Do rebuilt engines fail this often?

I was watching Fast and Loud which is a TV show where they purchase classic cars, fix and sell them. Most often than not, they always find something wrong with the engine and it has to be rebuilt.

So they send the engine to the same engine rebuild shop and it always comes back and immediately fails. For an example, they got the engine rebuilt for a pontiac trans am…and after test driving it, they found out the engine cylinders were scored and there was metal in the oil.

Is it the same in reality? Is there a high chance a rebuilt engine will fail?

Depends on who does the rebuild. Quality varies quite a bit and the low cost rebuilder is more likely to fail than the high dollar guy. Good engine builders and machinists are very hard to find and expensive when you do. The high dollar guy will also test fire the engine on a dyno, break it in and confirm the horsepower of what he’s built - all at a cost. The Fast and Loud guys are always in a hurry with a tight budget. Both recipes for infant engine mortality. The engine builder may warranty the engine but Fast and Loud’s labor takes the hit. I’ve rebuilt my own engines and I skipped a step on the one that bit me.

The chance for a problem with rebuilds is considerably worse than the factory engines as a whole but there are a few excellent rebuilders whose work is excellent and near factory reliability. Engines that I have personally assembled have been quite reliable. Other than one car driven 14,000 miles without checking the oil there has never been an internal failure of an engine that I rebuilt or if they fail it is after my customer sold the vehicle. But I don’t try to beat the clock building engines and have priced rebuilds so high as to get few. I saw a Ford Ranger last week that has been running more than 15 years on the 2.8L engine that I rebuilt.

Price shopping for a rebuilt engine can be very expensive in the end. Maybe “Fast and Loud” should check around for recommendations before buying the next rebuilt engine.

I wouldn’t call Fast and Loud a Quality rebuild car shop. I like to watch the show. They are there for the quick flip. I don’t think there’s one car they built that I would be happy owing (with the one exception of the Ferrari).

I’ve seen them take apart a car…put in new this and that…and then give it a nice new paint job…but then they’re showing them working on the interior…and there’s rust every where you look. They should have addressed all that rust long before they painted the vehicle. I saw them put on a head-liner right over obvious major surface rust. If I’m going to spend that much on a rebuilt vehicle…I’d surely wouldn’t want it rusting out in just a couple of years.

I think the Shelby motor failed and than the smokey motor failed twice? Cam on 1 and bearings on next?

Keep in mind that shows like that often “sweeten the pot” for dramatic purposes. There’s a real possibility that those engines are being sabotaged by the producers before they go in the car.

Those guys on the TV car shows are pretty much hacks at best. I’ve watched them now and then and some of the technical explanations (phrase used loosely) they provide about a problem can be downright laughable.
That Desert Valley Kings show (lasted one year) showed an utter lack of knowledge about what they were doing with those old sleds.

The buyers for those cars have to be either the most gullible people on the face of the Earth or the sales are not really happening and it’s all just a dog and pony show for the camera.

Even the Boyd Coddington show “American Hot Rod” was mechanically ridiculous although the cars are beautiful.

When I watched “Fast and Loud” and the engines were always failing after a rebuild, I blamed it on the cheap television set that we have. I guess the rebuild shop is doing a cheap, hurry-up job and there is nothing wrong with my television after all.

The only rebuild I’ve ever bought was a GM factory Goodwrench rebuild. It was not as good as new but I did get over 100K on it. Personally, I would only get a rebuild from a major reputable rebuilder and would not have a local shop do it.

The most recent Episode of Fast & Loud involved a smokey and the bandit bet where he had to find the car and get it fixed up in a shorter time frame than he normally allows, but even on most of his builds he wants it done fast and cheap to make money for the next project. Rebuilds can fail particularly if you take shortcuts. It does depend on the shop doing the work but the ones without such a time crunch tend doing a stock motor have better luck than the ones rushing to get the motor done to meet a deadline.

From the 1930s through the mid 1960s, Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward had a couple of pages of rebuilt engines in both short block and long block form. These engines had to be reliable or they wouldn’t have sold. These engines were completely rebuilt–reground crankshaft and camshaft, bored and honed cylinders, new pistons, pins and rings, main and rod bearings, etc. This had to be better than an overhaul at the time which consisted of new rings, valve job and not much else.

If I remember correctly from my childhood, folks used to talk of putting the cars up on blocks for the winter and then often would take the opportunity to overhaul the engines with rings, bearings, valve job etc. That was a much simpler time when people walked to work and to the store and school.

I’ve only ever heard of one rebuilt engine that did not turn out. In my area there are several engine rebuilders who do automotive as well as industrial units. They fully guarantee their product and have various certifications.

I have rebuilt two engines with the help of my friend and helped him with a few. This was in the 80’s; all engines turned out very good, but this guy was not working on the clock, would take his time, was very particular about cleanliness and accuracy and would always buy high quality parts. Cut short on any step and the result is a waste of time and money.

I have seen 2 DIYers rebuild engines very carefully and the results were great. It is a tedious and frustrating job for the first time rebuilder but it is worth the effort to do it right.

In the early '60s my father bought an engine from Sears for his 48 Plymouth (along with an Earl Scheib paint job).
That motor ran good for the 5 or so years he kept that car before rust took over.
Then he sold it to a friend with a farm in Virginia, and he put it up on blocks and attached a saw blade to a rear hub.

I was looking at a book titled “Rebuild your Ford small block”, something like that. They described the rebuild process for an engine they were doing. Turns out this engine had been rebuilt prior, and failed. During this next rebuilding, they discovered on the prior time the head gasket had been put on BACKWARD! The front towards the back and the back towards the front. The engine failed because the rear coolant path was completely blocked off by the incorrectly installed head gasket. And just to make matters as bad as possible, the prior rebuilder had also forgotten to install the backing plate on the water pump, so the impeller was grinding against the block and snagging.

So yes, it is possible apparently for the rebuild process to run into some problems.

I saw that Fast n’ Loud episode. As I recall the engine was rebuilt in 5 hours. I can’t imagine that would turn out well, though it’s hard to see why all of the new rod bearings failed so soon. I do have to wonder if in some scenes that didn’t make the cut if they were beating the crap out of the rebuilt motor.

My own guess was either: 1) staging for the show (as OK4450 implied) or 2) the lackeys going out and doing completely stupid stuff with it. Then there’s always the question of the speed of the build and how careful someone can really be about it under that kind of time pressure - short cuts on parts and labor.

I quit watching the show after a couple of episodes. These two are hacks who’ve managed to sweet talk a producer into making this show. I would NEVER buy a heap from these two.