Rebuilt engines: is the internet a viable resource?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 Ford Bronco with a 351 Windsor engine. The engine needs to be rebuilt. I have three choices: rebuild it myself, pay a mechanic to do the work, or buy a remanufactured one on the Internet. If I choose to buy a remanufactured one, how can I tell if the company is a good one or not? Each company tells me how great it is and what super parts it uses. How do I know if the "new" parts are really the best, as they say they are? Several companies have the same prices and use the same parts. Even the Web pages look the same. How can I tell which company to use? Do you have any suggestions on how to tell a good rebuilder from a not-so-good one? -- Jeff

RAY: It's a good question, Jeff. Before the Internet, if you wanted to buy a remanufactured engine, you'd either go to your car dealer or your parts supplier, and THEY would have an engine supplier they trusted.

TOM: The advantage of the Internet is that now you can buy directly from the manufacturer, but you really don't know anything about the manufacturer's reputation.

RAY: And yes, some companies sell the same product through several slightly different Web sites, hoping to grab as much business as possible.

TOM: Your best bet is to talk to some good local garages and dealers about who they use. Since they have to guarantee both the engine AND their labor, they're going to be very careful about who they buy engines from. Trust us -- no mechanic wants to pull out an engine twice.

RAY: You might also find it helpful to go online and look for a Ford Bronco support group. Other Bronco enthusiasts (hey, you can find almost anything on the Web these days) might have some experience in this area and might be able to recommend a supplier.

TOM: But I'm not sure I'd even go with a remanufactured engine, in your case, Jeff. I mean, if you want a rebuilt engine, buying a factory-remanufactured one is absolutely the way to go. But you have a 1989 vehicle. Who knows how long the rest of it is going to last? And for a few hundred dollars, you can go to a junkyard, buy a used engine and drop it in yourself. Sure, it might not last another 100,000 miles. But your Bronco might not last that long, either.

RAY: And if your $350 junkyard engine developed piston slap and started burning oil after 20,000 miles, you wouldn't feel like a total chump. At least not as much as if that happened to the $1,500 remanufactured engine you bought from

TOM: So, consider the "used engine" option on a truck this old, Jeff. And if you really must have a fully rebuilt engine in there, ask around locally before you buy.

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