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New Life For An Old Engine

Q. I am currently thinking about replacing my 4 cylinder 2.5L in a 1991 S-10 Chevy pickup with manual trans. I was wondering approximately how much it would cost and how difficult it would be to replace. I plan on purchasing the engine at a junk yard and overhauling with performance parts. I've replaced engines in the past, but this is something new for me being that the truck has a small engine compartment. The engine I have now is a throttle body injection with no power steering, AC or ABS. I just recently changed out a turbo 350 trans. in my neighbors 88 S-15 and it seemed like a bear. I can only imagine what the engine would be like.

I would like your insight and considerations on this matter to help me make a better decision on what parts whether performance or stock and estimates to do the entire change out and whether it's worth my money and time. I do not plan to use the vehicle for racing but would like to have something nice looking under the hood.

Thank you in advance for you time,

A. The hardest question for a mechanic to answer is; "Is it worth it?" That is something that the owner of the vehicle has to determine. If the vehicle is in good shape mechanically and the body and interior is in good shape, I would say go for it. Going through the time and expense of a job like this on a junker, to me, is senseless.

If given a choice, I would rather swap out an engine then a transmission any day of the week. I guess what I'm wondering is why buy another engine, rebuild and install it? I'm assuming that, for some reason, the one already in the car is beyond all hope. Yanking the engine is not too difficult, just a lot of hard work. Swapping the engine for the same engine is straight forward enough. If you plan on putting in a larger or newer engine, then you're talking about making modifications. I can't really advise you on a situation like this because there are too many unique variables involved.

If you are not interested in performance or racing, then rebuild with stock parts. You can go to a performance store and get tons of chrome parts and cool looking hose and lines to make it look sexy.

Rebuilding an engine is considered a job for an "A" Mechanic. That is to say that there are calculations for bearing sizes and crankshaft end play involved. There are also special tools involved. A decent torque wrench, which is a must, can cost you $150.00 to $200.00 alone. A good cylinder hone will cost you $40.00 or $50.00 and an engine jack to lift the engine out of the car. I would strongly suggest an engine stand to make working easier and it helps to keep dirt out while you rebuild it. On the bright side, most of the tools you'll need can be rented at a decent tool rental company.

Then you need to be very careful how you take it apart and put it back together. Bearing caps are not interchangeable. They must go back where they came from and they can not be turned around. Ring grooves need to be cleaned (another special tool) and new rings installed. Rod and main bearings need to be installed exactly right or the crank will not even turn.

Rebuilding the engine is a very demanding job and it requires a certain amount of experience to do it right. To install performance parts is just as, if not more, demanding considering some tolerances are even tighter than stock.

Prices on junkyard engines vary a great deal. I bought a used engine for a 1987 Toyota Camry and it cost me $850.00. The engine was from a 1989 Camry and had only 68,000 miles on it. I could have bought an engine from another 1987 Camry with 96,000 miles on it for $700.00. Camry's are also a very common car, so there are more used engines around which lowers the price as well. Best thing to do is call around and do some shopping to get a low milage engine at a good price.

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