How much does it cost to replace an engine?
Plan on spending at least $4,000 if the heart of your car fails
The engine is the core of a vehicle, and its health is crucial to your safety and the life of your car. Like any intricate machinery, though, car engines can fail for multiple reasons, and making the right repair choice can mean significant costs — usually at least a few thousand dollars.
In this article, we delve into the costs associated with both rebuilding and replacing your engine so you can make a decision that suits your needs and budget.
- Common signs of engine failure include decreased performance, strange noises, increased exhaust and oil or coolant leaks.
- You can rebuild an engine instead of replacing it — this involves disassembling and inspecting the damaged components, then reassembling the engine using new or re-machined parts.
- A new engine for a four-cylinder car typically costs around $4,000, though some high-performance engines cost tens of thousands.
- If your engine fails, check to see if it’s still under warranty — if so, this can significantly reduce the expense of repair or replacement.
Cost of replacing an engine
The cost of a replacement engine varies by manufacturer, mechanic and whether you opt for a new, remanufactured or salvaged engine. You might spend $800 to $2,000 on labor alone, but your mechanic should provide an itemized quote detailing the replacement and labor cost.
- New engines: Four-cylinder engines purchased directly from the factory and installed at a dealership typically cost around $4,000, while high-performance engines can exceed $10,000.
- Remanufactured engines: These engines undergo a stringent rebuilding process to try to match the performance of newly built engines, and some remanufactured engines even come with warranties. Remanufactured engines are typically cheaper than new engines but more expensive than a salvaged engine.
- Salvaged engines: Salvaged engines, which come from used vehicles in junkyards, are typically the cheapest option, with some priced as low as a few hundred dollars. However, it's important to note that salvaged engines may have additional issues resulting from previous use or neglect.
» MORE: What does a car warranty cover?
Pros and cons of engine replacement
When it comes to replacing your engine, you have a wide range of options, but there are a few things to consider. While getting an engine from any vehicle or manufacturer is technically possible, going for something different can come with extra costs and time.
Benefits of engine replacement
Engine replacement offers the opportunity to install a new or refurbished engine, which can significantly improve the reliability of the vehicle. It ensures you have a fresh start and are less prone to breakdowns and malfunctions. Engine replacement can also increase your vehicle’s life span substantially. This might mean you can continue using a car you’re strongly attached to even if its original engine is no longer functional.
Another upside to replacement is it gives you the option to upgrade to a more powerful or fuel-efficient engine. Upgrading to a newer model can enhance performance and improve fuel economy — and, depending on the type of replacement engine, you may benefit from a warranty and customer support from the manufacturer or supplier.
» LEARN: What is a manufacturer's warranty?
Drawbacks of engine replacement
Engine replacement typically involves higher upfront costs than engine rebuilding, and switching to a different engine model may present compatibility and integration challenges. If you opt for a salvaged engine, it's important to thoroughly assess its condition and reliability before installation to prevent future complications.
Replacing your engine can cost several thousand dollars, but it can essentially give your used vehicle a fresh start.
Modifying the vehicle to accommodate the new engine can also require additional time, effort and money. The process can take anywhere from eight to 20 hours for a mechanic, depending on the vehicle. Getting your hands on a new engine and testing it can also take a few days to a week or more.
What to consider before replacing an engine
Before you replace an engine, evaluate the vehicle’s overall condition, and consider your long-term plans for it. Also, assess the compatibility and integration requirements for the new engine — you can install an engine from a different manufacturer, but this can be costly and time-consuming. Opting for an engine specifically designed for your model will ensure a smoother installation process and minimize compatibility issues.
How much does it cost to rebuild an engine?
Rebuilding your engine is a cost-effective alternative to replacing it. The cost can vary depending on the type of engine and the extent of the work necessary; this ranges from $2,500 to $4,000.
During an engine rebuild, your mechanic will disassemble your vehicle's engine, carefully inspect the damaged components and reassemble the engine using either new or re-machined parts to address the underlying issues. This intricate process aims to restore the engine to a working condition, ideally making it almost as good as new.
Pros and cons of rebuilding an engine
Engine rebuilds are generally less expensive than engine replacements, making them a more budget-friendly option. Depending on the extent of the work required, it can take up to two weeks to complete. Future buyers may also hesitate to purchase a vehicle with a rebuilt engine due to concerns about reliability, even though the engine may be fully restored.
Rebuilding means you can keep the original engine, preserving its authenticity and potentially maintaining optimal performance.
What to consider before rebuilding an engine
If you’re leaning toward rebuilding your engine rather than replacing it, consider the following to make sure it’s the right choice:
- Age and mileage: If your vehicle has high mileage or is nearing the end of its life, a rebuild may not be the most cost-effective option in the long run.
- Overall condition: If the engine failure is an isolated issue and the rest of the vehicle is in good shape, rebuilding the engine may be a suitable choice.
- Future plans: If you plan to keep your vehicle for an extended period, investing in an engine rebuild may be worthwhile — but if you're considering selling or upgrading soon, the impact on resale value may not be worth it.
Deciding between rebuilding or replacing your engine can be tough. To make the best decision for your specific situation, consult a trusted mechanic who can work with you to determine the best option for your vehicle.
Does my car warranty cover my engine?
The engine is a part of the vehicle’s powertrain, so most factory and extended warranties include engine coverage within a specific time or mileage limit. Contact the manufacturer or extended warranty provider to find out if your engine is still under warranty. Warranty coverage can significantly reduce or even eliminate the expense of engine repairs, so it’s smart to take advantage of it if you can.
» WHAT’S COVERED: What does a powertrain warranty?
Symptoms of engine failure
Because your engine is integral to your car’s functions, its failure can affect many different systems. There are several things to look out for if you think your engine is failing, including:
- “Check engine” light: Most modern vehicles have a “check engine” light that illuminates when the engine’s sensors detect a problem. It can indicate minor issues (e.g., a loose gas cap) or major issues like engine failure. To determine this exact cause, the system has to be scanned using an On-Board Diagnostic II (OBD-II) code reader.
- Decreased performance: Engine failure can manifest in reduced performance, leading to issues like decreased fuel efficiency, power loss, engine misfires, stalling or failure to start and overheating.
- Strange noises: Unusual sounds from the engine bay can indicate engine failure. If you hear knocking, thumping or grinding noises, especially during acceleration or deceleration, you might have engine issues.
- Increased exhaust: A sudden increase in the amount of exhaust your engine produces usually means something is burning that shouldn’t be. You may be able to tell what’s burning by the color of the new smoke. Black smoke is a sign that too much fuel is making it into the engine, blue smoke generally comes from burning engine oil and white smoke comes from burning antifreeze or coolant.
- Excessive oil consumption: The most obvious symptom of car engine failure is excess oil consumption. Oil works both as a lubricant and as a coolant for the engine parts, and once there's a lack of oil, the parts will start to wear extremely quickly. “If you need to refill the oil every few days, it's a big sign that you should either get rid of the car or prepare a bunch of money for repairing the engine,” Petar Dzaja, CEO of Car Detailing Planet, told us.
- Oil or coolant leaks: Oil or coolant spots on the ground under your vehicle could be a sign of engine failure. If a leak is caught early enough, it may not be an issue, but if your car has been leaking for months, the lack of fluids may create other problems.
If you think there’s something wrong with your engine, visit a mechanic immediately. They’ll run some tests and inspect your vehicle to figure out what’s causing the problem. If they determine your engine is in poor condition, you can either rebuild it or replace it entirely. It’s important to talk to a reliable mechanic who can accurately assess your engine's condition and advise on whether replacement is worth it.
How does a car engine work?
An engine creates power through internal combustion, during which fuel and air create a flammable mixture. This mixture is compressed by pistons, increasing its pressure and temperature. An ignition spark plug then causes a controlled explosion, which forces the piston downward and rotates the crankshaft. The piston then moves back up, pushing out the burned gasses through the exhaust valve.
Each cylinder fires in sequence, creating continuous rotation. The fuel system delivers gas to the engine, the air intake system supplies clean air for combustion, the cooling system circulates coolant and the lubrication system minimizes friction and wear. This process repeats thousands of times a minute while your car runs; if any components fail, a chain reaction can lead to damage or total engine failure.
How long is an engine supposed to last?
The life span of an engine varies depending on the level of maintenance, driving conditions and overall care.
What do you do after replacing the engine?
After replacing an engine, ensuring proper installation and functionality is important. Take the vehicle for a test-drive to evaluate its performance and update its documentation accordingly.
How can I extend the life span of a newly replaced engine?
To maximize the life span of a newly replaced engine, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, practice good driving habits, avoid excessive strain on the engine and promptly address any mechanical issues.
Does car insurance cover engines?
Car insurance policies typically do not cover engine repairs or replacements resulting from mechanical failures or normal wear and tear. Car insurance primarily focuses on coverage for damages resulting from accidents, theft or other covered perils.
However, mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) specifically covers engine repairs or replacements. MBI is designed to protect against mechanical failures and can provide coverage for engine-related issues. To determine the specific coverage details related to your engine, review your insurance policy or consult with your insurance provider.
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