Will the Engine Break the Bank: How Much Does It Cost to Rebuild an Engine

Engine replacement is among the most expensive repairs in a vehicle, even when you rebuild it yourself. Many people would prefer to sell their car for parts and buy a new one or possibly donate it as a tax write off. Rebuilding an engine can take a lot of work in addition to a lot of money. For some, getting rid of their car is not an option. In this case, you have some vital things to know about engine replacement.

Why Rebuild an Engine?

It could be you have a limited edition vehicle or a classic collector’s car. For those who adore vintage vehicles, replacing an engine is sometimes part of the hobby, and you can’t just go to a dealership to swap out a 1984 Saleen Mustang. A new BMW is fantastic, but for some, it’s just not the same as a 1972 BMW 3.0CSL, after all.

New car prices continue to rise, so if you have a relatively new car and want the updated features, but can’t afford a brand new vehicle, spending a few thousand dollars on replacing your engine might actually be more economical. If you’re set on rebuilding your engine, you will need to do plenty of research, figure out what went wrong, and what needs to be replaced.

How to if Tell Your Engine Is in Trouble

There are several different reasons an engine may need to be rebuilt. Symptoms of an engine starting to go can range from anything including burning oil, substantial oil leakage, continuous engine misfires, clouds of blue smoke from the tailpipe, or even clunks occurring just before your engine stops and gives out entirely.

Why Engines Fail

The most predominant reason for vehicle engine to feel is improper lubrication. That means there is either not enough oil, an overabundance of oil sludge, or overheating which is also linked to the lubrication system as it is needed to cool parts of the engine such as the piston and cylinder wall.

Cooling system failure is another reason for an engine to overheat. A low level or complete leakage of coolant can result in engine failure. Head gaskets leaking can be one reason for low coolant levels. Neglecting to check oil levels or replace oil if there is a leak can also kill an engine.


The most common signs that will tell you your engine needs to be rebuilt are compression loss, excessive smoke, rapid burning of oil, engine knocking, a sudden drop in fuel economy, and sludge when changing the oil.

With compression loss, your car will misfire frequently. Excessive smoke from the tailpipe can indicate a huge issue with your exhaust system. If your vehicle uses up one quart of oil per every thousand miles or so that you drive, this is a sign of rapidly burning oil. When it comes to oil sludge, it is a sign that oil or coolant is being wasted. Excessive knocks from the engine can also mean worn out bearings.

Cost of Rebuilding or Replacing an Engine

Like nearly everything else in the world of cars, there is not one exact cost when it comes to parts or the overall price of an engine rebuild. The amount of money it will take to reconstruct your engine will depend on the parts you need, the type of vehicle you have, and how in-depth your repairs must go. For instance, just replacing your cooling system, or rebuilding your radiator, transmission, bearings—virtually the whole thing.

In a very general sense, you can expect the cost of rebuilding your engine to run you anywhere between $2,500 and $4,500 depending on parts as well as labor. If you are capable and handy, rebuilding your own engine will obviously run on the lower side. There are several places to purchase refurbished car parts for excellent prices, or even salvaged cars for cheap. Your own valuable time will be the other factor in how much it will cost you.

What Does Engine Repair Involve?

What is entailed in repairing an engine can take up a book’s worth of information. Furthermore, there may be other problems with your vehicle, such as lousy ignition wiring or a faulty O2 sensor that can cause issues beyond your engine.

Generally, the cheapest engine repair is a ring and valve job. When you lose compression in one or more cylinders, or you are burning oil, replacing rings and valves can sometimes be done without having to replace all other parts.

If you have notable wearing on your cylinder walls, you may need to replace all rings and valves as well do cylinder wall boring. This will require rebuilding the engine head, boring cylinders, new pistons, replacing the rod, getting new timing components, switching out main bearings and other odds and ends, such as a replacement of freeze plugs.

A complete engine rebuild will obviously take a lot of knowledge and work as well as money for several different types of parts.

Part Kits and Research

If you don’t feel like going through and individually buying parts, you can search for engine kits, such as GMC engine rebuild kits, or Chevrolet engine kits. Before taking your car apart, just do your research. For your safety, even if your vehicle is fully insured, don’t wait until the engine gives out entirely to have it checked or repaired. No one wants their car to go up in smoke and stop in the middle of rush hour on the freeway.