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

Stuborn father and an ignorant son

My father wants to rebuild the engine for our 96 Lumina which already has 288k on it.I feel we should just get some type of used vechicle.Opinions anyone?Please anyone?

A rebuilt engine in a worn out body is not a good idea, in my opinion. Nothing lasts forever. If I got 288K out of a Lumina, I’d be very happy, but I’d move on to another vehicle before spending any more money on this one.

However, if it’s dad’s car and dad’s money, let him spend it. How does this affect you? What’s your stake in this?

It would not be my choice, but why are you against it. It will keep him off the street and out of the bars for a while.

Think of it as a opportunity. You can buy him the repair manual or maybe some additional tools for his Christmas present.

I see this as fraught with potential problems.

Is your father the type that would expect YOU to be grateful he did this?

Perhaps he is the type who wants to feel needed and this is his way of proving his worth?

Would he be upset if you sold the car BEFORE he had a chance to do the work?

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

I Would Price Out The Engine Rebuild Parts

I am going to assume that Dad is doing the labor. If not, price that out, too. What shape is the transmission in? Is it next in line for a rebuild? Dad must really love this 96 Lumina and I won’t hold that against him. I tend to run my Chevys and Dodges to at least 300,000 miles and they become just like a son to me.

Don’t just sit there, young man, help your Dad! Do some searches next. There must be some low miles (less than 100 K) Luminas out there, (“parked in a rickety old garage”) driven by a “little old lady”. You might find one in Dad’s favorite color or loaded with stuff. Compare the price of moving the license plate to something a little fresher with the cost of rebuilding “Old Faithful”. With some homework, this should be a pretty close race and Dad can roll back the “clock” a couple hundred thousand miles. I have done this very thing, before.

Good Luck,
Father of a son

Years ago, replacing an engine was done frequently. As I remember, Ford had a program with its flat head V-8 engines through the dealer that the engine could be exchanged in about a day with the worn engine sent back for a factory rebuild to be installed in another car. There were two water pumps, one for each side of the block, and these water pumps were combined with the front motor mounts. Sears and Montgomery Ward carried rebuilt engines that could be ordered from the catalog for most cars. Perhaps your father remembers this era when he was growing up.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a throw-away society and it isn’t feasible to refurbish automobiles any more. I used to repair my television set back in the vacuum tube days. I’ll bet today it would cost more for a vacuum tube to keep my old Dumont with its 10" round screen than to buy a whole new television set. In the case of your Lumina, rebuilding of the engine may be more expensive than updating to a newer car. That is the way things are today.

It depends on the defintion of “rebuild”. There are a dozen ways of rebuilding an engine and only one proper one.
The proper one will get pricy very quickly as it means new camshaft, cam bushings, cylinder boring, crankshaft turning, block vatting, oil pump, head reworking, not to mention several dozen peripherals, so the first decision would be deciding whether he wants to spend 4 figures IF he plans on doing it correctly.

If your father does not understand Plastigage, bearing crush, crank/cam end play, how to use feeler gauges and micrometers, etc. then he should pass on the rebuild.

If he wants to keep a 13 year old car with near 300k miles going then the most economical option is a used engine from the yard, eBay, Craigslist, or whatever.

Only if this is purposely a project car, if you’re a learning mechanic, if he’s a learning mechanic,for the hobby of doing so, then maybe…MAYBE.
But price logic says no, as well as does mechanical logic.

Let him rebuild the engine, maybe he enjoys that and if he can rebuild an engine he can probably take care of what else goes wrong with the car, that will get you more goodwill than buying another car and asking for help if that one breaks. Offer to help, you might like it! If he is stubborn and you are ignorant it could be a win win.

Contrary to everyone else, I’m assuming your father wants to pay to rebuild the engine, on the general idea that buying an engine costs less than buying a whole car.
I say price out a quality rebuild and then collaborate on listing everything you both want in a car, and what you both don’t care that much about, and jointly seek out the best pre-owned vehicle for that money you can find. Best news - your father DOES want to collaborate with you. Offer to do most of the leg work on this search; it’s easier for you anyway.
To your dad: I’m 55. I wish my kids would tell me (respectfully) when I’m being stubborn. Kids aren’t always wrong you know! If I’m right and you, Dad, are not offering to do the bulk of the labor yourself, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks you’re right on this. Do this joint project with your son. You’ll both enjoy it, become closer, and learn a lot besides.

The engine isn’t rebuildable and will cost more than a remanufactured one. The heads, crankshaft, camshaft and pistons should be replaced. By the time a new set of timing sprockets is bought, along with the new tensioner and belt, the savings will be gone. The head bolts aren’t too cheap either. There is certainly no practical reason to do it. One missed step or crack and the whole project becomes a money pit.

I wonder if the father of the OP was thinking of the 1930-1950 era when the oil pan could be easily removed from the engine and the engines weren’t built to close tolerances. In those days, one could replace the piston rings with the expansion type ring, rough up the cylinder walls with a little crocus paper, take the cylinder head to a machine shop for a valve job, or, work the valves over a little if the engine was a flathead and slap it back together. The engine then might be good for 20-30,000 miles or so. This was really a sloppy patch job. You are correct that there is only one proper way to rebuild an engine. This made a factory rebuild feasible if one wanted to have an engine that performed as well as a new one. I’ve used the sloppy patch method on 2 cycle lawnmower engines, where no valves are involved, to get another season of use. After one such “overhaul”, the cylinder walls would be too far out of round to do the job again.

I would not do this BUT, if you two do this together you will have some great memories. After your Dad is gone you will be greatful you did.

You Must Have Missed My Previous Advice When You State …
"Contrary to everyone else, I’m assuming your father wants to pay to rebuild the engine, on the general idea that buying an engine costs less than buying a whole car."

You can’t be serious…

I don’t get the title . . . “stubborn father and ignorant son”. But nevertheless . . . don’t rebuild it, get one from a local salvage yard . . . the local yard is tied-in to a network which can match you up with an exact replacement, with this year you might get lucky and get one with 100k or less . . . 12 year-old car? Maybe. I just bought a used engine from the local salvage yard with a claimed 105k. After installation with many of the parts from my old engine, it started right up and runs great. Don’t spend the $$$ unless this is a project car, which will be a labor of love and learning and not basic transportation. One more thing. Better get over those labels . . stubborn father . . . ignorant son. Never helps to call one another names, just gets in the way, IMO. Rocketman

This post has reminded me of:

My fathers '48 Plymouth. In the mid '60s he got a reman motor from Sears and a $30 paint job from Earl Scheib.

Drug store tube testers.

I suppose that when you have an engine with 400k miles, getting one with only 105k miles must seem like getting a spring chicken.

Pop, Son,
If you view this only as a learning experience, it’s a great idea.

You got that right! But listen to this . . . a friend of mine (he’s a mechanic by trade) asked me about my '89 and asked me to put mine up on his rack . . . so he could look at the undercarriage. He has a customer who also has an '89 with 505,000 miles, but can’t inspect it (we’re in PA) due to undercarriage rust. He said a few areas are just GONE, and he’s wondering if a bodyshop can weld steel to it but didn’t see where one or two points attach, since they’re gone. How does it run? I asked him to start it, it was behind his shop. One pump of the gas, first crank . . . started right up, ran just fine. My '89 only has 485,000 on it. Rocketman

BTW . . . the engine swap wasn’t my '89 Accord, it was my wife’s '95 civic. Rocketman