you might not be able to get the finances together to put down money on a used, let alone, new car. If your car needs a new engine and you just can't afford to buy a new vehicle, have you ever considered rebuilding its engine?

When a car suffers major engine damage usually the first thought that comes to mind is to get rid of the vehicle which oftentimes may not be the best economical route to go, according to Ken Carter, chairman of the Engine Rebuilders Council (ERC) and a 40-year automotive industry veteran, with 30 years dedicated to aftermarket engine parts. Carter sat down with this 'Car Chick' to discuss the ins, outs, dollars and cents of engine rebuilding.

1) Why should people invest in rebuilding their vehicle's engine's as opposed to just getting rid of their car?

Rebuilding an engine is an economical option when the engine's performance is the motivation in seeking a new or used car. Since the rebuilding process basically makes the engine "new" again, you can basically double the mileage you get from the car that you already own. Rebuilding an engine brings the cost per mile driven down drastically. The actual cost per mile benefit has too many individual differences to pin down. Purchase price and miles driven are the key cost variances.

Since today's cars rarely rust out, their suspensions last longer and there are fewer dramatic model design changes (which are other common reasons to get rid of a car), it makes sense to extend the return on your vehicle investment through rebuilding your engine.

Buying a new or "newer" car usually comes with a pretty high price tag. Even most lease programs have hefty down payments of at least $2,000 to $4,000. So when you can actually rebuild your engine for the same amount as a down payment, well, in a tight money economy, people are wise to look at, or consider this option.

2) Exactly what is involved in rebuilding an engine?

Basically, all the wear parts in an engine are either replaced or resurfaced to a "new engine" condition. Typically, the cylinders are bored out; new pistons, piston rings, bearings, camshafts, lifters (tappets), gaskets, oil pumps, timing gears and chains, crankshafts are reconditioned, and cylinder heads are reconditioned. After all of this is done the engine performance is as good as (or better) than out of the showroom. You have restored it's efficiency.

3) How long is the engine rebuilding process?

Although this varies, it could take as little as a couple of days when another rebuilt engine is dropped into the vehicle. Most likely it will take about one week.

4) What exactly are the benefits of having an engine rebuilt?

In addition to the reasons stated in the answer to the first question, many times an older vehicle that is not your primary transportation but is an old favorite (like your first car) can be salvaged from a life in storage and can be made to run like new again for many more nostalgic rides. Plus, if you want to make your car a "Hot Rod" or just want to give it a little more muscle, a performance rebuild will give you just that power. Think about this, if you bought a used car, you do not know what that engine's performance or life will be, so why not drive your own used (rebuilt) car?

5) After an engine has been repowered or rebuilt does the performance improve? (Is this a valid question?)

Very valid question...the short answer is "YES!" The longer answer is "Absolutely!" Rebuilding restores the engine compression which means more power basically. It will also improve it's efficiency so it gets back it's fuel economy. Go the performance rebuilding route and you can go racing which is something your showroom car couldn't possibly do. Another plus, rebuilt engines also emit fewer pollutants.

6) Are there some types of vehicles where engine rebuilding would not be a wise investment?

If the cost of the rebuild would exceed the total value of the car, that would not be a wise investment. Unless there is some sentimental value to justify the extra money. For example, you did not see many Yugo's rebuilt.

7) SUV's vs. cars does the engine rebuilding costs run about the same?

The cost of rebuilding an engine depends on the number of cylinders since the number of parts and machining operations increase. Therefore an 8 cylinder engine would cost more than a 6 or 4 cylinder. Rebuilding diesel engines cost more than gasoline engines since the parts are much more robust and costly. Of course the service life of a diesel is much longer too, up to twice the miles.

8) How expensive can engine rebuilding be?

Most of the non-performance gasoline engine rebuilds will fit into a range of between $1800 to $4500 depending on the number of cylinders etc.

9) Are engine repowering and rebuilding interchangeable terms, or are they one in the same?

Some of those in the business may want to play with the semantics between those two words but for all intent and purpose they are synonymous.

Word to the wise regarding engine rebuilding check out your warranty. According to the ERC, an engine warranty is a guarantee given to the purchaser by a company stating that the remanufactured/rebuilt engine is reliable and free from known defects and that the seller and/or manufacturer will repair or replace defective engine parts within a given time limit and under certain conditions. Consumers should read their warranties carefully, especially the fine print, so that they fully understand what is covered and for how long.

Need more info? Check out the ERC's website: http://enginerebuilder.org

--Car Chick

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