Problems With Rebuilt Engines

by Tom Lutzenberger
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old engine image by John Sfondilias from

Purchasing a rebuilt engine or having your car serviced with a tear-down and rebuild of its existing engine involves a significant outlay of money. However, the option is still cost-effective when compared to the price of a new car. Rebuilt engines don't just plug in and work reliably once purchased. Many parts and systems from the existing car need to be integrated with the rebuilt engine, and the process can introduce unexpected problems.

Quality is as Good as the Mechanic

Rebuilt engines depend significantly on the labor process. If the mechanic is knowledgeable about the engine, the likelihood is good the repair will be reliable. If it's the mechanic's first time with an unfamiliar engine, problems in assembly may occur.

Assembly replacement engines are built under factory specifications and are put together following set criteria on the assembly line. The error rate of a bad engine tends to be fairly small.

Part Issues

After-market replacement parts do not always have the same quality tolerances as the original parts. These inferior parts will break down faster, even in rebuilt engines.

Labor Costs

Rebuilt engines are not likely to work perfectly, but the owner bears the responsibility for the cost of the service and rebuild, even if the engine has problems later on.

Even without mechanical issues, a rebuilt engine is expensive. The average car mechanic labor cost runs between $80 to $100 per hour. This includes the complete tear-down and then rebuild, not to mention replacement parts.

Warranty Issues

Some rebuilt engines purchased as assemblies are only covered for up to 90 days on a warranty basis.

More common, shop warranties on service rebuilt engines tend to be three years or 36,000 miles, if all instructions are followed on care and maintenance. However, some shops will rebuild engines with warranties lasting in some cases as much as 100,000 miles.

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