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New water pump vs rebuilt engine?

Need a water pump replaced in 2003 PT Cruiser- anyone know a good mechanic -should I just get a rebuilt engine put in instead of fixing water pump?

Enter your zip code here: (along with asking friends/family/churchgoers etc as well as looking at other review sites such as Google reviews)

Why would you get a rebuilt engine instead of replacing a water pump???

You ned a timing belt replaced at the same time as the water pump because the belt has to come off to replace the water pump. The belt is cheap, but the labor is expensive which is why they are replaced at the same time. You don’t want to pay that labor twice.

A rebuilt engine costs more than the value of a 2003 PT Cruiser.


This is like asking if you should have a heart transplant instead of a tetanus shot…


Haha- funny! And true I’m sure! But the mechanic looking at it now quoted the same price for replacing water pump as he did rebuilt engine- I’m just concerned if we replace water pump could still have blown head gasket. Mechanic said can’t test for that till water pump is working

You need a different mechanic . Call another shop and politely ask for a ball park price on just replacing the water pump . I almost think he was talking about a used motor and that it may have problems so that will not help you.

This is like the doctor saying a tetanus shot costs as much as a heart transplant! :wink:

Yeah, @VOLVO_V70’s right - if the engine costs as little as a water pump, it’s a used engine, and so now you’re taking an engine that you know only has the water pump problem and possibly a HG problem, and replacing it with an engine that might have that and who knows how many other problems. Not a good idea. Even then, as much of a pain in the butt some water pumps are to replace, I can’t picture a mechanic charging you the same labor money to replace a whole engine. There’s a lot that goes in to disconnecting an engine from a car and reconnecting a new one, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which a water pump would be more difficult or take longer.

Actually, I’m questioning the whole thing now. Is he basing his diagnosis of a bad water pump on seeing a leak, and he isn’t sure if the leak is coming from the water pump or the head gasket? Or are there other symptoms that were there before the water pump died? I’m thinking we need more details.

Yes. We need more information. And you need a different mechanic.

Ah, the crux of the problem. Did the engine overheat? Why does anyone suspect a breached head gasket? Certainly, it could be tested without a water pump but it would not be as comprehensive because effects when the engine is hot would be difficult, if not impossible, to mimic on a cold, non-running engine. I would still argue that as long as the engine has not been subjected to longer term exposure of coolant in the crankcase, replacing headgaskets is still far less expensive than replacing a whole engine- especially with a used engine of unknown condition. BTW- head gaskets can fail without leaking into the crankcase and simply burn the coolant. The recommended course of action depends heavily on why head gasket failure is suspected here.

I have a 2002 Cruiser and replaced the timing belt kit about 3 years ago. I say “Kit” because with the timing belt kit you also get the new water pump, idler pulley, and tensioner.
It took me about 6 hours. It was a chore to do, but worth it to do it at my leisure instead of it breaking and having to be without the car at the most inopportune time.


This mechanic is dead wrong about not being able to check for a head gasket breach until it’s running.

A cooling system pressure test, compression test, etc could all be easily done to verify a head gasket problem.


A hydrocarbon sniffer held over the open radiator, engine running, may be able to detect exhaust gasses in the coolant - a sure sign of head gasket failure, or worse. If you see bubbles rising up in the radiator neck, don’t bother with the sniffer except to confirm the diagnosis. There are also chemical test strips that can analyze the coolant for this.

We just purchased the vehicle - we were told it overheated but did not do so on test drive - only overheated after several hours of highway driving. They did put stop leak in radiator so no fluids leaking and we had plenty of coolant. We pulled over off highway as soon as we could- but it was in the red and whistling- we ran heater to help.

The engine is likely damaged by now from overheating so many times.

The cost to install a used engine may be less than the cost to replace the cylinder head.

These are inexpensive vehicles, you may would be better off buying one that runs.

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OK, yeah… The extra detail makes it more understandable why your mechanic is suggesting a swap. Between the repeated overheating and the stopleak, it might well be more expensive to fix everything that’s messed up.

For future reference, never buy a car with known engine problems. If it were easy/cheap to fix, the seller would fix it so that people would be more likely to buy it. Just assume that a car being sold while overheating requires expensive work and the owner is hoping to unload his problems onto you.

But a heart transplant is more exciting

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if you want your mechanic to install a used engine, make sure to replace a few things before dropping it in

Timing belt

cam seals

crank seals



water pump

You get the idea . . . it would be silly to install a used engine that is way overdue for a timing belt, and then it snaps the next week :smirk_cat:


Of course, this depends if the price is right, and if you are willing and able to do the work yourself. It is way more common for people to flat-out lie about the condition of a car they’re selling than to admit that serious, expensive problems exist.

For example, when I was looking for a used Caravan back in 2016, I looked at several which the sellers swore up and down were in perfect condition, but my inspection revealed otherwise.

For example, one, which was being sold for way more than the Blue Book value, had a very rough idle once warmed up, and after driving for 11 miles, the Check Engine light came on–for a transmission code. When we got back to the seller’s house, he claimed that it was just a “sensor issue”, and his “mechanic” said it would cost less than $100 to fix. Then he erased the code, so the CEL would be off for the next test-drive.

Another used Caravan, which I drove more than 100 miles to see, was allegedly in perfect condition, and ran like new. When I saw it in person, it had body damage, the engine leaked a lot of oil, and it had an obvious rod knock. And of course, he was asking top dollar for this heap.

There were others which I looked at, where upon opening the radiator cap to inspect the coolant, I could see metal particles floating around–evidence that Bar’s Leaks or another similar product had been used. When I asked about this, the people either got offended, or flat-out denied ever putting any sort of leak-stop product into the radiator.

By the same token, I have seen a lot of cars on Craigslist that are very cheap, and reasonably priced given the problems that they have. For example, people saying that the car needs a new engine because it overheated, or the timing belt broke, and they’re asking $300-800 for it. I am sure that a lot of these would run adequately with a used head from a junkyard and a new head gasket and timing belt kit. (And of course, replacing any other incidental parts such as accessory belts, coolant hoses, radiator, etc. as needed). Worst case, a used 4-cylinder engine from a you-pull-it junkyard is not too expensive.

Thanks for your input - we got it for 1200.00 and we bought another vehicle from this guy before which was a 2012 trailblazer for $1200.00- no problems with it so by posting on here- I’m really just exploring my options and listening to others opinions-we will get it fixed one way or the other - I’ve bought many used cars in my lifetime (I’m 62) so this isn’t my first rodeo- my friend who looked at it with me may wind up doing it himself- but we don’t really have tools or place for that- I appreciate everyone’s advice and their experiences - this has been informative and helpful!

I should add the mechanic who has it now is being extremely helpful and is working on a deal to get it fixed for half his original price- and he told me he did not see any bubbles in antifreeze- once he has fixed it I intend to post a good review for him.