Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Learning Trans & Engine Rebuild

So my '97 Escort Wagon w/ 223k on it finally gave up the ghost. I don’t yet know what it was, but it was loud and inside the engine and left no doubt. I knew it was coming.

At about the same time a '97 Escort appeared on craigslist - the car itself was a death trap, but had only 114K on it with a strong motor & smooth transmission (both automatics). I was able to pick it up really cheap.

So my shop is currently swapping the motor and trans into my old dead wagon (which - believe it or not - I loved, and was not a death trap as I kept everything in order.)

My shop is throwing all of the extra parts including the old motor & trans into the trunk of the “parts car.”

So finding a silver lining I plan to make this into a learning experience. I am the “amateur” with no real training or formal experience - I’ve been learning as I go while maintaining 2 high mileage vehicles. I have learned A LOT up here and I give a general thanks to all of the regulars whose wisdom I have been absorbing.

So now I figure there is no better time to learn about motor and transmission rebuilds. I’ll have one of each that I don’t really need right now (and a garage to work in). I can attempt to rebuild them without the pressure of time or failure. Worst comes to worst, if I screw it up or decide its not worth it I can still carry the parts to the scrap yard in a crate. I might lose a little money, time & pride is all.

Anyway…I know I need a factory shop manual and will have one. But I’ve had those and they seem to often be written by mechanics and for mechanics - they often assume that you already know what you’re doing. (E.g. “remove the intake manifold” is written with the same matter-of factness as “pull out your screwdriver”)

Can anyone suggest other good sources out there - e.g. like “rebuilding for dummies”? I don’t want or need any kind of “textbook” style thing. I have a basic abstract, conceptual-level understanding of motors and transmissions. What I need is much more at the practical, nitty-gritty level.

Sorry for the long story - Suggestions?

(In case it matters: this is a 2.0L 4cyl, 8 valve and F4EAT transmission - I figure they’re both small and simple and good to learn on)

Factory manuals are the best but they can be pricy.
Also keep in mind that there are many things involved when doing a proper rebuild that are not spelled out in any manual.

There are also a number of specialized tools involved unless you’re planning on farming a lot of this out to an auto machine shop; and that’s going to be a requirement on part of the job anyway because there’s a 99% probability the block will need to be bored, the crank turned, along with things like the camshaft is probably on its last legs.

There’s the simple hone cylinders/throw in a set of bearings, back yard type of rebuild but that does not teach one much when learning to do things correctly and engine lifespan is questionable when done this way.
The correct way is going to be somewhat expensive even as a practice exercise.

“keep in mind that there are many things involved when doing a proper rebuild that are not spelled out in any manual”

That’s more or less what I was asking about - something that describes the process and what to expect rather than just looking like a set of disassembly and assembly steps.

For the motor, certainly, I expect some machine shop time (boring & crank turning & such) - I don’t know all what needs to be done, but I know I wouldn’t be doing it all myself.

I also expect to be figuring out total potential costs (parts, tools, and shop services) before I really get into it, but I need to start with being able to see the entire process. I might decide not to bother in the end. I won’t bother with the “backyard” type of rebuild.

I also actually planned to start with the transmission since I expect it to be a) cheaper, and b) more likely to need replacement than the motor.

So I’m still open for suggestions on helpful sources other than the shop manual. Perhaps the best thing to do is just get the manual and use the internet for the rest - ?

Worth it or not, I will take these things apart to satisfy my own curiosities. The only question is whether or not I’ll be willing or able to put anything back together.

I really hope you are not considering trying to rebuild an automatic transmission. That is not a job to learn on. I don’t know any mechanics or engineers who attempt such a feat on their own. My father is a Doctor of Engineering from GA Tech. I’ve seen him perform engine swaps and fabricate his own tools, single handidly build large additions onto houses, and he’s a welding demigod. But he never considered rebuilding an automatic transmission. He deemed the job as “too complicated”

That is precisely what I am talking about. And it very well may turn out to be “too complicated.” But I just don’t have anything to lose by looking into it.

Sometimes someone deems something “too complicated” because they just have no interest in sorting out the complications. I have a brother who will disassemble motorcycles and reassemble motorcycles day and night. But he won’t change his own spark plugs in his cars because he just doesn’t “do” cars - for him they’re too complicated to work on. Which just means that he has made choices about what he has the interest and patience for.

I also have various “cavalries” that I can call upon if necessary, and a scrap yard nearby if I happen to decide that I can’t or don’t want to do it.

This project will be fun and amusing, but don’t expect to learn how to rebuild engines and transmissions from it…For that, you need a couple of semesters at a trade school. You will discover that disassembling the transmission will require some rather expensive special tools. “Re-building” a blown Escort motor is an exercise in futility. The cost ALWAYS exceeds the value of the car…As you have already learned, using recycled parts is how to extend the useful life of Ford Escorts…