Last time I introduced you to my tiny two-car garage. This is where I swapped a new engine into my SUV. I told you that the engine failed because of a timing chain problem, but I didn’t tell you much of anything about the swap itself. If you missed my last video you have to check it out. Today I’m going to talk about the SUV engine swap.
I’m Big Red and I’m going to show you how you can do tough jobs in your tiny two-car garage. This is my tiny two-car garage. Don’t let the size fool you. I swapped a whole SUV engine right here. You can too. When my SUV died I took her to the mechanic thinking that now, you know, she needed a boost or I don’t know, an oil change? I know, it sounds weird, but some of these engines have died. They’ve stopped working just because they needed an oil change. I hoped that that was the problem. But no, he told me she needed a new engine. I was shocked.
He quoted me $7500 to replace it. Now the way that breaks down is $2500 for the engine and $5000 for the labor. The (new) engine had 120,000 miles on it and I thought, nah that’s too many that’s too much. 120,000 miles on an engine that I’m gonna spend $7500 on? I thought, I think I’m gonna give it a try and do this myself. I just didn’t think it was worth it to spend that much money on an engine that was halfway gone.
Mechanics’ fees can be a big factor in whether you decide to swap an engine on your own. When you break it down, we’re talking anywhere from $50-$110 an hour for mechanics’ fees, and anywhere from well what they told me it could be as much as 20 hours to do it or to do the engine swap.
Pricing an Engine
There’s one expense you can’t avoid at all whether you go to the mechanic or swap the engine yourself. That’s the cost of a replacement engine. Depending on what type of engine you buy, you could spend anywhere from $400 to $4,000 or you could spend a $100,000 if you buy a brand new engine for a very high performance car.
Three Types of Engines
You have three options basically for deciding what kind of engine you’re gonna put in your car. Whether you’re putting in a used one a remanufactured one or going with a new engine here’s some details to help you make your decision.
A used engine is going to be your cheapest option. You’ll find them at a salvage yard and that’s pretty much it. You’ll swap a used engine into your car without having to do anything extra. When you’re considering a used engine you’ll want to look at mileage, a warranty, and the condition of the parts that comes with it. The thing is with the used engine, the warranty may be only 30 days, 90 days. You could end up needing major repairs depending on the condition of the engine very soon after you buy it.
A new engine, also called crate engines, are usually available from the dealership. These engines can cost more than the car itself. Though they can be very expensive, the main reason you’d want to look at a new engine versus say a remanufactured engine is because of availability. New cars might not have remanufactured engines available, or very high performance cars the engines may be rare, hard to come by. Then there’s antique cars, where you might need to have the engine built from scratch or custom-made.
Which brings us to the one I chose: the remanufactured engine. In the case of a remanufactured engine, everything is replaced except for the engine block. They’re more or less new engines. As far as I can tell, that’s the only difference. It’s funny how that makes such a difference in the price of the engine. The remanufactured engine costs a whole lot less but all of the parts, all of the specifications are the same as a new engine. The people that know say that the main difference is that the engine block is seasoned. I guess that means that it’s settled. It’s been through several heat cycles so I guess that makes a big difference, and remanufactured engines are tested for stability and reliability and durability.
Why Swap it Yourself?
So why did I decide to swap the engine myself? To save money. So when faced with big numbers like this there’s always the option of just replacing the car outright buying another car. But I spent $40,000 on this car. So I decided to swap the engine myself to save some money. But over say having someone else swap the engine versus buying another car, well I wanted to look at the numbers.
So let’s look at them together. So as a mechanic told me, it would cost $7,500 to replace the engine. With tax, we’re getting close to $8,000. Now multiply that by five, and you’re in the ballpark for buying a new car like the SUV. Throwing out that old car and buying a brand new one would waste all that money that you invested in your old car. We bought that car new, so it was still a good car as far as we were concerned. It was a great car. It just had a dead engine. So, when I added up spending $40,000 on an SUV then buying another $40,000 SUV five, six years later, that’s $80,000. That’s way too much money. If you put this kind of money into a car you don’t wanna throw it away, and if you’re able to fix it yourself, well why would you get rid of it?
What Would You do?
So in this situation, what would you do? Let me know in the comments.
The Cost of Tools
So while I’m talking about the cost of swapping your engine I want to talk about the cost of tools. Now you can get basic tools or you can go for more high-end stuff like this Milwaukee. I like high-end tools, but they do cost a lot. You could spend to swap your engine if you don’t have any tools, you could spend $300. Now if you do have some tools or you want to go into say higher end tools, then you could spend as much as $1,500. This little baby right here cost me about $400 all by itself, but it’s great.
The Perfect Engine Replacement Tools List
Every tool that I used to swap the engine in my SUV I put in a list and I put that list up on my website. The list contains every tool that I used plus the prices and where I got them. So I think you’ll love it.
Removing the Engine
Now for the hard part of swapping your engine, the first obstacle you’re going to run into is getting that old engine out of the car. With some cars you need a lift to raise the entire car up over your head in order to get the engine out. Of course I don’t have anything like that. Other cars you might just need a crane to pull it out. With this car, my SUV I found a way to get the engine out from the front just by taking the whole bumper off the car. I reverse engineered the car’s design to figure out that I didn’t need a full service garage in order to take the engine out.
GM Crossover SUVs are built on the lambda platform. One of the features of the lambda platform is that the car is designed so that you take the engine out through the bottom of the car rather than having to lift it up out of the top with a crane.
I’m not gonna lie to you. Swapping your own engine is not easy but there are some advantages. I found other things wrong with my car during the engine swap. The transmission needed repair, so I replaced the wave plate. This is a common problem with these cars. I also had to replace both cv joints and tie rod ends in this car, a repair that would have cost over $2,000 on each side. $4,000 to replace parts that had worn out in the car. I just needed to replace them. There’s usually more than one thing wrong with your car at a time, so while you’re swapping your engine you can fix other things that might be wrong with the car.
The Mechanic Won’t Fix Everything at Once
On the other hand, if the mechanic is doing the engine swap let’s say you’ve got a part that’s wearing out, or like in my case I needed to replace cv joints and tie rod ends. They won’t fix that, they’ll just swap the engine, and if you can’t afford the extra repair cost right now well you’re driving on borrowed time. But if you find something wrong with the car you can fix it yourself. That’s one of the advantages of doing a big job like an engine swap. It’s also a lot easier to fix other things when you’ve got the whole engine out of the car. In my case, the whole engine cradle had to come out of the car, which included the whole front end the cv joints the tie rod ends a whole bunch of stuff. So while the cradle was already out of the car, I could fix all of that. And since I had the service manual, anything that was wrong with the car I could look it up in the service manual and see how to fix it and fix it myself. When swapping your own engine, it’s not all peaches and gravy. You can run into problems. I did. I broke bolts:
I just broke this because of, well, pound feet is different than pound inches, but we’ll talk about that later. Also if you if you need a part, well sometimes you have to wait for it to come in the mail and that can, well it can leave you waiting for a long time. Recovering from mistakes is key when replacing your own engine. It’s not as hard as you might think but sometimes things go wrong and you’d want to be resilient. For some mistakes I had to consult the service manual. Others, I had to go to YouTube where you are right now.
And you’ll have the confidence, I think, of knowing what’s going on with your car in case anything goes wrong. And you won’t have to take it to a mechanic so often. Learning to swap your own engine, well that’s a big job and so you won’t have to worry about big problems with your car ever again mostly. As you can see, she’s all working now. Engine is swapped, running like a dream. There’s nothing like swapping your own engine and hearing that car start up for the first time and time and time again.
So now what do you think about swapping your own engine? Let me know in the comments. If you’d like to know how to swap your engine yourself because, hey, I think if you can change your own oil you can swap your own engine. Come to our website. I recorded everything in beautiful high definition video. I’ve recorded it from a camera on my head, from a camera over my shoulder. Got great sound, and if you’d like to support me in my tiny two-car garage visit my website at bigred.media. And if you haven’t yet, please subscribe to my channel and do the thing with the bell. Also come to my website at bigred.media. Also come to our TikTok. Those are fun. And leave a comment. Otherwise, thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time.