When you’re taking your vehicle into the shop, the last thing you want to hear is that you need a new engine or an engine rebuild. It sounds complicated and expensive, but what exactly is an engine rebuild, and how much should it cost?
We’ll dive into all the different scenarios for you here and dive into exactly what the shop (or you!) should be doing. The good news is that while an engine rebuild is expensive, it should buy you another 100,000 to 150,000 miles!
Cost To Have a Shop Rebuild Your Engine
Unless you’re extremely mechanically inclined, when you’re looking at an engine rebuild, you’re probably taking it to a repair shop. And while we’d love to give you an exact price on how much a rebuild should cost, the price largely depends on what you drive and how much work needs done.
Most full rebuilds will cost anywhere between $2,500 to $4,500 – depending on what you drive and the size of the engine. The larger the engine, the more expensive the repair bill, even if it doesn’t need a full rebuild.
Just keep in mind that if the mechanic is taking the time to replace piston rings and hone cylinders, you should opt for a complete rebuild.
The mechanic already took the time to tear down your engine, and most of the cost for most components is labor. Since you’re already paying for the labor, you might as well get new parts out of it!
Think of it this way, a timing belt replacement typically costs between $600 and $800, but you can find most timing belts for about $20 on AutoZone! The rest of those charges are labor. The last thing you want is to need to spend $800 for a new timing belt because you skimped on an extra $20 now.
Cost To Rebuild Your Engine Yourself
While it’s quite the job, if you’re able to complete the rebuild yourself, you can trim down the costs quite a bit. Just keep in mind that unless you have the specialty equipment you won’t be able to hone out the cylinders, so you’ll still need to drop off the block if your engine needs it.
The good news is that the tool isn’t overly expensive, but it’s a technical process so you don’t want to screw it up. But if you can transport the block to a shop, they should hone the cylinders for you for around $80 to $200 depending on where you take it and how many cylinders you have.
The rest of the repair isn’t cheap, and you’ll still end up spending about $700 to $2,000 in parts. Once again, this is largely dependent on what you drive.
But when you’re completing a rebuild don’t skimp on parts. Get everything you need and get high-quality parts that will last. The last thing you want is to spend 20 to 40 hours rebuilding your engine only to realize the budget gasket you bought isn’t getting the job done.
Signs You Need an Engine Rebuild
Before you start tearing apart your engine and rebuilding it, you should ensure that you actually need an engine rebuild. Below we’ve highlighted three common symptoms that let you know when you need an engine rebuild.
Just keep in mind that these symptoms can signify other things too, so if you’re still unsure about what your vehicle needs, take your vehicle to a certified repair shop to get a proper diagnosis.
1. Odd Noises
Odd noises can come in various forms, but they all signify something going on below the surface. You might hear scraping if metal components are rubbing together, knocking if the engine timing is off or it has worn spark plugs, or a chattering sound if you have loose components.
Any of these noises can signify you need an engine rebuild. Of course, they might just mean you need new spark plugs.
2. Fluids Where They Don’t Belong
If you’re looking for a clear-cut sign your engine needs a major tune-up, fluids where they don’t belong is what you’re looking for. Coolant is notorious for escaping into different channels, so if you find it in your exhaust or your oil, you need to replace some gaskets.
The same things can happen with oil and power steering fluid, but it’s a little rarer. Just know if you have fluids where they don’t belong, an engine rebuild should set everything right.
3. Excessive Smoke
Excessive smoke is a tell-tale sign of a blown head gasket and replacing a blown head gasket warranty at least a top-end rebuild. While you can skimp on the other parts, you’re already tearing everything apart, so you might as well swap them out.
When you’re in there, you might realize you need a full rebuild, but it really depends on how everything looks when you start taking it apart.
What Goes Into an Engine Rebuild?
An engine rebuild is an exhaustive process, but what exactly goes into an engine rebuild? We’re going to break down two common engine rebuilds here – the top-end rebuild and a full engine rebuild. That way, you know exactly what to expect whether you’re taking it to a shop or doing it yourself.
Top-end engine rebuilds aren’t nearly as exhaustive as a full-engine rebuild. As the name implies, you’re only rebuilding the top half of the engine. This is an excellent choice for engines that need a pretty heavy makeover, but the engine’s guts are still in pretty good shape.
Top-end rebuilds replace the head gaskets, cylinder head gaskets, spark plugs, filters, intake and exhaust gaskets, and sometimes the piston rings.
Sometimes to reach those components, you’ll need to remove covers for parts like the water pump, and if that’s the case you’ll replace those gaskets too.
Top-end rebuilds are nice because they allow you to really dig into the engine and see what’s going on. During this process, you can complete a thorough inspection of other components to ensure your engine is running like it should when you put it back together.
While you’re not fixing every component, a top-end rebuild can fix a ton of problems, and they don’t cost nearly as much as a full engine rebuild.
Expect to spend about $1,000 to $1,250 if you take it to a shop, and about $300 to $400 if you do it yourself.
While a top-end rebuild can help with an engine refresh, if you’re looking to completely rejuvenate your engine, you need a full rebuild. A full rebuild consists of everything a top-end rebuild has, except you’re also replacing the timing belt, cover gaskets, water pump gasket, oil pan gasket, pulleys, idlers, and everything else you find along the way.
You also rebore pistons, and you should replace spark plug wires, rocker arms, lifters, and pushrods while you’re at it. When you’re completing a complete engine rebuild, you need to inspect each and every component, which means the costs can start to skyrocket if more things break.
Potential parts you need to replace include the water pump, crankshaft, camshaft, alternator, and other engine accessories. Each of these components is expensive, so if you need to replace them you should add their replacement cost to the overall cost of the rebuild.
Rebuilding vs Replacing
There’s a big debate out there on whether or not you should rebuild or replace your engine. The truth is that if you’re taking your vehicle to a mechanic, it’s not a bad idea to forgo the rebuild and opt for a new rebuilt engine.
The difference is that instead of getting your engine back, you’re getting an engine that the shop already rebuilt. This cuts down the time your vehicle will spend in the shop, and it’s almost always a little bit cheaper to do it this way.
However, if you want a brand-new engine, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 depending on the size of the engine. Rebuilding your engine is almost always the more cost-effective solution.
While you might not be getting brand new parts, a completely rebuilt engine should last just as long as a new engine – as long as a reputable shop completed the repairs and you used the right parts.
While an engine rebuild might be an expensive process, it completely rejuvenates the motor, and it’s still more affordable than a new engine. Keeping up with the motor is part of keeping a car, and it’s only a matter of time until the entire engine needs a refresh to keep it on the road.
Now that you know how much it should cost, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the repairs or if it’s time to move on to a new ride!