There comes a time in every car’s lifespan when you have to choose between a new engine, a rebuild, or a new car.
If you’re choosing to swap out the engine, that’s a hefty job.
At the same time, it could give your vehicle another 10 years of life – which will be cheaper and more eco-friendly than just buying a new car.
However, the average cost of swapping an engine hovers between $1,500 and $15,000. That discrepancy in cost depends on factors like whether you choose a short block, a long block, or a crate engine. It also depends on the condition of the engine. For example, a short block costs $500-$1500 and a crate engine costs $5,000-$15,000+ In addition, you’ll pay $800-$1500 in labor, or 8-15 hours to remove the old engine and put the new one in.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of engine swap cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
How Much Does an Engine Swap Cost?*
The cost of an engine swap primarily depends on how much of the engine you’re swapping out.
If you’re just swapping out the engine block, the cylinders, and crankshaft, you can probably do the full job for under $4,000. On the other hand, if you need new cylinder heads, camshafts, valves, etc., you’re looking at $8,000+ for most engines.
You’ll also have to consider the size and complexity of the engine. A standard four-cylinder will cost much less than a V8 or a hemi.
Therefore, swapping out an engine in a pickup truck or a sports car will always cost more than swapping an engine on a passenger car.
In addition, you’ll have to consider the cost of labor, which will normally include 8-15 hours of your mechanic’s time.
The following price estimates cover a cost estimate for labor and replacing the short block for multiple vehicles.
These prices are not accurate if you look at a crate engine. For example, a Volkswagen Caddy crate engine costs roughly $21,000 from the dealer.
|Vehicle||Gasket Kit Cost||Labor Cost|
|Dodge Ram 1500||$465-$4,795||$1,562-$2,578|
|Land Rover Defender||$852-$5,595.95||$1,964-$2,465|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.Please select a valid form
Engine Swap Price Factors
The cost of swapping an engine heavily depends on factors like the cost of labor, how much of the engine you choose to swap out, and the make and model of your car.
We’ll go over those factors below.
Short Block/Long Block/Crate Engine
The first and most important cost factor is how much of the engine you want to swap out.
Here, you’ll normally have to choose between a short block, long block, and crate engine.
- Short Block – This is the lower section of the engine. It includes the engine block, crankshaft, rods, pistons, bearings, and the oil pan. It may or may not be aligned. These typically cost $500-$8,000 depending on make and model and condition.
- Long Block – This includes the short block plus the cylinder heads, camshafts, valves, valve springs, and a head gasket. These typically cost $5,000-$15,000+ depending on the manufacturer and condition.
- Crate – A crate engine, long block deluxe, or turnkey engine is the full engine, complete with everything, pre-assembled, it just has to be dropped in. A crate engine will likely cost $12,000-$18,000 or more.
How do you choose? If your existing camshafts, cylinder heads, and valves are in good shape, you might as well reuse them.
If not, you’ll want to buy them anyway, and buying them put together is about the same as buying everything separately.
In addition, if you’re changing out your engine to a different model, you might not be able to reuse the old parts.
Therefore, you should always double check to ensure compatibility before investing in a short block.
Make and Model of Vehicle
The make and model of your vehicle will greatly impact the cost of your engine swap.
Here, the cost of parts, available parts, and room in the engine compartment are the most important factors.
For example, if you have a relatively roomy engine compartment, chances are, you can fit a larger number of engines in.
That will allow you to choose whatever’s cheapest based on availability – providing it’s compatible with any parts you want to keep.
If you have a compact car, you might have to choose the exact same engine to get it to fit at all. That will mean paying exact costs rather than shopping around for a better deal.
In addition, the make and model of your vehicle impact costs in other ways.
For example, if you have a very common vehicle, your mechanic will know how to take everything apart. You could cut an hour or two off the quote because they know what it will take.
Or, you might pay less for parts because there are plenty of refurbished and used engines on the market for that model.
If you have a rarer vehicle, you’ll experience the opposite result. So, the impact can be quite large.
OEM Or Not
For some vehicles, you’ll have to choose the OEM engine just to get it to fit. For others, you can shop around, upgrade, or choose something completely different.
For example, the difference between choosing a Hemi and a GM LS or a DOHC 5.0 Coyote is about $10,000. You’ll get a different driving experience, but it will be significantly cheaper.
Of course, you’ll probably want to research individual engine performance in your own vehicle and consult with your mechanic before making a choice.
At the very least, your new engine should meet the same general specs as the old one.
Cost of Labor
Labor costs in replacing an engine can be considerable. Here, you’re normally looking at 8-15 hours of work.
If you’re buying a crate engine, that should be closer to 4-5. However, it’s safe to assume you’ll pay at least 8 for most installations.
Nationally, mechanics charge anywhere from $15-$210+. However, that averages out to around $100.
In addition, chain stores like Midas and Pep Boys usually start between $94.99 and $120 depending on location.
In addition, you’ll want to factor in costs like the shop fee (5-20% of the bill) and any lot fees.
Normally, you’ll expect to have to leave your car for 1-7 days depending on how busy the mechanic is. And, that normally incurs a fee of $5-$25 per day.Please select a valid form
7 Symptoms of a Bad Engine
If your engine is on its last legs, you’ll normally notice. Often, symptoms mimic other signs, like bad head gaskets or issues with the fuel injectors or spark plugs.
Therefore, it’s usually important to rule out those issues – although resolving them is part of an engine swap.
Generally, you’ll also want to assess your engine to see if a full swap makes sense over a rebuild. E.g., if your camshafts are bad, the motor mounts are out, and the crankshaft is damaged, you’re probably better off just buying a replacement engine.
On the other hand, if it’s just a matter of replacing gaskets and resurfacing the cams, you might want to rebuild it instead.
1. Knocking Engine
Loud and persistent engine knocking is a major sign you want a new engine .
Here, knocking is normally caused by parts that are loose or broken in the engine. This might be because of bearing issues, broken or loose shafts, or even dented or misaligned parts.
Often, you can fix these issues individually. However, they’re also a good sign your engine is on its last legs.
Similarly, if you’re hearing other loud noises from under the hood, it’s important to pay attention. Your vehicle should never make loud noises and they are always a cause for concern.
2. Fluid and Coolant Issues
If you have fluid or coolant leaks, constantly burn through oil, or keep having oil and coolant mix, it’s a good sign you need a new engine.
Coolant should never mix into the oil and if it does, it normally means the head gasket is bad.
Replacing that will normally cost you half of replacing the engine – meaning you might as well go for the full swap if there are also other issues.
Of course, coolant and fluid issues could be from other problems, and you should check for those.
But, if your oil is milky and frothy, you have air bubbles in the coolant, or you’re having coolant leak out around the gaskets, it’s a good sign to replace the engine.
Oil pan issues also often cause leakage. If you can’t leave your car parked without it pooling oil, it may be time to replace the oil pan or the engine.
3. Seized Engine
If issues keep getting worse, your engine could seize. This might be because of bearings, shafts, rods, or cylinders having issues. But, they all mean your engine won’t work anymore.
And, chances are, any damage that caused the engine to seize will mean buying replacement parts or even a new block, meaning you should probably swap the engine out.
Of course, you can always take the engine out to assess it before deciding on a rebuild or a replacement engine. If most of the parts are in good condition, you can always re-use those.
However, if your cams or cranks are faulty, you may want a new engine anyway.
4. Exhaust Smoke
If your engine is exhausting black or blue smoke, it normally means your engine is failing.
Here, black smoke means your fuel isn’t combusted properly. That means your fuel usage skyrockets and you’ll get less engine power.
Blue smoke normally means that oil is getting into the engine without enough oxygen. The vehicle burns it off and without air it turns blue.
That’s always a bad sign for the engine, because you still need a good mix of air and fuel to combust fuel properly.
These are signs that the cylinders, injection system, or the head gasket are failing, and possibly all three.
5. Temperature Issues
If your vehicle frequently overheats, steam comes out from under the hood, or it refuses to start in cold weather, the engine may be going out.
This happens as connections clog and degrade, as the gaskets degrade, and as loose parts cause increased friction, meaning the engine runs hotter.
In addition, if you have head gasket issues and oil is mixing with the coolant, you’ll also get overheating. So, these issues can occur because of a number of problems.
6. Power Issues
Most engines lose some power as they age, which normally relates to degrading parts, clogs, and damage interfering with the strokes.
Eventually, you could see interruptions and delays in those strokes meaning you’ll lose power.
That also holds true if the fuel injection system is failing, if a damaged gasket covers the spark plugs in oil, mixes too much air into the fuel/air mixture, etc.
If your vehicle is losing power, it’s a sign to have things checked.
7. Running Rough
If your engine is running rough or idling rough , it’s a sign that things are going wrong. Here, you might be able to solve the issue with a tune-up, new fuel lines, or new spark plugs.
However, issues might also relate to gaskets, loose parts, damaged parts, etc.Please select a valid form
How To Swap an Engine: 17 Step Process
If you want to swap an engine yourself, you can normally save around $1,000-$1,500 in labor costs . At the same time, this is a complicated job.
Here, the largest concerns are whether you have the tools to lift or lower the old engine out.
While you can use a set of jacks and a rolling cart, engines are heavy. You’ll need a way to stabilize the engine, so it doesn’t fall and break or become permanently stuck on the floor.
Things You’ll Need:
- Wrench and ratchet set (usually mm)
- Breaker bar
- Drain pans
- Pry bar
- Floor jacks (at least two)
- Transmission jack OR floor jack with a support
- Disposable gloves
- Replacement engine block
- Pulley pullers/cam pullers as appropriate for your engine
- Replacement fluids (oil, cooling, power steering, transmission)
- Cherry picker (lift) or engine jack
Before you get started, park your vehicle on a flat and level space. Turn off the engine and remove the key from the ignition. Then, take the battery out of the vehicle.
Then, drain the fluids including the coolant, the oil, and the transmission fluid. You should also drain the power steering fluid.
Replacing Your Engine
- Remove the hood if you’re accessing the engine from the top. Otherwise, jack up your car and stabilize it using jack stands. Chock the back wheels. Make sure the hood is open and stabilized.
- Drain all of the fluids from the engine. These can not normally be re-used, so look for safe disposal.
- Disconnect lines from the engine. These include all pipes and tubes traveling to the intake including coolant lines, air intake, and exhaust lines. You may have to remove the radiator as well, however, you can do that later. Make sure you have rags ready to catch any drip, as radiator fluid is toxic. Most lines have clips that you can press to pull the line off. However, exhaust lines may have bolts and these can be very stuck. Consider using penetrating fluid.
- Refer to your vehicle’s manual and disconnect the wiring. Often, this should involve disconnecting the clips to the spark plugs, removing lines to accessories, etc. There should be no wiring or sensors connected when you’re done. Be careful with connectors as most have pull tabs which are easy to damage. If you want to re-use them, you should exercise caution.
- Place a transmission jack under the bell housing of the transmission (not on the oil pan) and jack it up to support the weight of the transmission. From underneath the vehicle, loosen the bolts holding the transmission to the engine. Then, remove the bolts.
- Disconnect the motor mounts. You’ll normally want to suspend or use jacks to support the engine first. Then, use a breaker bar to loosen the bolts on the right, left, and front motor mounts. Make sure the engine is stabilized. Then, remove the mounts.
- Lift or lower the engine using your chosen method to remove it from the car. In almost every case, you’ll want at least one extra person to help stabilize the engine. Two is better. Lower the engine onto a surface that is stable and capable of supporting the weight.
- Lift the new engine into place. You’ll want to have verified that the engine meets required specifications and that it’s compatible with any parts you’re trying to re-use at this point. If you’re using a cherry picker, have someone on hand to keep the engine from twisting as you lower it into the car.
- Attach the motor mounts. Here, it’s a good practice to put all bolts in loosely before tightening them. If you’re reusing old motor mounts, you should also inspect them for damage. If the rubber is old or they’re obviously cracked, now is the best time to replace them.
- Reconnect the transmission. Use a torque wrench to get the torque right. You’ll also want to consult with your manual to ensure you have the specs right.
- If you’re installing a short block engine, now is the time to take everything off your old engine. Doing so slowly, cleaning the parts, and removing old gaskets and replacing them will prolong the life of your new engine.
- Reconnect the wiring harness. If you’ve chosen a different engine, you may have some difficulty matching parts up. Use a manual and double check everything.
- Replace the coolant lines.
- Replace the air intake and lines, including the vacuum lines.
- Double check everything to ensure there are no open lines, ports, or connections. If you see an issue, fixing it now could save you a blown engine.
- Replace the fluids including coolant, engine oil, transmission fluid, etc.
- Turn the engine on and let it idle for 15-30 minutes before driving it the first time.
Once you’ve installed a new engine, you’ll have to break it in. That normally means using varying but low speeds for the first few hundred miles.
From there, you should avoid crossing the red line on your accelerometer for another 500 miles. This gives the engine time to wear together before you put stress on the engine.
Replacing an engine is a complicated process and chances are, you still have questions.
Is swapping an engine a good idea?
That depends on the age of the car and why you’re doing the swap.
If you’ve researched your options, chosen a motor that fits your car, and have the right tools, doing so can prolong the life of your car.
Is swapping an engine difficult?
Replacing an engine is very difficult to do . Engine blocks can weigh upwards of 500 lbs.
Often, you’ll need a cherry picker lift and other specialty tools to do the work. In addition, you’ll probably need at least two days to do the work if you haven’t done the job before.
Can you reset the odometer when you swap the engine?
No. In fact, doing so is illegal as it would not properly reflect the age of other car parts.
Can you engine swap any car?
No. The engine has to fit into the engine compartment. In addition, you need an engine that meets the general specifications of the vehicle you’re putting it in.
And, if you’re using accessories such as brakes and fans from your old engine, you need those to be compatible. So, it’s important to research any engine you choose to swap into your car before buying it.
How many hours does it take to swap an engine?
Normally, an engine swap will take 8-15 hours.
If your engine is going out, it may be necessary to replace the engine. Unfortunately, engine swap costs are hefty, with normal rates running between $5,000 and $15,000. You can save money by choosing a short block and reusing old parts, doing the work yourself, or going for a refurbished engine. However, it’s still a big job and will take 8-15 hours of labor and several thousand dollars.Please select a valid form