Buying a rebuilt engine

I took my 1998 Honda Civic to the mechanic last week, just a few weeks after an oil change. They found no oil left and no sign of a leak, so they’re thinking is that the oil is possibly getting into the combustion chamber and burning off, which would require an engine replacement. I am driving it now and going back in next week so they can take another look. If the engine needs to be replaced, the mechanic off-hand quoted $2500 for a rebuilt engine.

So I have two questions:

  1. Does this sound like a reasonable diagnosis? If not, what might be another common hypothesis?

  2. If I do in fact need to replace the engine, I have looked online and seen prices for as low as $600 for a rebuild engine. But I know nothing about evaluating the quality. How might I go about trying to get a quality engine at a lower price? An almost $2000 discrepancy seems kind of ridiculous, but I don’t know.

Thanks in advance for the help.

First, the oil level was probably just below the dipstick, not completely empty. If you are driving it now, and it drives Ok, you need to start charting the oil comsumption rate. Best way is to check the dipstick every day for a couple of days to make sure it is not an alarmingly high rate. Then, check once a week, marking your mileage and how often you need to add a quart.

I did this for my Toyota, and, at 280,000 miles, I burn oil at a rate of one quart every 600 miles. The car runs fine in all other respects, so I just keep a quart in the trunk, and check oil at each fill up.

One the question of rebuild costs, $2500 is not out of line for a quality rebuild. The $600 engines you’re finding are for just the engine, and do not include installation. These engines are usually long blocks, and still require a transfer of a lot of parts from the original engine, with gaskets, hoses, and belts needed. The real cost is in the labor.

Also, reputation is the only way to determine the quality of the rebuild. I’d stay away from no-names or ‘global’ suppliers. If you have a warranty issue, it may be hard to collect.

The only rebuilt I’ve ever bought was a factory rebuild in the crate. I would not consider doing this on a 98 Civic. Just not worth it. The most would be a used one from a recycler.

What @BustedKnuckles said. If the car runs, you weren’t out of oil. Check it frequently until you can tell us how many miles you go between adding quarts. If it’s more than, say, 500 miles, I’d just keep driving it with a case of oil in the trunk.

I will also agree that @Bustedknuckles’ advice is the most practical. And I would be somewhat skeptical of any advice from the mechanic who recommended replacing the engine if it is running smoothly and quietly.

just add oil and run that car into the ground. Your vehicle is worth 2K tops…and more than likely 800 bucks.

be prepared to make a different purchase with your 2500 Lots of cars can be had without the risk/hassle of “will the engine work right after the install”.

How many miles? Ever done the timing belt? Did your oil pressure light ever come on? Probably not since you would have mentioned that. If u went in for oil change, you were probably just low. Maybe 1-2 qts.

Have a different mechanic inspect and clean the entire PCV system, not just the valve…This is another pathway that engine oil can be fed back into the cylinders…

Failing that, few '98 Civics are worth the cost of replacing the engine. That $2500 figure will balloon to $3500 and beyond …