Rebuilding An Engine – How It’s Done The Right Way

by Conner Mckay

Have you decided that enough is enough? So, you started thinking about rebuilding an engine? If this is the situation that you are into, then you are at the right place, because there will be a lot to cover on this topic where we will learn everything when it comes to performing this type of work to your engine.

Before you think of doing this, you need to understand the complexity of this job. This is not a simple job that can be carried out in a matter of hours. But in the best case, it can take you a week and in the worst case even months or years if you decide to do it at home.

Many people do not understand how demanding this job really is and the precision that it requires in order to be performed in the right manner. And trust me, there is a lot to it if you want to perform this job in the right manner. A different set of tools for making measurements and also tools for bolting and unbolting components from the engine. You need to have them all if you want to do this job as it should. But we are going to cover everything you need to know.

First, we will learn what is an engine rebuild and how do you can tell if your engine is due to be rebuilt. Then we will cover everything you need to know when it comes to rebuilding an engine. Starting from the tools and then the process that is involved in this type of work. Later on, we will cover the costs involved in this work. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Does Rebuilding An Engine Mean?

Now before we dive into the procedure of rebuilding an engine. Let’s first cover some of the basics, and that is what is an engine rebuild in general terms? This will be quite useful for beginners that are not experienced when it comes to this practice and want to learn the basics. If you are already familiar with this procedure, you can move to the following chapters. If not, keep up with us for a bit.

So, what is an engine rebuild? An engine rebuild, in simple terms, is the procedure where an engine is being rebuilt from the ground up. But what does this mean?

Well, it means that everything from the engine has to come off and be evaluated for damage. Then the parts need to be machined in order for you to be able to get the result you desire.

Many people think that they will do some honing to the cylinders and call it a day. Not that this is not doable if the engine has little cylinder wear. But if the wear is really significant, it will require you to properly machine the engine block. As well as the crankshaft and camshaft.

The engine heads also need to be refreshed and machined so the bad valves are fixed. And that is only the process of sorting the components out. Then this engine has to be properly assembled and everything has to be torqued to spec. One bad step during this rebuild will cost you a lot of time since the engine has to come out again and be disassembled once again. But how do you know if your engine is in need of a rebuild? Let’s see that up next.

How Do You Know If Your Engine Needs A Rebuild?

We learned what is rebuilding an engine in general terms. Now let’s see how do you know if your engine is due to be rebuilt? What are the signs that the engine is dying and needs to be refreshed? Let’s elaborate on them.

The first sign that the engine is in desperate need to be rebuilt is the lack of engine compression. Compression is basically the thing that keeps your engine alive. If the components inside don’t seal well, there will be a lack of compression and the engine will perform really poorly, and in some cases when these problems are too bad, it will not even want to start.

A loss of compression can be caused by a few things. Namely, the compression rings that are mounted on each of the pistons. There are two compression rings and in between is the oil ring. After a lot of miles, these piston rings tend to freeze out. Especially if there were less frequent oil changes. Then there will be a lot of blowby air that will pass through and ruin the compression of the engine.

The second thing that can tell that you are in desperate need of rebuilding an engine is the problem with the head valves. These valves tend to burn or get damaged. Then, in this case, there will be no proper seal, and loss of compression will be noted. Reduction in engine power as well as other symptoms.

The third thing is the metal shavings that are often found in engine oil. These shavings can be from aluminum, cast iron, copper. They all indicate wear in the engine. Especially the copper ones that tell a lot about the rod bearings.

Types Of Engine Rebuild

When it comes to rebuilding an engine, it is worth noting that there are a few types of engine rebuilds that you can do on your car. And this greatly depends on the extent of damage that the engine has. Not every engine requires a complete overhaul. Knowing this will save you a ton of money that you could spend elsewhere.

It is worth noting that there is a mild refresh when you replace only the rod bearings if they are worn out. Also, do a valve job if the valves are burnt and cause your engine to lose compression.

Rebuilding An Engine

Then there is a medium rebuild or DIY rebuild. This rebuild includes replacing all the piston rings, rod bearings that are on the block with mild machine work and using a honing tool.

And there is the complete rebuild when everything is disassembled in pieces and machined at a shop. This is the most expensive type of rebuild and also the rebuild type that will guarantee that you will get the best results when it comes to rebuilding your engine.

Determining The Extent Of Damage

To determine what you are going after, you need to understand the extent of the damage to the engine and determine what is causing the issue. If there is a small knock, then you will only have to replace the rod bearings. If the valves are burnt you will need to perform a valve job.

Or if the whole block is problematic, then you will probably be needing to do a DIY rebuild with a honing tool to resurface the cylinder walls.

If the extent of the damage is too large, machine work will be needed to remove the excess metal from the cylinder walls and rebore them. Considering this, you will also be needing some bigger piston rings to make sure that the pistons are sealing with the new bore dimensions.

If there are cracks on the cylinder walls you will need to re-sleeve the engine with completely new sleeves and machine work. And this needs to be done at a shop. Normally, this costs a lot of money because it is a lot of work.

That’s why you need to determine the extent of the damage and consider if you really want this rebuild. Because there are a ton of second-hand engines that are cheaper to purchase than rebuilding this engine.

If it’s a classic motor then we understand. But if it’s a new engine then you might be better by purchasing a used one with low miles. Either way, there are rebuild kits out there on the market and you need to understand these rebuild kits and what they include in the packaging before you decide on rebuilding an engine.

Choosing The Right Rebuilding Kit

When it comes to rebuilding an engine, you will definitely need to purchase a rebuild kit if you want to perform this work correctly.

Rebuilding an engine is a lot more than replacing the bearings. There are usually a ton more components that have to be replaced when you perform this work on your car.

If you want to do a complete rebuild, there are two options that you can take. One kit will deliver you the necessary gaskets, bearings, piston rings, valve seals, and other miscellaneous parts. This is the kit that you will go after if you want to perform a mild refresh of the engine.

But if you want to do a full complete rebuild, you will need a lot more. These kits will include new pistons, water pumps, timing chains, timing chain tensioners, and a lot more.

And the most extreme rebuild kits come with an aftermarket camshaft and other important bits and pieces that will make your engine perform a lot better than it did before. And these kits understandably cost a lot more than your average rebuild kit that include only the bearings, gaskets, and seals. So, beware of this when rebuilding an engine. But what about the tools that you will need when performing a rebuild? Well, that’s what we are going to cover next.

Tools Needed For Performing A Rebuild

Now let’s discuss more the tools needed when rebuilding an engine. What tools you will need to do this work properly as it should? And the short answer to this question is that you will need a lot of tools to do this work.

The first thing you will need will be a torque wrench and sockets of all sizes. Since there are a lot of bolts that need to be removed from the engine when disassembled.

Then you will also need to have a hydraulic crane hoist to lift the engine from the engine bay. Without this tool, you will not be able to remove the engine.

You will also need an engine stand to mount the engine and perform the work on it. Both of these tools are really expensive and can cost a few hundred dollars each. So, beware of this.

Then you will need measurement tools. You need to measure the bore of the cylinders and learn how much material you need to remove from the block. Not to mention that you will also need a special tool to measure the crankshaft as well.

Then you will need a honing tool that you can use to remove the damaged material from the cylinder walls and smoothen them up. This tool is attached to a power drill. So, you will need that as well.

Then you will also need to know how to resurface the valve seats of the engine and you will also need special tools to remove the old ones and install the new valve stem seals.

Overall, there is a lot going on when you rebuild an engine on your car. And it can get really expensive really fast.

Rebuilding An Engine, How It Is Done?

Now let’s discuss what it takes when rebuilding an engine is performed. How this process is taken and all of the steps involved in it. As we already told you, this is a long and painstaking process that takes sometimes years to finish and there are a lot of people that even gave up after they started to disassemble their engines.

So, in this case, the persistency and also the money factor are key. There is a relatively low chance that you will be able to perform a good rebuild job for less than $2,000. Except if it is a minor rod-bearing job. If else, it will be expensive. But how this process is done right? Let’s elaborate in the following chapters.

Step 1: Removing The Engine

When it comes to rebuilding an engine, the first thing you will need to do is to remove the engine. For this, you will need to have a lift to get the engine out from the engine bay. But this is not as simple as you probably think.

The first thing you will need to do will be to drain all of the fluids like the coolant and engine oil. Then remove the radiator and all of the connections from the wiring harness, fuel delivery, etc. There are dozens of these connections that need to be removed before you decide to remove the engine.

Then after everything is cleared out, you can move to remove the transmission bolts and also the bolts that are holding the engine mounts. Then, you will be able to lift the engine in the air and remove it from the engine bay.

After removing the engine from the engine bay, you will need also to mount the engine to a stand where you can work on this engine. Then you can move to step two of rebuilding an engine.

Step 2: Disassembling The Engine

Part two of rebuilding an engine is disassembling all of the components of the engine. For this part, you will need a torque wrench and sockets of different sizes. You need to start slow and disassemble all the components one by one. Don’t hurry and take a lot of pictures along the way.

Get cardboard and place the pushrods, rockers, lifters, and all other components in the same manner that you removed them if you want to do a mild rebuild. So, when you return them back in place there will be no confusion. If you mix these components, they will not work as they should when reassembled. So, pay attention to this. Now let’s move to the next step of rebuilding an engine which is machining.

Step 3: The Machining Process

The next step when you are rebuilding an engine is the machining process. This process greatly depends on your budget. If you want to go for a full rebuild, you will need to ship these parts to a machining shop so the engine block gets properly sorted out and machined. As well as the camshaft, crankshaft, and engine heads.

If you do this work at home, you will need to do a cleaning of the block. By cleaning, we mean washing all the dirt and grime of it with a degreaser. Make sure that the block is nice and clean. Wipe the water from the cylinder walls immediately to prevent rust.

Then based on the condition of the cylinder walls you can move to the honing process. This process will take a while. Just beware that you don’t remove too much material and follow the instructions carefully.

If the crankshaft is damaged, it will require polishing. You can do this with fine sandpaper and a polisher to give it that nice shine.

Measurement tools are desired for this process. But if you don’t have them, it is what it is. Just make sure that you don’t remove too much material. Now let’s move to the last step of rebuilding an engine.

Step 4: Reassembly Process

Now let’s move to the last step of rebuilding an engine which is the reassembly process. For this process, you will need to make sure that you reinstall everything in the correct manner.

Remember about the cardboard that we discussed above? When reassembling the engine you need to reinstall all of the components in the same manner as you removed them if you want everything to work properly.

Not to mention that you will also need to torque everything up to spec. The exact torque is essential if you want to get the rebuild right. For this, you will need to find the exact torque numbers for your engine and make sure that you reassemble everything in the right way.

Also, if this is an overhead camshaft engine, you will need to adjust the engine timing as well. Because if you miss the timing even for a bit, the engine could suffer some internal damage. So, beware of this.

The important thing is not to hurry when reassembling everything. People who rush make mistakes and you don’t want to make a mistake like in this case and possibly ruin the whole engine. Overall, that’s everything you need to know when it comes to rebuilding an engine.

For more information, you can look for rebuilds of your model to see how it is done specifically on your engine. Go on YouTube, go on forums, there is a ton of useful information out there that is basically a lifesaver when it comes to rebuilding an engine.

Cost Of Rebuilding An Engine

So, what is the rough cost for rebuilding an engine? Well, this cost greatly depends much on how capable you are as well as the parts that are required to perform this rebuild in the right manner.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 if you are well equipped with tools for this work and up to $3,000 if you lack everything that is needed so a rebuild to be performed in the right manner.

Rebuilding An Engine

That’s why rebuilding an engine if you are lacking the skill is a real challenge. But not only the skill but also the time that is invested in this work is really long.

It can take you weeks in the best case if you have a 9-5 job. And in the worst case, you might never finish this project. That’s why sometimes it is best to purchase an already rebuilt engine if you want to install it in your classic car. Or take the engine to a shop and let them rebuild it for you. You might pay for rebuilding an engine, but the end result will be excellent.

Engine Rebuild: Facts

  • Rebuilding an engine involves disassembling it and restoring it to good as new or better than its original condition.
  • Research and planning are essential before starting an engine rebuild.
  • The process begins with disassembling the engine into different parts, including the engine and accessory removal, top-end removal, valvetrain disassembly, camshaft removal, and bottom-end disassembly.
  • A labeling system is crucial to keep track of each part, and the bolts should be bagged and labeled with section parts and step numbers.
  • Removing the harmonic balancer, oil pan, timing cover, timing gears, and camshaft is essential in the process.
  • Removing the cylinder head bolts, noting their locations and lengths, is critical before removing the cylinder head.
  • Removing the oil pump, oil pan baffle, connecting rods/pistons, main bearings, and the crankshaft is the last step in the bottom-end disassembly.
  • The internet is an excellent resource for help and solutions to specific problems encountered while rebuilding an engine.
  • The choice of engine to rebuild depends on the desired performance, project budget, and available time for the rebuild.
  • There are various resources for research engine rebuilding, including books, forums, and online tutorials.

Conclusion To Rebuilding An Engine

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to rebuilding an engine. We started from the basics and we covered what is an engine rebuild and what tools and knowledge you need to perform this work at home. And frankly, you need a lot of tools along with a rebuild kit for your engine.

Then we covered the process of rebuilding an engine. We covered all four steps that are removing, disassembling, machining, and reassembling the engine. Lastly, we discussed the costs and the expectations from this rebuild.

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