There are times when replacing your car’s engine is exactly the right thing to do, and times when it’s definitely a false economy. The question is, how do you know which is which?
If the engine goes on your car, or looks like it’s about to soon, you’ve got a big question to answer. Do you replace it, or do you cut your losses and start looking for a new car? You should be able to buy a second-hand or reconditioned engine relatively cheaply from a breakers, but the cost of the engine alone isn’t the only factor to consider.
Most engines should manage a good 150,000 miles nowadays, but that distance brings with it a lot of wear and tear – to the car as a whole, not just the engine. As far as your engine itself is concerned, some of the major faults that are likely to make it worth replacing are:
Of course, engines are hugely complex machines and there are any number of moving parts that can go wrong, with consequences of varying severity. In many cases, a failed component simply isn’t economical to replace – meaning that finding a whole new engine is a smarter choice.
Although a ‘new’ (that is, used or reconditioned) engine should be fairly cheap, you’ve got a lot of other costs to think about. Number one is the labour that is going to be required. Replacing an engine is no small feat and is going to take a good few hours of a mechanic’s time.
Of course, you can do it yourself – assuming you have the tools, equipment and expertise – though this is emphatically not a job for amateurs. If you don’t know what you’re doing then it’s difficult, dangerous and liable to be far more trouble than it’s worth. There’s YouTube footage of a team of Royal Marines changing the engine of a Ford Escort in 42 seconds; bank on it taking you quite a lot longer. The bottom line: unless you are an expert then get someone who is to do it for you. If money’s tight then save by buying a (decent) used engine and pay for the labour – it will be worth it.
That’s not where the costs end, though. The problem is that if your old engine has done 150,000 miles then the rest of the car has too. Hooking up a shiny new or newish engine to a bunch of tired and worn accessories is asking for trouble. Chief amongst these will be the transmission, which is probably only in marginally better shape than the old engine. Steering, radiator, starter… not to mention the body, which may consist chiefly of rust by this stage. In other words, make sure your engine’s new home is in good condition, otherwise it’s going to fall apart long before the next 150,000 miles. The repair bills will start to mount up, and suddenly your money-saving solution will start to look a whole lot less attractive.
If your engine has failed unexpectedly early, or the rest of the car is generally in good condition, then replacing the engine could be an excellent decision. It’s more economical, and it’s more environmentally friendly than scrapping or selling the car and starting again.
In the end, it’s going to be a judgement call. In most instances, your main aim will be to save money. If that’s the case then you need to factor in:
If these add up to a substantial amount compared to the value of the car, a better option is probably to sell it cheaply and put the money towards a new one. If not, a new engine will breathe a new lease of life into your old wheels.
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