Engine rebuild also known as an engine overhaul is a complete restoration of the car’s engine.

Either the engine has completely broke down or you’ve decided to put some new”life” in your car’s engine, there are some matters you should consider before making the repair.

Hopefully this article will help you solve the dilemma on whether you should or should not make and engine rebuild on your car.

Besides this, you’ll find other useful information on this topic which will certainly help.

It is a matter worth serious consideration since it both costs a lot of money and takes time.



The car engine is a complicated and pretty sophisticated piece of machinery.

Wouldn’t want to bother you on the details of how the inner combustion engine works, rather click here for a great explanation on Wikipedia.

What’s important on this topic is that engine wears down over time. Parts like piston rings, crankshaft bearings, various seals and else simply wear out mostly due to material fatigue.

To boil down to one main point: the car engine has a service life. Don’t expect it to go on forever.

Heavily depending on the type of engine, construction, materials used etc. an average car engine will run for about 200.000 kilometers without any major problems.

With some well-done and on-time maintenance it should last up to even 400.000 kilometers.

After that an engine rebuild is certainly in sight. Parts wear down, problems start and if you want the same engine in your, you’ll have to do it.

Major factor that also causes a need for an engine rebuild is the way of driving or a built-in fault. If you drive your car like a hot-rod all the time, of course you’ll run it to the ground before its time.

Also, some engines are known to have bad engineering solutions or have used low quality material. In this case, although the engine may not have that huge of a mileage, an engine rebuild may have to be done.




Main tell-tale signs that an engine overhaul is needed will be:

  • Blue exhaust fumes coming out of the tail pipe

This probably means the engine is burning oil. What this means is that the engine oil is penetrating the combustion chamber and the engine is igniting a mixture of fuel and oil instead of only fuel.

Most common reason for this will be worn out piston rings that are in charge of preventing oil coming in from the lower part of the engine in to the combustion chamber.

  • Oil consumption is increased


Logically, if the car engine starts burning oil, then the oil level will go down.

The more severe the problem is, the more oil the engine burns up.

If the oil dipstick shows a constant low level over time even after adding oil, you either have a serious leak or an engine rebuild is in sight.

To notice this problem on time, you have to check the engine oil on a regular basis. If you don’t know how to do it, click here for a separate written and video article on that topic.

  • White exhaust fumes coming from the tail pipe

engine-rebuild-white exhaust-fumes

A problem like this usually comes from the engine burning coolant together with fuel.

Most common reason for this problem is a blown head gasket.

The car engine has a head gasket which prevents coolant getting in to the combustion chamber while allowing the coolant to flow and cool the engine down at the same time.

When the head gasket is damaged (blown), coolant gets inside the cylinder and burns together with fuel causing the white exhaust fumes. In more severe cases, the exhaust resembles a thick, fog like smoke coming out.

At the peak of this problem, a sludge like substance will appear in the coolant bottle as oil and coolant get mixed together.

  • Poor fuel economy


One typical sign that the engine is starting to fail is poor fuel economy. If the car is becoming a gas guzzler, then an engine rebuild is something you should consider.

Of course, first check that everything else is OK with the fuel system (since it’s pretty complex) before considering an engine rebuild.

If you would like to know how to calculate you cars fuel consumption and spot this problem on time, click here for a separate article on that topic.

  • Low oil pressure

Good oil pressure is essential for the proper functioning of the engine. If the oil pressure is low, the engine will eventually break down completely due to oil not being able to reach all parts of the engine.

This problem begins with a constant low level of oil and in the end, the oil warning lamp comes on.

In most modern cars the oil level is additionally monitored by sensors so you won’t be left out of oil completely once the warning lamp comes on. But best don’t get to that point.

  • Knocking sound from the engine

If you start to hear clear knocking sounds from the engine then problems are surely in sight.

There can be various reasons that cause knocking sounds. They are easily confused with other problems like a faulty bearing or a problem with the dual mass flywheel.

You’ll probably be able to recognize it as a clear metal-to-metal knocking sound the moment you start the engine or when it starts to gain working temperature.

This is mostly the case when the engine is on its last legs and is accompanied with signs like major oil consumption.

  • Major decrease in engine performance

Poor engine performance accompanied with burning up engine oil is one more sure sign that an engine rebuild is needed.

This is mainly noticed in terms of acceleration as the engine gradually looses cylinder compression. Symptoms of this will be that acceleration lasts a lot longer and there will be a lag when you press the gas pedal.

  • Constant overheating problems

Overheating can be caused by numerous reasons. If you want to find out what are some of these reasons, click here for a separate article on that topic.

But if you’ve inspected or solved all of these problems and overheating persists, then you’ll probably need an engine rebuild. Here also a blown head gasket is a common cause. This fault usually means a partial engine rebuild.



Two main types of engine rebuilds exist:

  • Partial engine rebuild

This means doing basically half the job. It’s more popularly known as “refreshing” the engine. Involves changing only piston rings, head gasket, perhaps valves etc.

Pretty common intervention, mostly done if the engine hasn’t suffered any previous major damage and the car is still in good condition. The owner simply may want to use the car for a prolonged period of time.

This procedure can be done without taking the engine out of the car (depending on the car model) costing less time and money.

Usually lasts one-third or half (in terms of kilometers) of what a complete engine overhaul lasts.

  • Complete engine rebuild

A complete rebuild means taking out the engine from the car, picking it apart completely, replacing everything needed and putting it back together.

This is the closest it gets to a brand new engine. Essentially, the only thing that stays from the original car engine is the engine block.

If everything is done properly and with care a completely rebuilt engine should last at least another 300.000 kilometers.




The price of an engine rebuild is a major factor since this is a pretty pricey repair.

I’m going to state a rough estimate and it highly varies from country to country, depends on the car market, prices of parts etc. This is what you’ll probably encounter:

  • Price for a partial engine rebuild

For a used car of older production date, a partial engine rebuild can be done for about 500 Euros.

Newer car models of medium class are about 1000 to 2000 Euros.

Premium models go even higher.

  • Price for a complete engine rebuild

Again, for an older used car the prices start from about 1000 Euros. For that money you should get a complete and well done engine rebuild.

On newer car models prices start from about 2500 Euros all up to 4000 Euros. Even more on premium models.

For these high prices you should get a job well done and an engine as good as new.



Now we come to the main point of this article.

Should you make and engine rebuild or just get rid of the car as it is, with a busted engine?

Pretty tough decision as this is a major investment and well worth the thought.

Things you should consider when making a decision are:

  • Overall value of the car-is it worth the money


Cars, in my opinion have two kinds of values: economic and emotional.

If you have an emotional connection (you really like your car) then I presume that you won’t be sorry if you lose money on it.

If you see the car from the economic and market point of view, then take a pen and paper and do the math and research.

What is the current value of your car, how much will you be able to get once the engine rebuild guarantee ends, do cars with rebuilt engines have the same market price as ones with original engines are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

As mentioned previously, engine rebuild is a big investment.

Either you have an emotional or economic point of view, just make sure you don’t feel sorry for all that money in a few years when the car suffers from car depreciation.

  • Cost of the rebuild

After thinking about the value, consider the cost. You’ve already seen the prices and they are steep.

Of course the first thing you’ll do is make an inquiry about who, where and for how much will the engine rebuild be done.

You’ll see that the prices don’t vary that much. They mostly depend on who’s doing the overhaul (brand dealership or an independent mechanic), cost of labor and cost of car parts.

Main advice on this part is not to cheap out. The name of the game here is longevity of repair and the guarantee (in terms of kilometers) that you’ll get. This means quality and care in work and parts.

So giving some more money in the beginning means less money in the future.

Be aware of any shady deals where you get the engine rebuild for perhaps half of the usual market price. Although tempting, behind that may only be future trouble and more expenses.

  • How long will the rebuilt engine last (in terms of kilometers)

Besides money, this is the most important factor.

Always ask for a guarantee in kilometers when the engine rebuild is done. Every serious mechanic or dealership will give you a written guarantee so that shouldn’t be a problem.

The guaranteed longevity of repair can also influence the price. For instance, for a shorter guarantee, you can maybe get a cheaper engine rebuild.

Whatever the case maybe, always make sure you keep the guarantee safe and at hand. These engine rebuilds are meant to last 300,000 to 400,000 kilometers and that means a long time. If anything serious happens in even a couple of years, you’re covered with a written guarantee.

  • Licensed dealership or independent mechanic (who should you choose for doing the engine rebuild)

On this part it’s all up to you and your budget.

Just have one thing in mind: licensed dealerships charge this job dearly. Independent mechanics usually do this cheaper.

Don’t fall for the shine of licensed dealerships nor for the lower price of an independent mechanic.

Best advice I can offer you on this part is to find a good and trustworthy mechanic which will do the job.

If you want to find out how to find one, click here for a separate article on that topic.

Here, key factor is quality of the mechanics work and installed car parts. Be it in a licensed dealership or in a local garage really doesn’t matter.

The main point is that the engine rebuild is done well and with care.




A rough estimate, in my opinion, would be that a rebuilt engine is worth 90% of a brand new one, if everything is done by the book and with quality parts.

The only problems you may encounter with a rebuilt engine would be things like small leaks or loosely tightened screws. This usually happens later after the engine rebuild and is mostly caused by engine vibrations and material fatigue.

Truth be told, this is something that doesn’t happen when the engine is originally assembled in the factory due to the nature of the assembly process and quality control.

I see this as a minor setback, especially as this usually happens within the guarantee period and can be repaired for free.

For the end, consider one more thing before deciding on an engine rebuild.

See how much it costs to buy a new factory engine. With most manufacturers this is possible and certainly beats engine rebuilding in terms of quality, repair time and longevity.

Main thing is to find an original one, just like the one the manufacturer built in and make a quality installation of the new engine.

Only down part is that it usually costs significantly more money than an engine rebuild, but not for all engines and car models.

You also have the possibility of buying a used engine which I would avoid unless it’s from a very trustworthy source. Otherwise, you may be just buying a heap of junk.