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How to make sure that rebuilt engine is reliable

My mom has a 2000 Toyota Camry. A couple of months ago she took it to Sears for an oil change. Apparently they forgot to put in an oil filter and forgot some nut/bolt at the bottom of the oil pan. (I’m not sure I’m getting this exactly right.) Anyway, she lost all of the oil and her engine died.

She is now working with the Toyota dealer to get a rebuilt engine put in. They noticed a couple of leaks and a compression issue with the “new” engine, which they want to fix before she drives it.

First, is a rebuilt engine going to get her many more years of use? Second, how can she tell if the engine is a good one? What should she ask them to do before she drives it away from the dealer? I believe they are giving her a 90 day warranty on the engine – that seems awfully short to me.

Thanks for any help!

  1. She should be working with Sears, not Toyota. It’s Sears’ fault. They buy the engine.
  2. Where did the engine come from? Again, it’s Sears’ fault. They buy the engine from the place SHE specifies.

Anyway, sounds like this rebuilt engine was rebuilt by a monkey. She should reject it and make them install another rebuilt engine that doesn’t have problems right out of the starting gate.

I should have been more clear. Sears is paying for the rebuilt engine, but Toyota is doing all the rebuild work and is working with Sears’ insurer to get everything processed and paid for. The Toyota dealer has really been going to bat for her and wants to make sure everything is up to par before turning the car over to her. Sears’ insurer is paying for her rental car and mileage, so so far she has paid nothing out of pocket. This has been going on for well over a month, however.

I am not sure where the engine came from, but Toyota selected it (since my mom knows nothing about cars) and she was told it had 60,000 miles on it. (Her car has upwards of 100K on it.) I will try to get more specifics about the problems Toyota has discovered with the engine. But so far, Toyota has not said that the engine is crap and they want a new one. It appears they want to do some repairs to this one.

Thanks, Heidi

If the engine is leaking anything, it wasn’t properly rebuilt. Your mother got a used engine, not a rebuilt engine. A good rebuilt engine should have no leaks and no “compression issue.”

The data “has 60,000 miles on it” and “is rebuilt” are exclusive. It can have 60K on it or it can be “freshly” rebuilt, but not both.

There are tests that can be done to determine if a used engine is good, but also realize that a leak does not automatically mean it’s not. During the installation process various hoses and tubes get taken apart and put together, not only on the engine but on things like the power steering system, brake system, tranny cooling lines, heater hoses, etc., and without knowing exactly where it’s leaking it’s hard to make a guess.

The tests include a compression test, a leakdown test, and evaluation of the ignition system, preferably with a scope. Things like water pump flow should also be verified, but to be honest if the engine has a timing belt that along with the pump should be changed during the reinstallation.

Can you explain exactly what they found?

Okay, folks, I just talked to my mom again and I didn’t take good notes the first time.

  1. This is a USED engine. Toyota, not Sears, apparently selected this option.

  2. They have told her there are two oil leaks that should be fixed and the oil pan is leaking (not sure if this is the same thing as one of the oil leaks).

  3. They also recommend that she change the t-belt.

They also mentioned something about the front pump seal need repair (again, I’m not sure if this is related to the oil leaks she mentioned.)

I apologize for the lack of information, but neither my mom nor I are well-versed in car repair. I did ask her why they got a used engine, but she didn’t know why.

Does this help? Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! I don’t want my mom to be stuck with a car that’s unreliable, all because of some stupid 20-year old who failed miserably on her oil change.

I would hope that Sears is paying for the recommended repairs to the used replacement engine. If so, why wouldn’t you have them done.
I would push really hard for a one year warranty on the engine from Sears. Any issues that the used engine has that the original wouldn’t have had should show up within a year.

This is a used engine, so whether or not it is reliable really depends on Toyota. A 60K engine can be fine or junk depending on how it was cared for by the original owner.

Following Toyota’s recommendations is about the best shot you have at getting this used engine in decent shape. If it has compression issues I’d reject the engine and go look for another. If the compression is OK, a new water pump, timing belt, and repair of seals and oil leaks should be done. Grandma shouldn’t have to pay for any of these items, it should all be on Sear’s nickel.

The suggested repairs are fine. A timing belt shouldn’t be replaced until about 90,000 miles or so, but if Sears pays for it, the Toyota dealer is doing her a great service by suggesting it. And ask the dealer how they determined that the engine is acceptable. If they did not perform the tests that mountainbike suggested, ask them to do them. Tell them a mechanic friend recommended them to you.

I am amazed that a dealership would have ANYTHING to do with a salvage yard engine…These engines ALL tend to “have only 60,000 miles on it”…How do you verify THAT??

Sears should just give her book value for the car and never mind trying to fix it…

When she gets the car back, she should take the car home and rev the car in neutral into the red zone for thirty seconds. Then she should either call the Toyota dealer to send the wrecker when it starts making loud knocking noises, or else the engine is fine.
This is how the junkyards treat the engine from any wreck before paying the standard amount.

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies! Based on the replies, I have told her to ask the Toyota dealer to explain why they chose a used engine, and to get Sears to pay for all of the repairs and tests in order to make sure the engine is going to last. Sears, no surprise, is dragging their feet on all of this, making Toyota’s job a little harder. I’ll keep you all posted.

The reason behind offering a used engine is because a used engine was destroyed. There’s not a problem with a used engine if it’s known to be good and someone is standing behind it as to labor and another engine if the replacement turns out to be faulty.

Based on a compression issue and oil leaks I would say that this engine has been abused or has far miles on it than is claimed. A fair number of salvage yard units (25% in my experience) have issues ranging from somewhat minor to scrap metal.

As to the 90 day warranty that’s about standard on a salvage yard part. The yard ONLY guarantees the part, NOT the labor.
It’s unlikely the dealer is providing any warranty as to labor on this deal. They’re utter fools if they do.
I’m not convinced here that you, your mother, the dealer, and Sears are all on the same page here and this could turn out to be a huge problem.

Thanks for the info. I wish I could edit my original post, because I misspoke (mistyped?) and my mom did NOT mention a compression problem. Just the two oil leaks and some seal needs replaced. They are also suggesting she replace the timing belt.

You are correct, no one is on the same page. I am pushing my mom to get more involved in this, since the dealer is running into a wall with Sears. I have also urged her to ask Sears to pay ALL of the necessary repairs to the used engine before it’s finished, and to pay for the diagnostic tests a previous poster mentioned. Thanks again, everyone.

You could ask why are they reccommending a timing belt replacement before its time is due (somewhat already mentioned) and why did they not make this reccommendation before the engine was installed as it probably would have been worth at minimum 1 hr labor reduction if the engine was out.

In all fairness they only owe you what you had but be very viligant on checking that the install is done correctly (meaning all wires ,cables, bolts are in their place), to the best of your ability.

Pretty odd they messed up on both the filter and the drain plug, it is usually one or the other but not both.

I can’t fault Sears for only paying for a used engine, you had a 11 year old engine with 100,000 miles on it.The Toyota dealer is being conscientious by pointing out things that the engine needs that are much, much cheaper to fix before the engine is put in the car. Seems good to me. If your Mom had never had her timing belt replaced it would be reasonable to ask her to pay for this one,