Imagine one day you are driving into work when all of a sudden you hear a BOOM. Then as you are wondering what just happened you spot a big cloud of smoke in the rear view mirror. A moment later you realize that your engine is not running anymore. As you pull over to the side of the highway it hits you, I just blew my motor, what do I do now.
First thing is to move to the side of the road away from other motorists as quickly as possible with whatever momentum you have left. Once you are safely on the side of the road you can try to turn the car on, if it turns on you didn’t blow the motor and this article will not be of use to you. If the vehicle doesn’t turn on, call for a tow truck to take it to a mechanic for inspection.
Once you are positive the motor is blown and it’s not something else the hard part begins, do I repair, rebuild, or replace the motor or is it best to junk the vehicle. This is a decision based on a couple factors such as is the car worth anything, do you like the car enough to spend at least a thousand dollars or are you ready for a new vehicle. If the car is not worth much or you were ready for a new car then it is probably time to junk the vehicle. Depending on the vehicle most salvage yards will buy the car for less than $500 for a 10 year old car, newer vehicles may get more but not much and it varies from company to company.
If the vehicle has value either personally or financially then you may decide to fix the problem. If it has been confirmed that the motor is blown have the mechanic tell you prior to doing anything what the prices are for fixing the problem, a replacement junkyard motor, a new replacement motor and a rebuild. Depending on the age and type of vehicle, junkyard engines may be everywhere and less expensive (like a Ford pickup truck) or scarce and very expensive (like a Ferrari). If you plan on keeping the vehicle for a couple years or wont drive it much as a second vehicle a junkyard motor may be the way to go. If the vehicle is your everyday driver a new motor or rebuild may be the way to go.
Most repair shops charge an hourly rate that is charged to see what is wrong with the motor. If it is obvious with what is wrong from a minimal inspection then repair may be the way to go. If they tell you they need to pull the motor out of the vehicle to find out what the problem is, ask what that will cost you, it may be cheaper to pursue one of the other options. Usually removal of the valve cover will allow them to see if a valve dropped in or if a pushrod broke. Removal of the oil pan will show the lower half of the motor and see if any pieces fell in there. If the inspection is not too expensive do it first, then you will be able to make an informed decision to proceed with.
If you decide to go with a junkyard motor it usually will be the fastest and cheapest method. Many mechanics are also able to offer a warranty on the motor (not labor, just the motor) for anywhere from a month to 6 months at a pretty good price. The old motor will usually be sent to the junkyard the new used motor came from to be parted out.
If you don’t like the idea of a used motor in your car you can purchase a new motor or rebuild the one in the vehicle. There are a few things to consider though, if the block is cracked you will not get out of paying a core charge which could be expensive. If the block is solid then you will get the core charge refunded once it is returned, unfortunately this can’t be determined until you tear the entire motor apart. The next part to think about is rebuilding a motor is a long process that is done by hand, however, you can bore out the motor, change pistons, or customize it any way you want. If you want to increase power then a rebuild may be your best option. If the mechanic tells you the price for the rebuild and it is slightly less than a new motor it may make sense to get the new motor if you are not going to make any performance changes. The new motor would be the exact same motor that came in the care when it was new and will come with a pretty good warranty. They are often referred to as a crate motor.
If you decide to purchase a new engine or rebuild the motor a few things will need to be thought about. If other components are old or have a lot of miles on them, putting a new or rebuilt motor into the vehicle may cause extra stress on worn parts. Why is this important to you? If you bolt a new or rebuilt motor to a transmission with high miles you will most likely have transmission trouble in the near future. The new or rebuilt engine will have all the power it did when it was new, the transmission will now have additional stress on it which it may not be able to handle which could lead to trouble in the future. If the vehicle is newer or low miles then this is not as much a concern.
Recently I had the motor in my vehicle blow up, it was not a fun day. It ended up being that the connecting rod broke off from the piston and went into the side of the cylinder wall. When the oil pan was removed for inspection a large amount of chunks of metal were discovered and the block was cracked. I wanted to write this article because I could not find a simple explanation of which option to pick. I hope it helps you make your decision.