Tag Archive | "car engines"

Thoughts On A Reconditioned Engine

Although new cars continue to be sold, the car market is still having a tough time. These days potential buyers are looking for bargain used cars or, indeed, are more likely to hang onto the one they’ve got.

And why not? Cars are well made, remain relatively rust free and can last a long time. Anyone who buys and keeps a car for ten years is getting good value and it doesn’t necessarily end there.

At the heart of the car is the engine. These days some very high mileages can be reached – provided of course that it has been correctly serviced and maintained – before the motor becomes troublesome. At this point the owner has a decision to make. An old car with a failed engine is worthless. Take it to a dealer for repair and he’ll tell you it is not worth it. Time for that last trip to the great breaker’s yard in the sky. Or, if reluctant to give up without a fight, you could try for a reconditioned engine.

A reconditioned engine will always be a lot cheaper than a replacement new one but there’s a snag; the world of the recon motor can sometimes be a mysterious and murky place. Is the engine that you buy fully rebuilt or has it just been removed from a written-off vehicle and given a blow-down with compressed air? Herein lies the worry. Some recon jobs may have just had the broken bits replaced which means that new has been fitted to old. This is never a good combination.

A trustworthy recon has been rebuilt from scratch. This means a total strip-down, a total rebuild and a thorough test that meets real car manufacturers standards. In other words it should effectively be new; it just hasn’t been newly made in a factory. Thus the first thing a buyer needs to watch is that it comes with a full warranty for parts and labour for a decent period of time. There is in a fact a Federation of Engine Remanufacturers. Check with this organisation to make sure your engine is coming from a bone fide paid up member.

This is a market that covers the whole gamut of The Good, The Bad and The Seriously Ugly. The trick, if there is one, is to ask around. If your usual garage is sympathetic they may well have trade contacts or a least a good tip. If you do go down this road make sure that you are getting everything you need. Make sure, for example, that the engine comes with all the ancillary parts needed. Finally, there’s the big question – Who is going to fit it?

A good home mechanic with an owned or rented engine hoist can probably do it. Your above mentioned friendly garage may do it but they will charge you or, of course, if the re-conditioner is handy, he should do the whole job for you. Note that these are shark infested waters. If in doubt don’t but if you can do and then your beloved old car should make it further down the road of life. Or you could just buy another cheap car. Fair warning.

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How Long Does A Car Last?

Cars these days are very well made. Galvanising, automotive technology and robot assembly have all seen to that. Nevertheless, there will come a point when your pride and joy may well gasp its last. It is entirely possible that a modern properly serviced engine will provide 150,000 miles of trouble free motoring before it begins to really show signs of wear and tear. There are many documented examples of well and correctly maintained cars that have achieved much larger figures than that.

Most of us like to change our cars but usually it’s a decision based on over-familiarity. We get a bit bored with the same wheels and fancy a new car or at least something different from the used car market place. In a way, that’s wrong thinking. Any product that lasts repays its purchase price through longevity. There are people out there that are still using fifty year old toasters. Now that’s value. If a car costs today £15,000 and lasts for twenty years that equates to just £750 per annum for all that motoring pleasure. The additional costs of motoring are a constant anyway so don’t really count in this equation.

So let’s say your car has done almost 200k and there are signs of, for example, loss of compression and an increase in emissions due to worn or burned valves. You can have the valves replaced, which is fine, but you are putting new parts with old and may well discover other nasties once the rocker cover and the cylinder head are off. Additionally, refurbishing an engine only really has merit if the rest of the car is in top notch order. After all, all the parts have done the same mileage as the engine.

An alternative is to completely replace the engine with another one. This is expensive but is a complete solution. Suitable engines from written off cars can be sourced from breakers yards but it won‘t be reconditioned. This is possibly the cheapest method but unless there’s some definite proof of the mileage, it’s a bit chancy. You need to know what you are doing.

A brand new engine from a dealer will be prohibitively expensive, especially taking into account the trade value of an old car and is out of the question; but there are companies who sell guaranteed refurbished engines that are worth considering. Prices fluctuate wildly so it is necessary to closely examine the reputation of the supplier. Don’t forget fitting costs if you can’t do the job yourself.

It comes down to a personal choice. It is likely that all drivers have at some point owned a car that they regret the passing of. The fact is that most of us are unlikely to stay the whole life course of any one vehicle, except maybe collectors. It is possible though, for that special motor. The thought of looking out of the window at a faithful old automotive friend that you’ve grown up with – like that old teddy you’ve kept from your childhood – is quite endearing. Sorry, I’ll have to stop here, I’m misting up….

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To De-coke Or Not De-coke?

A generation or so ago it was a relatively common sight to see car owners beavering away in their garages and on their driveways, routinely servicing their cars. The more experienced would go a stage further, whip off the top-mounted equipment and the cylinder head and de-coke the engine. Forty or fifty years ago this was standard practice every ten thousand miles or so.

Over extended periods of time whilst engines are working there is a tendency for deposits to accumulate where there is combustion. This carbon build-up very gradually affects performance, economy and a loss of cylinder compression, usually around the piston rings. That’s the short version.

The need for regular de-coking was an inevitable result of short journeys and, in particular, dirty fuel. The quality and built-in cleaning properties of the best modern fuels has to a great extent limited this problem until at least a car gets fairly aged. However, these days it is still perfectly possible for an engine to accumulate carbon deposits in the same way that a kettle will in time fur up and perpetual short trips are likely to be the culprit along with using cheap, unbranded petrol.

The other problem today that many drivers will encounter is their own helplessness. We have lost the knack of fixing things ourselves. Your grandfathers could probably take plumbing, routine car maintenance and electrical wiring in their stride. These days many people don’t know how to fix a 13 amp plug to an appliance. It’s this lack of expertise that has resulted in some garages getting away with £100 per hour labour charges.

Opening the bonnet of a modern car can be a bit daunting to a novice; but underneath all the fancy do-dad’s there is still just a basic internal combustion engine. Obviously Granddad had a much easier time removing a carburettor than the modern motorist would with complex fuel injection, but the art of home mechanics is still feasible; but it does still require the removal of the cylinder head so, although it is a straightforward job, it is not for the faint-hearted!

Thankfully, it is unlikely that your car will ever need this drastic intervention. If it does, your engine will tell you. The car is likely to suffer from pre-ignition (aka ‘pinking’ or ‘knocking’) and performance will be generally weaker and emissions worse. The bad news is that it is such a gradual process that the average driver won’t notice.

There are solutions in a can that can be sprayed into air-intakes and are supposed to clean out the inner working parts like a laxative. Some people rate them; others don’t. To avoid coking the sensible driver will fill up with good branded fuels and ensure the car gets a decently long weekly run-out that makes the engine work harder – especially if the vehicle is mostly used as a local runabout. Selecting high gears at low revs may be good for economy but engines are built to perform. Exercise is as good for cars as it is for us.

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