There are numerous mechanical reasons why a car’s engine can fail, break, or stop working. Ever since the first car hit the streets more than a hundred years ago, metallurgy, technology, and materials have advanced to the point that automobiles can run for hundreds of thousands of miles without engine trouble by just keeping up with regular maintenance. This means that the engine breakdowns will not happen without a warning or out of the blue.
5 Common Causes of Engine Failures
Check engine light on in your car? We can group car engine failures in five distinctive groups:
1. Engine failures due to maintenance issues
All engines require maintenance, tune-up, and regular coolant, filter, and oil changes according to the vehicle manufacturer specifications. If you don’t perform regular maintenance, your engine could be ruined with dirty engine oil, lack of coolant in the radiator, and so on. If you want to have a trouble-free car, we suggest you follow the manufacturer recommended service intervals and always check the oil and coolant level for early signs. This also includes checking the condition of your suspension components, tires, and brakes.
2. Engine failures due to a faulty part
Often, engine failure is caused by a worn out or faulty part. This has no connection to maintenance issues; rather it is simply a problematic part that decided to quit and leave you stranded. A failing water pump, spark plugs in poor condition, and a blown head gasket, among others, can each prevent the engine from functioning well altogether.
To prevent this, it is recommended to search online and look for specific problems that can occur on a specific car and model year. Rough idling of Generation 12 Ford F-150 engines, for instance, stem from the wearing down of sensors, while the 1986 Toyota Supra had head gasket issues that effectively kill the engine.
3. Engine failures due to improper use
If you push your engine too hard, drive it at high RPM for a long time, or tow more than allowed, you can expect engine failure since the unit is overstressed and not designed for that kind of use.
4. Engine failure due to natural factors
If your car was flooded or involved in some kind of natural disaster, you can expect various engine problems with it. Even if it wasn’t fully submerged, it can still develop numerous issues.
5. Engine failure due to lack of use
Even if your car was in perfect working condition when you park it, it will develop several problems after years of negligent and improper storage as soon as you try to start it. If you have a car which hasn’t been driven for years, there is a special starting procedure in order to preserve mechanics and engine internals.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Engine Failure
You don't have to rely solely on warning lights to know if there's engine damage in your vehicle. There are several clear signs that your engine is in bad shape and these are the most common ones:
1. Extensive Blue Smoke from Exhaust.
This means that your engine is burning oil which can mean several things, none of them good.
2. Clunking sounds or Knocking noise
If you hear any sound which is not a normal running sound of the engine, it could mean that you are witnessing engine failure. Especially if you hear clunking sounds coming from the engine itself.
3. Lost power and failure to achieve high rpm
Those are the signs of a critically ill engine. When the engine reaches low levels of power, struggles to achieve high RPM, and chokes when you press the throttle, go and see a mechanic or a nearby auto repair shop immediately.
Replacing vs. Rebuilding an Engine: Which Is Better?
There is no straight answer to the question of what's a more effective method of engine repair. It all comes down to the economic factor. In most modern or newer vehicles, an engine rebuild is expensive and simply not worth the trouble. In case of engine failure, you just buy a new engine from the dealer and install it in a matter of days.
However, if you own an older, classic or collector vehicle, rebuilding the original engine can be clever since it will preserve the originality of the car and add more value on the collector`s car market.
Engine Replacement: The Basics
If you want to replace the engine, be sure to see what is included in an engine replacement set. In most cases, when you replace the engine, you will get just the unit without a radiator, fuel and oil pump, engine mounts, and so on. This is because you can salvage those items from the old engine and reuse it on the new one.
However, in some cases, the engine replacement kit comes with a full list of new items, including new hoses, wires, engine mounts, and so forth. That is why is important to be clear on this before you agree to have your engine replaced.
Costs of Engine Replacement
To be frank, engine replacement is not a cheap option since new engines, in most cases cost around and over $5000. Also, you need to count in the labor and additional parts which can easily go over $10,000. If you are replacing your engine under manufacturer warranty you will not pay a dime but if your car is out of warranty you will face extensive costs.
In order to get the actual quote, you must see what kind of shop is performing the replacement. Is this an official dealer or an independent specialist and how complicated or simple the procedure really is. Of course, a replacement for the latest models and import brands will cost more than domestic makes and older cars. However, you can expect the labor bill to go over $1,000 in most cases.
Engine Replacement Labor Time
The new engine can be in your car in a matter of days after you have dropped your car in the shop. In cases of older and much simpler cars, engine replacement can be done in several hours if performed by several skilled men who are experienced and know exactly what to do.
Engine Rebuild: The Basics
The engine rebuild means that you have repaired or replaced most of the moving parts in the “bottom end” of the engine. Those parts are pistons, connecting rods, piston rings, crankshaft, and so on. Basically all the moving parts inside the engine block. Rebuilding the engine means that you kept the original engine block and heads but replaced all the parts inside, creating an almost new unit in the process.
When do you need an engine rebuild?
Clear signs of a worn out engine in desperate need for rebuild are extensive blue smoke from the exhaust, enormous oil consumption, failure to provide power and torque or just simple breakdown and failure to start. All of this means that the engine internals are worn out or broken and the engine as a whole is not functioning properly.
Benefits of a Rebuilt Engine
If you own a collector's car, rebuilding the engine will keep the originality and add to the value of the vehicle. Another important benefit is the cost since in some cases, rebuilding is cheaper than replacing which is crucial for some owners. Also, a rebuilt engine can sometimes perform better and be more durable than the original one. The reason is the fact that you will use better parts and more modern materials, or sort some of the factory flaws during the rebuild process.
How long will a rebuilt engine last?
If done properly, with original and adequate parts, the rebuilt engine is as durable and dependable as the original one. In some cases, even better since you changed all the engine’s internals with brand new items. However, if done poorly by an inexperienced mechanic, it can fail very soon.
What parts do you need to rebuild an engine?
If you want to do a full engine rebuild job you will basically need to replace all major moving parts inside the engine. The list of needed parts is fairly long but the most important ones are piston rings, pistons, valve springs, bearings, gaskets, camshafts, and crankshaft. Also, in some cases, you will need to machine the engine block which is the job for a specialized shop.
What is the engine rebuild kit?
Car parts manufacturers sell engine rebuild kits which come in two “sizes”. One is regular engine rebuild kit which includes piston rings, bearings, seals, timing chain (or belt), valve springs and oil pump which is adequate for the most engine rebuild jobs. However, if your engine is in particularly bad shape you will need full an engine rebuild kit which will include new pistons, camshaft, and crankshaft as well.
Engine Rebuild Costs
In trying to determine the actual cost of average rebuilding of an engine, you have to consider that a proper engine rebuild job will take much longer than engine replacement. The reason is the fact that rebuilding is a more precise job and it takes some time for proper assembly of all parts. Also, in some cases, engine block needs to be taken to a machine shop which will prolong the process significantly. This means that rebuilding can be costly in terms of labor even though the engine rebuilt kits are relatively inexpensive.
Can I rebuild an engine without removing it?
Yes, you can in case you are only replacing the parts. If your engine block needs to be taken to a machine shop for polishing the cylinder walls then you will need to remove the engine from the car entirely.
Does a new engine increase value?
It depends on the application. In the case of older and collector's cars, the new engine will not add the value since classic car buyers prefer originality. In case of most modern cars, the new engine will not have a significant increase but if you are building a custom or a performance car, a new crate or aftermarket engine will definitely increase value since it guarantees better performance and efficiency.