There aren’t too many scenarios that will require you to have a complete rebuild done on your vehicle’s engine. Spun bearings, failing oil pumps, and some severe circumstances that can happen when a vehicle’s timing belt/chain breaks are some of the most common reasons to need an overhaul, but they too are fairly rare. Nearly all of the things that could happen which would result in an engine rebuild are covered under manufacturer’s warranties as well. Unless…

What Does the Fine Print Say?

Every warranty available is going to have some form of maintenance plan set into place for the vehicle. If this maintenance plan is not adhered to, the warranty company may void the guarantee and you would be stuck with the cost of the repairs. This maintenance plan includes a lot more than just your standard oil changes and lubes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, too. It also requires periodic maintenance (and, at times, replacement) of items like your air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs, spark plug wires, and coolant. All of these things must be maintained at the recommended intervals to keep the warranty applicable.

I Have No More Warranty, What Now?

Start looking for change under your couch cushions. The price of an engine rebuild will vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle, but none of them are considered inexpensive, and you’re going to need every penny available for the varied costs. Having an engine rebuilt requires a lot more than just parts and labor. There are also machining charges, additional labor for the cylinder head work (many shops still send cylinder heads to a separate specialist for cylinder head work), as well as cleaning charges should the block need cleaned. Add all of this to the parts and labor, and you’re looking at well over $1,500 for a rebuild on a four-cylinder or V-6 engine; V-8s and V-10s will be well beyond the $2,000 mark. Of course, if some of this work can be avoided, the price could drop significantly.

What All is Involved in a Rebuild?

Once the technician has gone through the painstaking process of removing the engine from the vehicle, the work has really just begun. Parts like the alternator, A/C compressor, water pump, and exhaust manifolds must be removed before the internal workings of the engine can even be exposed. What needs to happen during the rebuild depends largely on what caused the problem which necessitated the rebuild to begin with. If it was a bad engine bearing, chances are the crankshaft will need to be sent out to be machined and polished. If a bad valve was the culprit, the cylinder heads will probably need machine shop work to replace valve guides, valves, and machine the heads themselves. These are just some of the variables which can make the price teeter-totter in one direction or the other.

The Common Objectives

There are, however, a few things that get replaced during every engine rebuild. The piston rings, fluids, engine bearings, seals, and gaskets are typically all replaced, no matter what the cause of the original breakdown. Parts like the crankshaft, pistons, piston rods, cylinder heads, and oil pump are all replaced only if something went wrong with them. The price can rise in a hurry if the machine shop needs to get involved in any way.

The Machine Shop

Machine shop work can get extensive on any rebuild. The list of services provided by the machine shop is fairly long. If your engine block is caked in used oil, grease, and sludge, then it will most likely need to be “dipped.” Dipping consists of cleaning the block with a chemical mixture. There are several small passages and galleys for fluid travel than can become plugged with this gunk. Having the block cleaned will lessen the chances of future problems and make the technicians job much easier upon reassembly. As far as actual machining work goes, the shop could be responsible for honing or boring out the cylinders, machining the crankshaft, machining the cylinder heads, performing the valve job, and even replacing and installing the pistons and rings.

The Bottom Line

A newer vehicle requiring a complete rebuild is a rarity nowadays. The excessive machine shop costs and time that it takes a technician to perform the job cause replacement of the entire engine to be a cheaper alternative, especially if it’s being replaced with a used engine. Make sure you get a quote that includes parts, labor, and machining charges. If the quote goes higher than $2,000 for a four or six-cylinder and $3,500 for a V8 or V10, you’re better off with replacement instead of the rebuild.

(Please remember that these repair prices can also fluctuate based on geographic location, as well as vehicle make and model; and that these numbers represent averages, not actual prices offered at any specific repair facilities.)