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Help Please! Rebuild engine or drop in used engine?

2003 Pontiac Sunfire with 60,000 miles. Piston rods seems to have gone bad and we have been advised not to pay the $2100 to fix that problem. We can’t buy a different used car with low miles for less than $4,000 or $5,000 miles so we are planning to either put in a different used engine or have this one rebuilt. They found one with 47,000 miles on it cost would be $2400 total installed. Or a different place nearby that rebuilds engines, cost would be $2990 plus I would have to pay $150 to the original shop for their labor to determine the problem. I don’t have to pay that extra if I go with the used engine replacement. Rebuilt would come with a 3 year warranty, on parts and labor. Used engine comes with a 3 month warranty and for $100 more I can get a one year warranty. So I am looking at $2500 for the used engine with a one year warranty or $3,140 ($2990 plus the $150) to have it rebuilt. it doesn’t matter to me that it is an older car, I don’t want to buy a different used car and not know what problems I may be buying. I just want a reliable car for my daughter to drive. Between these two options what do you think is best?

Piston rods have gone bad? I don’t think so. I think yo need to ask the mechanic again and write down exactly what he says. Maybe he said piston rod bearings.

What exactly prompted you to bring the car into the mechanic in the first place? what was it doing or not doing? what kind of noise was it making? Rod bearings will make a very loud knocking sound, like a hammer hitting an anvil, when they go bad.

Can you elaborate on what’s wrong with the existing engine? Piston rods have “gone bad?” In what way? After only 60,000 miles? Why? Was the engine ever run low on oil?

Just trying to understand whether there really is a problem or someone is just trying to sell you an engine swap.
Or if there is a less costly solution.

We bought the car from a friend of our cousin in September and it has been running great up until this time. There was a loud clanging/knocking noise and then the car died out. The chain is still intact but they can see the bad piston rod or whatever it is called. I checked with the previous owner after I found out about the problem and they told me they did have a problem once where an oil change shop put in a wrong part and some of the oil leaked out. The oil change company came to their house and fixed the problem. She said it did not drain totally but I don’t know how low it got. She just drove it home from the local oil change place, oil light went on and she called them. They did not have any problems with the car at that point after the oil shop corrected the issue. They are willing to fix it or replace it. The $2100 price for the repair is for a crank kit and labor to replace the rods. I have been given conflicting info from others I have talked to regarding this issue, one mechanic said problems would have shown up immediately and another said that problems can occur much later if the rods were ever starved of oil. The car is 200 miles away from me and my regular mechanic. Towing it here is about $700 and not worth adding to the expense of getting it running. i don’t have a hitch to tow it myself and the weather is horrible here in the midwest anyway.

I would say that which direction you go is up to you. $600 or so is worth the peace of mind or a 3yr warranty for some people, though you have to carefully read the warranty fine print. Sometimes staying within the warranty requirements is near impossible or prohibitively weird - so you have to know the warranty is worth the paper it is printed on. For a used engine, you’re relying on whatever network of businesses is involved regarding how well they determine that an engine is still good. Most of the time it is a perfectly fine option.

It sounds like the Jiffy Lube did something wrong when they changed the oil, probably an incorrect filter from the sound of it, causing the oil to drain out. As a result, the engine suffered bearing damage. With a little more use, a bearing (probably a main crankshaft bearing) seized and the spinning crank with the force of the car’s inertia and the other firing cylinders behind it, broke a piston connecting rod and, since you said that can see the rod, pushed it through the engine’s water jacket.

Damaged bearings can and do seize with some additional use. Sometimes they seize immediately sometimes with a bit more use.

A 2000 Sunfire is not a high value car to begin with. If it were me, I’d go the cheapest route possible, the used motor, and hope to get a few more years out of it while saving for a replacement car. Others here may have different feelings on this. But there’s no easy way out. It’s worth zero with a blown motor.

I think the issue is a rod bearing, and someone said something about metal shavings that can get in and cause other damage to the engine. Thank you to those who have responded. The car did start back up after it died out when my daughter put it in reverse. She was right near the repair shop referred to her by a friend who lives in that area. They seem legit there, and did say that these 2.2 engines usually do not run into these problems at 60,000 miles.

I would not rebuild the current motor, no way to be sure all damaged parts were fixed. Either a used motor with a warranty or a rebuilt motor from a professional rebuilding company (not a mechanic) is what I’d do.

Thanks. The re-build option is from an engine rebuilder, not just a regular mechanic. I did check their reviews and they are mostly good but not all.

I don’t care who is doing the rebuilding, a motor that has had a major mechanical failure should be junked, not rebuilt.

I agree with @texases on this one. Why take a chance rebuilding a damaged engine when a used/rebuilt one is available.

I would opt for a remanufactured engine from a well-known company like Jasper Engines. They offer a 3 yr/100,000 mile warranty. Perhaps this is what the “rebuild” shop you referred to would install. Be sure to ask them specifically what company is supplying the “rebuilt” engine. If they tell you it will be Jasper, I’d go with that option. Though more expensive than a used engine, it will be fresher with some new parts and will be warrantied longer (with many caveats).

A used motor is not really a good option in your case. You have a vehicle with very low miles for its age, chances are that any engine you find in a salvage yard is going to have 150k +/- on it and will be worn out, though it may run for awhile.

You have only owned it for a few months so you probably do not have a good idea of whether this engine uses much oil or not. when you got this loud clanking, did you check the oil level? Have you checked the oil level on a regular basis? Have you had to add oil?

If you have checked your oil regularly and it has not used any oil, then I would say that you are a candidate for just replacing the crankshaft and all main and rod bearings, but I really doubt this is the case. If the bearings suffered this much damage, the rings will have too.

If the oil light came on, the engine ran out of oil. When that happens, the damage can show up immediately or it can show up later, but damage is always done. The amount done is dependent on how long the engine was run with the oil light on. Sometimes people don’t notice the oil light right away so it was on much longer than they think.

I only see three options here, a complete rebuild, a reman engine such as the jasper or junk this car and look for another. Look for cars for sale around assisted care facilities or anyplace elderly people gather. Their cars are older but tend to be well cared for and have low miles.

The mechanic who has the car did tell me about the Jasper rebuilt engines and highly recommended that if we are going with re-built, the cost is about $3500 for the engine and installation of it by that mechanic. It does come with a 3 year, or 100,000 mile warranty. More costly than the other place that would re-build my engine, but you can take the car anywhere if it needs repair. The used engine the shop found only has 47,000 miles on it if that is still available and that is what’s included in the $2400 price. Thank you all for the feedback.

Also forgot to add the car is not leaking or burning oil. The oil level was normal.

Get the rebuilt motor with the 3 year warranty, and this car . . . with proper maintenance . . . should last you another 10 years

Sorry but you got taken on this car, whether on purpose or not. The engine was damaged from the loss of oil. A ten year old sunfire will not be dependable transportation even with a new engine. I think I would just move on instead of spending $2-3000 on a 10 year old car with questionable maintenance. If not then put the used engine in and don’t let them overhaul this one.

An engine that broke a connecting rod is history. Envision if you will that piece of metal flying around the cylinder, whose surfaces are critical, 3,000 times a minute and suddenly becoming free to bang around the sides, pushed by the forces of the other cylinders, the momentum of the other parts, and the inertia of the car.

I strongly urge against letting anyone try to rebuild this. You’ll end up paying good money to have them say “we removed the motor and opened it up and it isn’t rebuildable. That’ll be $500 please.”

I think I’d probably sell or donate the car, buy a used Corolla or Civic. You’ll be money ahead in the long run.

As the_same_mountain bike said, please don’t attempt to rebuild this engine. Your financial risk will be too great…