If your engine is going out, rebuilding it may be the cheapest way to get your car back on the road.
Unfortunately, an engine rebuild is a long and difficult job. In every case, you can expect your vehicle to be out of commission for some time.
Additionally, the average cost of rebuilding an engine runs from about $2,500-$4,500. However, that’s primarily the cost of labor – as your mechanic has to break down and reassemble the engine. In fact, you’re probably looking at a minimum of 20 hours in labor alone. You’ll also have to pay for replacement parts like gaskets, part resurfacing, and new fluids.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of engine rebuild cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
*Please note costs are estimates based on average hours for the job plus hourly rate, plus the cost of total engine gasket and seal kits.
Compare Car Warranty Quotes For Free & Save Big!
How Much Does an Engine Rebuild Cost?*
The largest cost factor in rebuilding an engine will always be labor.
Here, you have to take apart the full engine, removing everything from the engine block. The parts are then cleaned, gaskets removed, and the block and cylinders resurfaced.
Normally this means replacing all of the degradable parts. For example, gaskets, old valves, old hoses, and grease. The end-result should be a clean engine that runs as close to like-new as it ever will.
At the same time, you can normally expect this job to take 15-25 hours. If your cylinders or heads need resurfacing, it will take longer. And, with the national mechanic’s fee averaging at $100 per hour, that can add up.
The following price estimates cover multiple popular vehicles:
|Vehicle||Gasket/Rebuild Kit Cost||Labor Cost|
|Dodge Ram 1500||$65-$326||$1562-$2,578|
*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.
Engine Rebuild Price Factors
The cost of rebuilding an engine heavily depends on factors like the size of the vehicle, the condition of the engine, and the cost of labor in your area.
Here, labor is always the most important factor in pricing a rebuild.
Make and Model of Vehicle
The make and model of your vehicle will always greatly impact the cost of rebuilding your engine.
Here, there are several important factors:
- How common is the vehicle/how often has the mechanic worked on this model before?
- How common is the engine? E.g., Ford Focus ST and Volvo V50 T5 have the same engine. If you have a standard inline four-cylinder gasoline fuel injection engine, you should have no trouble finding a mechanic who knows how to take it apart.
- How big is the chassis? The more space there is to access the engine, the easier pulling it out will be
- How common are parts and replacement parts? If you have a very common engine, getting gaskets and springs should be easy. If you don’t, you might have to use universal parts or refinish universal parts to fit.
Essentially, the make and model can play a large role in the total time to tear down the engine, the cost of the parts, etc.
Type of Rebuild/What’s Replaced
Depending on your engine, a rebuild can mean several things.
For example, it may simply mean taking everything apart and replacing the gaskets and springs. In other cases, it may mean refinishing the short block or replacing the short block.
If your mounts are going bad, you might have to replace the transmission and engine mounts.
At a minimum, you’re usually looking at $60-$400 in gaskets and springs. You might also pay up to $800 in new mounts. And, if you have to repair a crack in the block, you’re looking at an additional $500-$2,000 in labor.
So, the total cost of rebuilding your engine will heavily depend on what’s actually damaged.
Brand of Replacement Parts
It’s also important to consider whether you’re buying Original Equipment Manufacturer parts or aftermarket parts. If you’re going aftermarket, are you getting made to fit or are you getting universal parts.
Here, OEM parts or an OEM engine rebuild kit includes everything that was in the original engine. These are expensive and normal costs run from $300-$500 for all gaskets, springs, and rings used in the original engine.
You’ll also normally get grease where appropriate.
An aftermarket made to fit part is one that has been made to fit as closely as possible to the original specs. These are available in kits or as individual gaskets.
They can be the same, higher, or lower quality than the OEM depending on what you buy. But prices can start as low as $100 for a kit.
Aftermarket “universal” parts are gaskets and gasket kits made to fit as many vehicles as possible. These often start out at around $30-$50, making them the cheapest option to rebuild an engine.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor is an extremely important part of rebuilding your engine. Here, you can normally factor in 15-25 hours of your mechanic’s time.
With national mechanic’s rates running from $15-$210, that can vary quite a bit. Nationwide, the average hovers right around $100 – but you likely already have some idea of what your local shop charges per hour.
In addition, you’ll have to pay shop and lot fees. For example, most engine rebuilds will take 20+ hours.
That means your vehicle will need at least 3 days of a mechanic’s time. You’ll pay a daily fee to leave your vehicle on-premises while it’s worked on.
Depending on the mechanic, that rate goes from free to $25 a day.
In addition, you’ll likely pay a shop fee. This fee is used to pay reception, customer service, etc.
In most cases, it consists of 5-20% of the bill. And, if you’re paying for 25 hours of work at $102 per hour plus a $380 gasket kit, your shop fee could be almost $600.
8 Bad Engine Symptoms
While the primary sign of a bad engine is just that things keep going wrong, you can normally recognize it’s time to rebuild or replace your engine by how it runs.
A worn-down engine will slip, will run loud, will run rough, and might even stall.
Of course, there are specific reasons you might want to rebuild your engine. E.g., you have a cracked engine block, a cracked cylinder, or have to replace the flywheel or a similar intensive repair.
However, the following symptoms are good signs you might want to consider replacing or rebuilding your engine.
1. Reduced Engine Power
Most modern engines use a four-stroke process to create power.
If there’s an interruption or a delay in any of those strokes, e.g., because of worn cylinders, damage, or even faulty gaskets, you’ll lose power. That’s why older engines often struggle to reach the same speeds as the same engine new.
Things wear down, more air gets into the combustion chamber, dirt or grease block the combustion chamber, dents or damage throw the rotation off, etc.
2. Black or Blue Exhaust Smoke
If your vehicle is exhausting smoke, it’s a good sign that something is wrong.
But, if you’re exhausting black or blue smoke, it means that you’re either burning gasoline badly, the catalytic converter is out, or your engine is clogged with oil. If oil burns in the engine without getting enough air, the smoke turns blue.
On the other hand, if it is getting enough air, the smoke will be white. That’s usually the difference between having to take apart and clean the engine and engine block versus replacing the head gasket.
If you’re seeing black smoke, it means gasoline isn’t being combusted fully. That means you’re wasting gas.
It also means something is going wrong with either the vacuum system, the exhaust, or the seals on the engine and the gasket.
3. Engine Doesn’t Shut Off Immediately
If your engine continues to run for a minute or two after you key off the ignition, you might have to rebuild the engine. This is a common issue when your gaskets are failing and there’s too much octane in the fuel.
However, without other symptoms, this could be a sign of a failing fuel solenoid or, in an older vehicle, a failing carburetor.
4. Engine Runs Rough
If your engine is running rough, it could be a sign that you need a rebuild. However, it could also be a sign to replace the spark plugs. Or, you might simply have to flush the system.
On its own, running rough or a rough idle aren’t causes for immediate alarm.
Normally, causes relate to the fuel injection system, so checking gaskets, fuel lines, and intake ports is important.
But, if nothing fixes the issue, it may be time to tear everything down and replace all the gaskets.
If your manual transmission vehicle keeps stalling, it’s a good sign that the clutch and gas are not engaging correctly together.
If this happens, you might need a rebuild to fix the issue. You might also be able to replace or fix the clutch or the gas pedal.
If you have an automatic engine, stalling is even more serious. Normally, this means that the intake stroke is skipping or not receiving the right fuel/air mixture, causing the engine to stall.
That will almost always require tearing down the engine and cleaning it.
6. Loud Engine
If your engine is knocking, hissing, backfiring, spitting, or popping, it’s a cause for alarm. These sounds are always an indication that something is going wrong.
However, it could mean you have to replace the gaskets in your vehicle because things are old and worn down.
7. Using More Gas
If you’re consistently using more gas than you used to, it’s probably a sign that your vehicle needs a tune-up, new gaskets, or new fuel lines.
Often, the answer is to tear everything down, replace the gaskets, and resurface everything to ensure sources of air and contamination are gone.
An old and worn-down engine is more prone to overheating.
Often, this can relate to clogs, to increased air in the injection system, to fuel system leaks, and because the engine runs hotter, so coolant burns off faster.
If you keep overheating but don’t have any obvious coolant leaks, the issue could be the engine is old.
How To Rebuild an Engine: 6 Steps
Rebuilding an engine is a long and complicated process. In most cases, you can expect to spend at least 20+ hours on the job.
In addition, you’ll need specialty tooling.
- A lift or suspension to remove the engine block. You may choose to lower this onto block jacks but most weigh 500+ lbs. If they fall, they’re extremely difficult to get back up.
- If your crankshafts, engine block, or cylinders have to be refinished, you’ll need machinery. In most cases, that will mean taking the parts to a machine shop to have the work done.
- Alignment gauge or crankshaft alignment tool for aligning the crankshaft and bores
- Puller tools (e.g., some crankshafts and camshafts need a puller to remove them)
You’ll also want to have a good standard toolkit on hand. This should include:
- Wrench and socket set matching your car
- Small crowbar
- Torque wrench
- Brake cleaner
- Jacks + jack stands
- Breaker bar
- Drain pan (coolant + oil + transmission fluid)
- Replacement parts (an engine rebuild kit or the full set of gaskets, rings, and springs you want to replace)
- Any additional parts you want to replace.
From there, you can normally tear down your engine. This involves:
- Removing everything on top of the engine. This includes accessories such as fans, belts, alternators, coolant systems, etc.
- Removing the valve cover and gaskets
- Lifting or lowering the engine out of the vehicle
- Fully disassembling the engine, so all parts can be inspected and cleaned
- Removing all the old gaskets, springs, and rings and replacing them after cleaning everything
- Replacing pumps, bearings, chains, belts, and seals
- Resurfacing anything that is worn down or damaged
- Replacing or realigning camshafts and bearings
- Realigning the camshaft and flywheel
From there, you can normally clean everything, put it back together, and replace the engine.
At best, you can expect the project to take a full weekend, if you don’t have to have anything resurfaced. If you do, you’ll have to spend extra time taking your parts to a machine shop instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Rebuilding an engine is a long and complicated process.
Chances are, you still have questions.
How long will a rebuilt engine last?
The lifespan of a rebuilt engine depends on the condition of the base parts. E.g., if you’re using very old parts and the cylinders or the block are fractured, there’s no telling how long they’ll last.
Often, you can expect a rebuild to increase the lifespan of your car by tens of thousands of miles, but there’s no way to be sure.
How much does an engine rebuild cost?
Engine rebuilds average between $2,500 and $4,500 in cost. In most cases, most of these costs are labor.
However, if you also have to replace the short/long block, the mounts, or the crankshaft, you’re looking at up to $8,000 for a rebuild.
Is rebuilding an engine worth it?
That depends on the cost and value of your vehicle. Often, if you have an old and small car, it costs the same to rebuild the engine as it does to buy a new secondhand car.
Of course, rebuilding the engine greatly decreases the likelihood of having maintenance in the near future, while you just don’t know with a secondhand car.
Is it cheaper to rebuild or replace the engine?
If you’re buying a new engine, it’s almost always cheaper to rebuild the engine than to replace it. That’s especially true if you have a bigger engine. E.g., most Chevy 1500s use the Chrysler Hemi, a new Hemi will cost you around $15,000.
A new V8 engine averages $10,000-$15,000. On the other hand, a simple four-cylinder could run you around $5,000. Then, you’re looking at another $1,000-$1,500 in replacement costs.
On the other hand, if you buy a secondhand engine, it’s probably going to cost you $1,200-$2,500 for most engines. If you have a bigger engine (e.g., a V8) you’re probably looking at $4,000-$6,000.
So, costs are still high, but it becomes more equitable with the cost of rebuilding the engine.
If your engine is going out, you’ll have to choose between replacing it, rebuilding it, or getting a new car. Rebuilding your engine is usually the cheapest option.
Still, engine rebuild costs are significant, often averaging between $2,500 and $4,500.
You can save a significant portion of that by doing the work yourself. However, you may not have the tools to do all the work yourself.
Compare Car Warranty Quotes For Free & Save Big!