(Dave Siytangco is our resident “car doctor” who will give buying advice and expert solutions for your car troubles. Dave is a certified motorhead and runs his very own car repair shop. For questions about your vehicle, please email Doc Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
By Dave Siytangco
THERE comes a time when our beloved car would have to undergo an engine overhaul. The need to bring down an engine could mean that there is something wrong internally with the engine. Symptoms: excessive oil consumption; excessive blow-by, loss of power; low oil pressure; mechanical noise coming from inside the engine? For what ever reason it maybe, the decision for an engine overhaul is quite unnerving. It’s like opening Pandora’s box. You never know what kind of evil lurks inside the bowels of your engine…but opening up the engine is the only way to check what needs to done. So, what do you do? Do you call the A-team or the Ghostbusters?
Sometime last year, I heard a comment saying that having an engine rebuilt isn’t advisable. “There are no competent shops that are capable of doing the job right.” Now, that made me think, why would someone say such a thing. Could it be possible that this person may have had a not so memorable encounter with the service shop? It could be. I’ve heard of stories wherein a person brings his/her car to a shop and had it checked. The shop recommended to change some parts, and after spending a vast amount of time and money, still, the problem is not solved. There’s another story were a car was due for an engine rebuild; but after having it done, it still ran the same or even worse before it was brought in. Heard that story, too?
In another pond, after bringing in the car and the engine is torn down, they discover that the engine is either too costly to rebuild, or is way beyond repair. Define too costly: a cracked or damaged cylinder head; a damaged engine block; a damaged crankshaft; and after going through the numbers, the shop recommends installing a surplus engine. You buy one, and install it. The car runs and the problem is solved. But for others who have travelled the same path… the light at the end of the tunnel is far too distant. It’s a surplus unit, 2nd hand… 50/50 chance… it could be great or it could be like #*%&!!!!
Now for the person/persons who made that comment, I feel for you. Really. But I would like to say that there are some shops out there that do amazing work. You just have to do a lot of research to find the right shop. I can say this because I myself have done a couple of rebuilds and have certain service shop perform their magic; and the results were very good. No complaints. A big part of the success of any rebuild is the owner. The owner should understand what is happening with every step of the process. If you have to ask questions, please do so. Planned out properly, a decent rebuild job is attainable. You must be comfortable talking with the shop owner so he can address your concerns properly. A good rebuilt engine can last up to a 100,000 kilometers if broken-in properly, and used and maintained correctly. You can pay for best rebuild, but if you don’t take care of it, you’ll end up with a crappy engine.
Now, for those who end up going for a surplus unit. There is still hope. A big advantage of getting a surplus unit is the short down-time. If the vehicle needs to be back on the road ASAP, this is something to consider. Or if you’re thinking of wanting more power under the hood, this is a no brainer. I have seen surplus units run like new after an oil change and some fine tuning. Like doing a rebuild, you have to go around and look for the best deal. Meaning, the best unit you can find for the right price.
CAUTION: if you are going to go for the surplus unit because you want more power, just remember that you also have to replace and match the brakes with the spunkier engine; you have to be able to brake when you need it the most.
There is actually no right or wrong here, it would depend on certain parameters which would lead you towards either a rebuild or using a surplus engine. What ever you decide just make sure you weigh all your options before you decide.
Personally speaking, if you have the budget and the engine can still be rebuilt… I would go for the rebuild. That’s just me. I prefer to keep things looking stock as much as possible. Port matching, balancing…. really now?
Food for thought: an all wheel drive 95-98 Civic.