In today’s age of high dollar vehicles, it is not as easy to just throw a car away, as was common place in years past. Today, many cars and trucks cost in upwards of $30k-$50K and more. With costs like this, many consumers are turning to rebuilt vehicle engines when theirs fails early in the car’s life. This presents a problem for car owners, who may know nothing about auto repair – other than to take the vehicle to your local repair shop.
This is post is meant to help educate the average consumer about the purchase process and help prevent them from being taken advantage of.
Try to understand what actually happened to your vehicle.
“The engine blew up”, is a typical yet unprofessional diagnosis of what happened. There is always a reason it “blew up”. Sometimes it is as easy as the engine did just let go internally but more often than not, today there is an external component (e.g. injector, 02 sensor, water pump, etc.) that caused the failure. If this problem is not identified – then you run the risk of the same problem occurring again with your new replacement engine. These types of failures are not covered by a remanufacturer’s warranty – simply because it is not caused by the manufacturing in the first place. Don’t be afraid to quiz your mechanic as to what happened. It is worth spending the time and energy to get a proper diagnosis FIRST – so that you don’t end up damaging your rebuilt engine (again).
Do a little research about the business your engine is purchased from.
In many cases your local mechanic will recommend a particular supplier, but don’t be afraid to ask who they are and research them. Many times a mechanic will mark up the cost of the engine to make a profit, without recommending the best solution for your needs. Remember when researching, that all engine companies will have complaints. Look for reviews that are valid (as opposed to being written by a consumer that installed their own engine, damaged it, and blames the company for the damage).
Plan on replacing other components when you replace the engine.
Engine mounts, o2 sensors, fuel injectors, water pumps, spark plugs, belts and hoses are just a few of the maintenance items that may need to be replaced at the time of installation to help ensure the new engine has the support it needs to keep running correctly. Replacement of many of these items should already be covered in the labor of the engine install, and the only added expense should be the parts.
Understand the warranty that is being offered to you.
A typical response from a technician is, “it has a 3 year warranty and if anything happens, it will be covered.” – which isn’t exactly the truth. Although the manufacturer builds and tests the engine – it’s really up to the mechanic to install it properly, and for you, the car owner, to be sure that it is properly maintained. These are additional factors that can affect the warranty. Many manufacturers have fine print in their warranty that can be viewed as less than ethical, requiring the engine to be pulled and shipped back to their plant for inspection, before the warranty can be applied. Where is your vehicle while this is happening? In pieces at the repair shop!
Another hidden item that is typical to many manufacturer’s warranty, is a cap on labor.
Many shops have a per-hour rate of $75 and up, and most engine jobs are 15 hours or more to complete. Most re-manufacturers place a cap on the replacement labor paid out for an approved claim at a total of $350.00 to $500.00. So even if the failure is their fault, you still have to pay the difference out of pocket. Look for a vendor with a “No Fault Warranty” addon that provides you with full-coverage, regardless of failure. Ask the manufacturer for their warranty in writing, and check their website for it also.
Understand all fees associated with the purchase.
Engine remanufacturing is a form of recycling, and most remanufacturers require that you return your old engine for recycling via what is called, a “core charge”. You pay the charge upfront and it is refunded after your car’s usable core is returned. The key word here is USABLE. Many manufacturers will not refund your money if a core is returned damaged. There are a few manufacturers today that do not require a core charge to be paid up front. Ask before buying, as many core charges can swell up to $1000.
Understand the shipping costs.
Many manufacturers claim “free shipping”, but then when it is time to return the core, charge you with a “core return fee”. The bottom line is that engines are very heavy, and they don’t ship for free anywhere. Make sure you understand what these fees are, and ask if it is a round trip figure that includes the return shipping. Ask if the engine will be delivered with a lift gate truck to lower it down to the ground safely. Many locations do not have a forklift and a lift gate delivery is essential to ensuring your engine is delivered without damage. Unethical manufacturers may try to charge you additional fees for this after you have already paid, or at the time of delivery, so don’t be afraid to ask about all of your delivery options ahead of time.
Don’t buy the first engine you find.
The way that online advertising works today, the first company you see is not necessarily the best, it is typically just the company that paid the most to show you their ad. Take the time to speak with a few different companies, until you feel comfortable with your decision.
Don’t forget to get an approximate delivery date.
If an engine is delivered too late, a shop can start to charge you storage fees, so don’t forget to ask when it will be delivered by. Also, do not commission the mechanic to start the job until it the approximate arrival date. This will help to avoid a stressful situation with the repair shop.
Don’t let your mechanic force you to purchase from their vendor of choice.
Many times, the mechanic’s decision is driven by the desire to mark up the fees. If they will not allow you purchase from a vendor that you are comfortable with, this may be an indicator that you also need to shop your mechanic.
Don’t forget to analyze the overall condition your vehicle before you invest in a rebuilt engine.
If your car also needs tires, brakes, interior work, paint and so on, then investing a new engine may not be the best solution for your situation. Be wary of the projected life-span of the rest of your car or truck, so you don’t lose your investment in a vehicle that is on the verge of collapse anyways.
Don’t forget to ask for advice.
If you look into your circle to family, friends and co-workers, you will probably find someone that has replaced their engine at one time or another, and can provide advice on the subject.
By listening to the advice of people you trust as well as following the tips in this post, you should be able to effectively restore your vehicle’s performance and maximize your investment for many years to come.
Eddie Symonds is the CEO of Powertrain Products, Inc.