Engine down

Engine Down

by Hib Halverson

When that day comes to fix a busted engine, do you buy a new, rebuilt or remanufactured replacement to get your work truck back in service?

You put lots of miles on your work truck and we’ll bet some are pretty tough ones, on road and off, towing or loaded down.

It’s the nature of a pickup’s use in heavy construction, contracting and landscaping.

High miles and the typical use in construction trades place a heavy burden on pickup engines, and with that kind of duty, major engine problems are going to happen.

Engines wear out like any other piece of equipment.

If the truck is out of warranty you have to make some tough choices – and all involve getting the checkbook out. Your truck–or fleet of trucks–is the key to your livelihood.

Having a truck down is costly. Making the right choice affects your business both short and long-term.

The big question when that happens is how do you address the problem: Fix the engine or replace the truck?

If the truck is late model or has relatively low miles, that decision is easy–another engine will be more economical. Even with an older truck, today’s economy might make changing the old engine out with a new or “reman” engine wiser than buying a new truck.

If the truck has more than 200,000 miles on it, then the engine could be the first of a long list of other mechanic issues waiting in the wings to be addressed.

If you keep the truck, do you rebuild the old engine? Replace the busted engine with a new one? Or, drop in a remanufactured engine?

A chat with your accountant and tax preparer on these decisions can yield some great insights as to the best financial direction to take.

Dave Catt, at Jasper Engines, machines a Ford 6.8L V10 engine crankshaft during reman process.

Weighing costs

As for the engine itself, rebuilding it in your own shop may sound like the best choice.

But you have to consider how much time it takes to do the rebuild, the quality of the work, the cost of the parts and machine work, and how long it keeps the truck out of service.

When you weight those costs with those of dropping in a new or remanufactured one the decision might not be as cut-and-dried.

Rebuilding your own engine places any warranty issue on your shoulders, and it’s possible the per-hour rate is going to be higher than it would be having a company specializing in engine assembly be the better choice.

After all, time in the contracting business is money.

New or reman engine

There is a distinct difference between a new engine and a remanufactured engine.

“New” is just that, brand new just like the one in your truck when it came off the assembly line. They are costly and their availability varies.

For example, Tom Henry Chevrolet in Bakerstown, Pa., sells a new GM 5.3-liter V8 for about $4,500. It’s used in millions of Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierras since 1999, but these engines are available only back to 2007.

Ed Butts Ford in West Covina, Ca., sells new 5.4Ls for about $5,300, but they are available only for 2010-12 trucks.

“Remanufactured” engines are a hybrid between new and rebuilt.  They are done on an assembly line or in a cellular assembly system, and some parts are scrapped from the donor engine core while other components are refurbished and reused.

Ford Modulars have a propensity for high oil consumption due to cylinder wall finish problems, so Jasper torque-plate hones 100% of the blocks used in its reman 4.6/5.4/6.8 engines.

Most engine remanufacturers finish parts uniformly to ensure build quality throughout their line.

For instance, all blocks might be decked and all heads surfaced the same amount; blocks are over-bored to the same diameter and crank journals ground to the same specifications.

Parts are refinished and the engines are assembled to at least factory specifications.

Top remanufacturers, such as Jasper Engines and Grooms Engines, may assemble to even more exacting tolerances.

In some cases, upgrades performed during remanufacturing give the engine better-than-new reliability and durability.

Finally, most reman engines have a “core charge” that is refunded once you return your old engine to the remanufacturer.

Reman engine costs

A cost comparison between rebuilt and remanufactured engines is difficult because there are tens of thousands of businesses in the U.S. specializing in such work.

Prices vary depending on location, labor rate, state/local regulations, rebuilder experience, shop time, comprehensiveness of the rebuild and parts quality.

If you are a professional contractor, it pays to make sure the person or company you are contacting know you are a fleet customer. Many engine rebuilders offer discounts and incentives for fleet owners.

As for the price of remanufactured engines, Tom Henry Chevrolet retails a remanufactured 5.3L long-block for $3,800.A reman direct from Roadmaster Engine World, one of the big rebuilders, runs about $2,195.

Ed Butts Ford offers reman 5.4-liter, 3-valve, engines for $4,900. A reman 5.4L-3V from Engine Guy, another major remanufacturer, runs about $2,700.

So you can see it pays to shop around.

One difference between engine remanufacturing and rebuilding is the industrial environment in engine remanufacturing plants.

Time is money and time is where reman engines have the advantage.

It might take a rebuilding shop a month to pull an engine, disassemble it, have parts machined, reassemble it, then put it back in the truck.

With a little planning, a good service shop can have a reman engine in a truck in three days.

Engine warranties

Whether rebuilding, buying a remanufactured or new engine, be sure to read the warranty closely – and have it in writing.

Engine warranties make it clear what isn’t covered and how/where the engine in question must be inspected.

Some warranties exclude “commercial use” or at least limit the warranty period to less than it is for general consumer use (personal transportation.)

Some warranties span several years and 100,000 miles, while others may be just for a few thousand miles.

A few remanufacturers offer “fleet warranties” and “nationwide” warranties. –Pro