Car engine repair can be a major undertaking. Whether it be part of a general refresh or a total rebuild, it’s very easy for the at-home mechanic to feel overwhelmed with the amount of time and labor involved in fixing the heart of an automobile.
Here are a few simple steps to keep the repair process running smoothly:
Take Your Time:
Few things are as intimidating as a pile of unsorted parts and an empty engine bay.
Make any necessary diagrams or reminders before removing components. This can include taking pictures, labeling wiring connectors and finding an organized way to arrange recently removed items. Modern cars aren’t designed with a whole lot of flexibility as far as parts placement goes, so it is always a good idea to make sure hoses and wires are routed correctly.
Determine What Caused the Failure:
This might seem like common sense, but it can be easy to forget when all the old and new parts begin to accumulate. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing a job only to experience the same failure a second time.
Find Out If There is Room for Repair:
The need for more cost-efficient, lightweight designs has forced engineers to include less “extra” material on many engine components. In years past, it was simple to remove a set of cylinder heads and have the surface that contacts the engine block milled (or cut) in order to recreate the flatness needed for a properly running engine.
In modern designs this “extra” material is usually not present. Careful measurements must be taken with any cylinder head or engine block to determine if enough material is present for resurfacing. Any good machine shop will be able to inspect a component and determine its usefulness.
Consider Any Additional Parts:
An engine overhaul is an excellent opportunity to replace a number of seals, gaskets and internal parts that would otherwise be difficult to access with the powerplant still installed. This can include anything from heater hoses to clutch components.
A true rebuild should include a close inspection of the crankshaft, along with new crank and connecting rod bearings. Careful measurements should be taken to ensure that all parts and oil clearances are the correct size.
Repair or Replace:
With the costs of parts, labor, machining and the scheduling problems associated with vehicle downtime, it may be cheaper and easier to simply buy a new or used engine.
Factors to consider with this route include compatibility issues generated by model year changes and options such as automatic transmissions and drivetrain combinations.
As with any large job, access to a vehicle specific service manual will prevent quite a few headaches. Another good idea is to enlist a second set of hands to assist with any careful maneuvering or heavy lifting. At the very least, the moral support provided by an assistant can make tricky items a little less taxing. It may not be for or the faint of heart, but do-it-yourself car engine repair is a great money-saving option for anyone with a little mechanical inclination and a proper set of tools.