You have just discovered that your car needs a new engine and you do not have enough money to purchase a new one. Should you try a junkyard motor?
With a lot of good luck you may stumble upon pure gold, as far as engines are concerned. However on most days it will take more than sheer luck. That’s why you need to keep reading.
Before you embark on a search for used car engine from a junkyard you will first need to determine whether your car is worth fixing at all.
If it is in very bad shape it might be cheaper to just sell the car parts to a junk yard and buy a new -to-you vehicle. If an engine change is all it needs then proceed with your plans for a junkyard motor.
What to look for in a junkyard
The first question you should be asking is whether the salvage yard is reputable. Does it have certifications, awards, and positive reviews? How long have they been in business?
What you don’t want is a group of guys selling random motors out of a garage.
How to examine a junkyard motor
This may come as a surprise, but generally a dirty looking used engine that is caked with layers of dirt is a good sign for a good junkyard motor. This shows that the engine has been in use. A clean engine on the other hand may conceal lots of secrets, so don’t be fooled by this.
What to look for in a junkyard engine
If the body damage is extensive it could be another strong indication of a good engine unless the hood of the car is damaged as well. When the body is damaged then it is clear that the car was written off due to that. But when the body is intact, most likely the car was written off due to a faulty engine.
Check the mileage as well; the less mileage the better. Most junkyards will sell a complete engine with its accessories at a cheaper price as compared to the sum of the individual parts. If this is the case, you might consider buying the engine as a complete package.
Here are a few things to look at:
- Look at the condition of the radiator and coolant ; there should be no oil residue
- When you rotate the engine with a wrench there should be minimal resistance
- Look at the oil; it should be milky white on a dipstick
- Check the oil pan for signs of overheating or low oil
- Pull the spark plugs as well and examine them
How to test a junkyard engine
This is probably the most critical step; do not leave the salvage yard with an engine before you have tested it. Note that some junkyards do not allow on-site testing. Instead they offer a limited warranty like for three months and expect you to test the engine within that duration.
Because you are not likely to get your money back once you purchase you are better off dealing with a junkyard that allows you to test the engine on-site.
You can hire a certified technician to perform a test run on the engine. Alternatively you can conduct a compression test.
A compression test shows the state of the engine's valves, valve seats, and piston rings and whether these parts are even. A compression of over 100 psi per cylinder is desirable. There should be no more than 10 percent variation between the highest and lowest readings.
A leak down test which is the reverse of a compression test can also be performed.
Engine compatibility test
You do not necessarily need an exact match for your engine. However, the engine needs to be compatible with your car. Check your VIN, engine code, turbo, and the production date and find an engine that matches those specifications.
Chevrolet engines have such as the Chevy V-8s are usually cheaper and make an ideal substitute for any hot rod.
Does the motor have a warranty?
A warranty is always a welcome idea, even when you are buying stuff from a junkyard. It assures you of some level of reliability.