Is it crazy to put a rebuilt engine into a car I love rather than buying a new car?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

Would it be crazy to put a rebuilt engine in a 12-year-old car? I use my old
Mazda wagon as a dogmobile for my dog-walking business. I've been looking at new
cars, but I don't think I could stand it if the dogs scratched up the inside of
my new car like they've done to this old one. Will a rebuilt engine give my Mazda
a new lease on life? -- Sally

RAY: Absolutely. You're the perfect candidate for a rebuilt engine, Sally. In
fact, the American Association of Engine Rebuilders will probably want you to
star in their next TV commercial.

TOM: Here's your situation, Sally: You have a car which -- aside from a worn-out
engine -- serves you perfectly well. So why spend a ton of money on a new, or
newer, car that you don't even really want? Just throw an engine in it.

RAY: The one thing that you absolutely have to do, though, is have the rest of
the old Mazda thoroughly checked out before you put the engine in. Have a
mechanic you trust go over the old beast from headlight to tailpipe -- as if you
were going to buy it as a used car. Find out everything that's wrong with it and
factor that into your calculations.

TOM: So, for instance, if it needs new shocks, that's no big deal. You put in an
engine and shocks, and you're happily toting the doggies around again.

RAY: But if you find out that you also need a new transmission and your frame is
rusted, then you might want to reconsider.

TOM: I've got it. If it's not worth putting an engine in it, she could just rig
up a harness and let the dogs pull HER. How many Pekingese does it take to pull a

RAY: I'll have to look it up. But if the car checks out reasonably well, then by
all means, toss in a new engine and keep driving, Sally.

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