Blown head gasket -> used replacement engine concerns

Hi folks,

Not seeing my prior post come through, I’ll try one more time. Time has moved on, so we join this story already in progress…

My 1994 Acura Integra with 243k original miles on it apparently blew a head gasket a couple of weeks ago, overheated, and ended up at the mechanic’s shop with the head removed. He had it pressure tested, and they found a crack in the head’s coolant jacket. So, it’s toast. Wanting to keep the car (it’s in great shape otherwise), I was presented with two choices.

  1. Replace the head
  2. Replace the engine.

Choice #1, a new head, was quoted at $2,600 for the bare head, plus a lot labor to get the rest of the parts attached.
Choice #2 would be a used engine from Japan, with about 50k miles on it. $2,770. The registration laws in Japan are such that it becomes difficult or impossible to register a car after a few years, so they scrap perfectly good vehicles. Salvagers pick out the major parts and store them for later resale to folks like me.

So, for about the same price, choice #2 gets me a nice young engine, as opposed to #1 where I’d have a new head on an old engine, which “would put more strain on the older block”. Even though the block checks out fine, he says it could be at risk for failure itself. I really wanted to save the original engine, which after 243k miles and still not burning any oil, must have something right about it. But he convinced me to go for the used engine, and it’s been ordered. There’s a mule heading west from New Jersey right now, with my engine in tow.

My question: What do I need to make sure the mechanic does or checks out on the new-to-me engine, to be sure I can get another 100,00+ miles out if it? It comes with NO warranty, and there are no records of how it was maintained or driven by its original owner(s). It’s basically been “preserved” (how?) and sitting on a pallet in New Jersey for the past 16-ish years.

He says he’s had good luck with them in the past, but has not done very many. He also claims that it will be an exact match, for smog / registration purposes, or he “will send it back” (his words). But I’m still nervous. Have I made the right choice?

Your advice?



“would put more strain on the older block” is BS. Your original engine would have been fine…

This site does not like many words. Long posts have difficulty.

Right Choice?? It’s done. And engine is coming. Japan does have limits and mandatory retirement. Not all are ok however. I purchased a transmission with a messed up starter hole. Why in the world someone had ground on the starter hole - who knows… Didn’t notice till I was at the point of installing the starter.

Your coming engine will probably be just fine. Fill it with a cheap full synthetic oil; and run it for 500 miles. Drain that, and fill with more expensive full synthetic - such as Mobil; or Penzoil Ultra. Make note in a log - when (miles, date) the ‘new’ engine was installed. Enjoy.

The original; you might try keeping; and wrap up with plastic (Contractor Stretch Wrap); and some moisture absorbent. Get yourself a couple of books, and do some reading on engines. You could then rebuild this one yourself (new crank bearings; slightly oversize rings; new oil pump) etc. as a learning project. And at your leisure - obtain a new head; and install that. Have it all wrapped up; and have a ‘new’ engine ready to go and swap out 100K from now…

The replacement will be fine. Have to make sure the mechanic is gentle with the wiring harness, etc. But that is more of a matter of trust. You don’t have to throw out the old though…

Given the choice…I would just replace the engine. At 243K the engine is at the end of it’s useful life, in most respects, even if it’s not susceptible to “strain on the block.” I have bought used engines over the years and remanufactured ones as well. No real problems to report.

Smog? R u in Cali?

Well, since the engine’s in transit, I guess it’s all overtaken by events. But there is/was an option #4: a used cylinder head.
Was a day when one could go junkyarding and pick stuff up like this for cheap - that’s pretty much gone, but a used cylinder head would likely be a WHIOLE lot less than $2600-odd dollars. And as long as it looked reasonably intact, then it might be as good a fix as any.
The part about the new head stressing the older short block is not completely off the rails - likely the compression would tend to be higher (without running on a 243k mile head) and that can put more…stress on the lower end, as in, compression and oil rings.
On the other hand, if I found a running motor with 50K on it, I’d likely do that. A bit of a crapshoot, but not a huge one.

Oh, forgot one thing - blew a head gasket in a used 1998 Subaru some years ago (bought it with 140K and blew the head gasket at 145K, boo…) and was left with the choice of: having some guy pull the motor to work on the head (thanks, Subaru, for your head-gasket-blowing-susceptible EJ25 motors which are horizontally-mounted boxer engines with the heads right against the frames) or replacing the motor.
CCR delivered my rebuild on a pallet to my garage. Burned a Saturday and swapped it. It’s gone about 65K and my only complaint is it seems to be seeping oil out the front main seal, AFAIK. But that’s OK. It’s not horrible. And I got a lot out of the car (now getting a new 2013 Subaru).

@gregd1234 here’s some things I’d suggest for that “new” engine, because you have NO IDEA how/if it was maintained.

Timing belt
water pump, if it’s driven by the timing belt
Cam seals
Crank seals
Rear main seal

All of these things should be much easier to do with the engine out of the car.

Others may disagree with my logic, but I’d want to make sure the “new” engine being installed was truly good to go.

Let’s not forget that the engine’s been sitting for 16 years. That’s plenty of time for all sorts of rubber parts to dry up and start leaking.

You’d HATE to have a leaking rear main seal or water pump 6 months after installing the engine.

My vote is with db4690 and to be brutally honest, I would be a bit nervous about a palletized engine that has been sitting for about a decade and a half. One has to wonder how and why someone would allow an engine to consume space for that long without saying get it out of here at any price is a bit odd.

Auto, used 94 motor, 122k miles, $900.

Thanks, all, for the suggestions. An update…

The motor arrived yesterday, considerably more banged up than what was advertised. “Standard junk-yard condition” was the mechanic’s assessment. Brackets bent or broken, etc. Exhaust manifold is cracked, but so is my old one (a Honda trait, apparently). Durable parts will be taken from the old engine to complete the “new” one, including all the hoses which were already replaced a year ago. Replacing the timing belt was an obvious item - 20 year old rubber is not going to last long, even if only half way through the miles. I also suggested what db4690 listed (good list, thanks), and the mechanic agreed. LOTS cheaper to replace them now than later. So the total cost is now a bit over $5k with labor, and I’m not super happy. Next step is to take the valve cover off (for the timing belt), and get a good look at the insides. That will determine if I bought a 50k mile engine or something else… If it’s something else, I don’t know what my options are. It’s too late to go back to option #1 with the original block and a new head.


Just for the benefit of the listeners, but what was the rationale for putting $5000 into a 94 Integra? I hope it works out but you’re going to have to drive it a hundred thousand miles to break even on the deal.

$5k into the car? Yeah, what was I thinking? Well, it’s a GS-R, and the interior is still nearly mint. Outside isn’t bad, either, and I didn’t find anything I wanted, for a price I wanted, during a week’s run through the local auto malls. (I buy new keep them a long time.) Closest was a Honda Civic Si, but I didn’t like how the engine behaves when shifting. RPMs stay up too long. Yes, I’m being picky, but it was annoying. And the dash is kind of tacky unless you get the Nav package, which you can’t find.

The final straw was that I would have to relocate my Ham radio equipment to the new car, and none had good places to put it, plus the hassle of standing on my head to remove two screws under the dash to get the old one out.

Mind you, the original plan (as all original plans go) was about $2k best case, to a bit over $4k worst case. Still, I plan to drive the car for another 5 years, so I think I will still come out ahead. Over-simplifying, $30k for a 15 year car is $2k/year. So, this will only need to last another 2.5 years to break even. At least, that’s the plan.

To be honest, the first thing I would do before buying one part or installing that engine is to run a compression test. Assuming the transmission is out also, the engine could be mated to the transmission, the spark plugs removed, a battery connected to the starter motor, and the starter solenoid jumped to crank the engine over.

A good used engine should have in the 180 PSI range on all cylinders.

Assuming the engine is even halfway tolerable I’m with Bing on the rationale behind sinking 5 grand into a 94 Integra.

Regarding your old engine, that could have been problems too even with a head gasket, rebuilt head, or what have you. Severe overheating can often lead to piston ring and cylinder wall damage and this means an oil using engine.

I hope your mechanic is confident about this deal. If it were me, I would be sweating bullets.

why should the mechanic have any concerns? its not his motor. any new problems show up, big deal. just spend a little more of customers money.

A mechanic who genuinely cares about his customer and his profession should be concerned about everything he does.

Too late now. Motor is here. 5k on used motor for 20 yr old car is questionable.

Hi folks,

Wednesday update… Just talked to the mechanic (someone I do trust; he’s taken care of all our cars for over 20 years), and things are looking good so far. There was some rust in the cooling system which he was not happy about, but will give that a good flush before installing it. The rest looked fine, from what he could see while swapping and installing parts.

I should get the car back tomorrow… Not quite so worried anymore, but fingers still crossed,


One more time trying to post… (WHY do I keep getting the message “will be posted after review”, which never happens?)

Anyway, a quick (final?) update, and a question:

I have the car back, and it runs pretty well. Definitely more power than the old engine (though not dramatically so). The mechanic had to take multiple parts from the old engine to complete the new one, and we chose to replace all the seals and belts that could have deteriorated over the years of storage. The rust appears to have been surface only, and it all flushed out. In the end, the job required an extra 10+ hours of labor, which the mechanic covered (no cost to me). He says he will not be using that supplier again in the future, and you can see why I will definitely remain a customer of his.

The used engine seems to have a higher amount of vibration than the old one, and runs a little rougher. The vibration seems to get more pronounced with increasing RPM; the roughness less. I’ve only put about 100mi on it so far (mostly freeway). The vibration is probably the more worrisome part.

My question: Is this likely something to worry about, something to adjust out, something that will settle out on its own with time, or some thing to simply get used to?



@gregd1234 did you use new plugs and wires?

Are you using the original fuel system, or the “new” one?

Did you use new motor mounts?

Is this car automatic or stick shift?

If you’ve already driven 100 miles, any new parts will have settled in by now. So the roughness may not go away without intervention at this point.

Your mechanic sounds like a pretty good guy. Have you spoken to him about this yet?

I’m glad to hear all the major seals and belts were replaced.

A vibration could denote an engine miss which may turn out to be a minor problem or it may not. This all goes back to running the compression test which I mentioned previously.

A compression test will at least give an idea of where you stand with the mechanical soundness of the engine and whether it’s back to the drawing board or not.