I seem to see a lot of posts involving engine replacement in newer cars. It used to be that engine replacement was a rare thing. At least in newer cars. Has there been some change in the design of engines of late that is making them less robust? Or is the engine design ok, but the problem is poor quality materials or inept machining of the engine parts? I’ve heard tell of newer car engines being opened up to fix something, and the parts appear to have been quickly machined with questionable quality control compared to days past.
Anyone have experience about poorly machned engine parts in newer model cars? Or is it just an urban rumor; i.e. there’s no increase in the rate engine replacements?
Or, if there is a problem, is the reason due to the increased mileage intervals suggested for oil refills these days?
Just curious what other’s experience is.
It could also be that owner’s don’t attend to their cars as they should. How many times do we see posts about low oil? Many, if not all, of those posters never check the oil level. They are informed of it when someone else changes it for them. Just add it to the list, @GeorgeSanJose. Your other suggestions are all reasonable. Although I’d say that machining is better now than it ever was.
JMHO, but a lot of problems are due to conditioning of the public to believe that oil changes can be extended to infinity, the hood never has to come up to check anything, and that an oil life monitor is so equipped is the last word on what’s going on under the hood.
Just from personal experience and a lot of it, I’ve found that in almost every case of a damaged engine or transmission it goes back to not changing and checking the fluids regularly or in the case of engines; continuing to motor on with the temperature gauge pegged on HOT. Many an engine has been roasted because someone kept going with a stuck thermostat, leaking radiator, or what have you.
As to machining, cars are still assembly line disposable items that are not going to have their engines balanced and blueprinted one by one. The only cars that get this treatment are the quarter, half million dollar, etc exotics.
I’m sure you see more and more cars with 100, 200, and even 300K miles today than you did 20 or 30 years ago. I feel that they are far better made now than at any other time. As @ok4450 said, most ruined engines are the fault of the owner, not the engine. The problem is, the owners seem to think that they can go 5000 miles between oil CHECKS, not just changes. Granted, many cars will go 5000 miles before they use a quart, but you should still check them. You never know when a car might begin to use or leak a little oil.
Another thought: Older cars tend not to last as long anyway, especially in terms of corrosion. If you had an early 80’s car where the engine went south, the frame was probably just about rusted out too and it wasn’t worth saving. Now, when a car’s engine goes it may well make financial sense to put a new one in and keep the car going.
@Coleslaw That’s probably true in the rust belt areas of this country, but not everywhere. I bought a 28 year old Dodge Colt Vista, in part because it was one of Click or Clack’s favorite cars. It has almost no rust. Sure hope I don’t have to swap the engine.
Rust is not as big an issue here in Oklahoma but on the other hand, I’ve seen a number of 5 year old late models brought here from the Rust Belt that were rusted to oblivion.
If you back up the clock a lot of years full service gas stations were all over the place. No matter if someone filled the tank or bought 1 gallon of gas, part of the service by the attendant was checking the tires and the fluids along with cleaning the windshield.
With the proliferance of self-serve fueling stations that process has disappeared.
It also used to be commonplace for someone (usually the man of the house) to pop the hood on a weekend and check the fluids or perform minor repairs such as plugs, filters, and so on.
We get questions from folks that indicate they don’t check the oil between changes unless a warning light comes on. Time for a new engine!
The old cast iron engine blocks could be abused a lot and there could be damage to internal parts but the block would survive nicely in most cases. Overheat an aluminum engine and the chance of damage to the block and head is very likely. Then you just replace the whole mess and let a remanufacturer decide if parts of it are worth keeping.
+1 for @pleasedodgevan2, and I’d like to add that there are a lot of used engines out there salvaged from wrecked cars that a remanufactured or salvaged engine is many times cheaper and quicker that a tear down and rebuild of an engine that has suffered internal damage. I’m working a deal on a minivan right now with a locked up engine due to lack of oil. We found a lot of salvage yard engines for around $400-500 with mileages below 100k. I can’t rebuild one that cheap.
I’m just about to retire my old '89 Honda with over 585,000 miles on it, not due to engine failure but due to undercarriage rust. Although I kept up on the body, the underbody (even washing it during winter months ) the undercarriage rusted. I tend to check and re-check stuff and I’m cautious with maintenance and repair, so I’m kinda shocked. But the 585,000 is an awful lot. When I was a kid and started driving in the early 70s, 100,000 miles was a lot of miles. I agree with the other posters that people just don’t check things out anymore, don’t fool around with things under the hood. You see folks driving down the road with grossly underinflated tires, vehicle wobbles, stuff hanging off underneath, and so on. IMO, engines are made better today than say, 40 years ago. Rocketman
I don’t mean to disagree with you but engine repair and replacement is less common now than it was 20 years ago. We had a respected engine rebuild shop in town, been in business since the 30’s and had customers from 50 miles away, go out of business a few years ago. Engines now outlast the rest of the car. Every local auto parts store with a machine shop used to have rebuilt heads and engine blocks in stock. Now those places are gone too.
Everything in our lives has become so reliable and maintenance free that we forget that cars are interactive. They need care and maintenance. And the majority of engine work I see is from neglect. The days of replacing or rebuilding the worn out engine in the family sedan to get a few more years out of it are gone. With very few exceptions, engines just don’t wear out like they used to.
If you go back to the 1940s and 1950s, engine replacement was quite common. The Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs each had couple of pages with remanufactured engines for almost any domestic automobile. The overhead valve engines were available in short block (without cylinder head or heads) and long block form. The flathead engines usually came complete.
The only engine I ever had to have replaced was in a 1990 Ford Aerostar. The car was used when I purchased it, but fortunately it had the balance of the warranty, so I was not out any money.
In addition to the ‘‘drive it till it breaks’’ public mentality, we also find that most repair shops are not willing to invest their time in an attempt to rebuild.
Though the parts may cost much less, the labor hours more than counter balance the overall price.
Then add to that the risk of wasting unpaid hours if you’ve given a solid estimate and find more wrong with the engine and need additional work.
Even investing the hours to tear down for diagnosis goes unpaid when you find a complete replacement is needed.
It’s just more efficient to let the dedicated engine factories do their specialty work AND get a better warranty with it than to delve into a rebuild and not recoup all of the time invested.
If you actually tallied up the total number of hours it takes ( diag, repair and additional repair ) and then attepted to charge the customer for all that…a replacement engine costs less.
24 yr old rusty ugly car? Uh, good for you. Bet ur neighbors will be glad to see it go.
In the 40s it was common to need a valve job at 40,000 miles and a ring job before 60,000 but both could be done by a do it your selfer. Valve seats could be dressed with a reamer and valves lapped by hand. The heads could be removed by taking off just the head and manifold bolts, the only special tools you needed to do a ring job were a ridge reamer and a cylinder hone and ring compressor. I would not attempt to rebuild todays aluminum engines by hand.
Some very good insight here. I agree that the lack of full service stations and the increased reliability of cars has caused a lot of unnecessary engine failures due to neglect by owners. Also bodies last much longer now and most vehicles don’t turn into a heap of rust till well over 300,000 miles. So the engine may give up the ghost first.
The third item is that repairing engines is now prohibitively expensive and beyond the ability of most garages.
All this points into the direction that to get that maximum engine design life you need to do a lot of PREVENTIVE maintenance, such as oil & filter changes, coolant care, etc. None of these are expensive, but replacing an engine is.
Internal engine repairs and rebuilding engines at a shop are cost prohibitive. Floor space is too valuable to have a car sitting, collecting dust, while the block and/or heads are farmed out to machine shops for days and sometimes weeks. I have pulled blocks and sent them to be machined and find that they are cracked and no core is available locally. When there is a 3 to 10 day backlog of work waiting on the lot it’s best to price engine rebuilding so high that no one wants it.
@RodKnox Good point. Rebuilding an engine in a general repair shop is seldom done anymore. A friend has a large shop where he rebuilds classic cars as well as doing normal repair and service work. He also builds the odd hot rod. Even he does not like rebuilding an engine in his shop.
The Sears and other catalogues used to carry rebuilt long and short block engines, and at one time their automotive shops could actuall install one. Those days are long gone. In my region there are several engine rebuilders who do car, truck, and industrial engines. They also install if required.
Great informative posts all. I’m just a driveway fix-it-upper, not a pro, so I only repair two cars, on 40 years old, and another 20 years old. It looks like from the responses here that it is almost unanimous that in fact engines are built to a better quality now than in years past, the machining is at least as good now or maybe better, and engine replacements these days are due to owner’s not checking the fluids frequently enough and keeping the routine maintenance up to date, in combination with that fact that replacing the engine has become a better option economically for the customer than a custom shop tear down and re-build.
Thanks again for taking time to post. I think the issue is clarified for me at least.
One question for the curious me: What is the meaning of the term “engine blueprinting”?