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Install new engine or buy new car?

I have a Nissan altima 220,000 miles. The timing chain has started to rattle. My mechanic’s advice is to drive it until it breaks and then buy a new car. In the last 2 years I have put in a new clutch, radiator, alternator, drive belt, and water pump. How much would a new engine cost? If I decide to pUt a new engine in it should I do it now before the timing chain breaks? Thanks in advance for your advice.

I’m not sure why you’d replace the current engine for want of a timing chain. Ask your mechanic to a) check the engine’s compression just to get a sense of the engine’s general condition; b) give you a quote on timing chain replacement. Its just a part (ok -set of related parts) and it can be replaced.

I agree, why not just fix the chain? How much oil do you use? The engine might run for several more years if it’s not worn out.

I agree with your mechanic. I have replaced a timing chain on one of these and it is very time consuming, therefore it is going to be costly in labor. The valve cover and both the upper and lower oil pans have to come off before you can get the timing chain cover/oil pump off.

As for when, watch for a really great sale on a new car that you want. Now would be a good time to test drive potential candidates and do your research. But you have plenty of time to buy, so you can wait for the really good deal.

I’m with Cig on this.
The work you’ve done over the past two years do not suggest that the engine itself is wearing out. These items, including the alternator and radiator, are not abnormal replacement items over 200,000 miles. So is a timing chain.

Unless there are signs that your engine internals are shot, such as excess oil usage combined with lack of power even with new ignition parts and filters, or an actual compression test that shows very weak readings, I see no reason not to replace the timing chain.

And unless the “worn out” signs in the preceeding paragraph are present, or something else like body rot is present, you may want to replace your mechanic too. I fail to usderstand why he’d auggest a noew motor.

A remanufactured engine (reman) is another option. If the rest of the car is in good shape so that the car is a viable candidate, a good reman will run about $2000 plus installation.

The labor on installation should be less than replacing the timing chain. Check the dealership parts department for a factory reman. Nissan recalled this engine for a ring problem in the 2005/2006 model years so they had a factory line dedicated to remanufacturing this engine. They may have some leftovers available.

My vote would be with cigroller about running a compresssion test and with one more addition. That would be an oil pressure test on a fully warmed up engine as the chain tensioners rely on engine oil pressure to operate.
One would hate to spend money replacing the timing setup only to discover shortly afterwards the engine has compression issues or still rattles even with the new chain.

Any compression or oil pressure issue at that mileage would mean that a new engine is a better option; assuming the car is clean, has no issues with the transmission, suspension, and so on.

I’m not too fond of a recommendation about driving a car until the chain breaks. What if the chain breaks in the middle of nowhere at midnight or if it occurs with 90k pounds of loaded semi tailgating you at 70 MPH?

"I’m not too fond of a recommendation about driving a car until the chain breaks. What if the chain breaks in the middle of nowhere at midnight or if it occurs with 90k pounds of loaded semi tailgating you at 70 MPH?

I’ll second that. Really bad advice. (I suddenly lost an ignition module once in the center lane of a multilane highway at about 65mph & plenty of traffic. Very high pucker factor. Suddenly the shoulder of the road seems a mile away).

I also agree that I’m uncomfortable with that recommendation, primarily for the reasons mentioned. A “drive it 'til it breaks down” suggestion is never a good one.

“Very high pucker factor.”

Yeah, I know how those NoVa drivers are. Just what are you doing in their way?! Reminds me of MD drivers.

Let me clarify, I agree with the mechanic, mostly. I don’t think the chain is in emminent danger of breaking for awhile, so there is not urgency in the decision. ok4450 made a good point on checking the tensioner and oil pressure first. My experience with this engine is that a chain only replacement is not a wise option.

Is this one of those cars where you don’t replace the water pump and the timing chain at the same time?

I’ve NEVER heard of a car that requires you to replace a water pump and timing CHAIN at the same time. Timing BELT yes…but timing CHAIN…NO. Two completely different designs.

I too am unaware of any engine using a timing chain that also uses it to drive the water pump. With engines that use chains the water pump is driven by the serpentine belt or by a fanbelt (older cars).

You surely don’t WANT that type of setup. Every time I ever removed a water pump water spills out (even if I drained the engine block). Since a timing chain is oiled from the engine oil…you don’t want any water spilling into the oil system.

Nissans are known for timing chain noise. the slides for the chains are plastic and they wear down or the tensioners slip out of place. To replace the chains, tensioners, slides ect. should run about $1200. installing a new engine is probably up around $3000. if the engine has been maintained, its up to you on whether or not it’s worth it or not. itd be a shame to put a new motor in and the tranny goes soon after.

I’d go for the chains.

The problem will installing new engines in old cars is that it adds almost nothing to the value of the old car…The owner of the car must REALLY want to keep the car for re-powering to make any sense…

Technically that’s true, but if the car is otherwise in good shape and still meets the owner’s needs its real value (to the owner) becomes “what would it cost to replace it?”. Generally that makes the cost worth it.