9 Things to Know When Buying a Used Engine

Savvy car owners looking to save money while keeping their cars functional know the secret gem in used car engines. Used car engines often cost between $400 and $700, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. At this price point, they are not only affordable but also available and offer good value for money. If you're buying a used car engine for the first time, you need to know everything about picking the right used engine.


Below are the important things to know when buying a used engine for your car.


Avoid unassembled engines

Check for the main engine components

Check the spark plugs

Check the engine insulator

Check the oil quality

Buy or rent an inspection camera

Choose established junkyards

Inspect the turbocharger

Check the coolant


Avoid unassembled engines


Unassembled engines have been pulled apart by the seller, whether for repairs, refurbishment, or other reasons. It is best to avoid these types of engines, especially as a newbie. However, you may consider unassembled engines if you're looking for a specific engine component or have the needed experience to couple the parts.


Generally, if you're looking to buy a whole engine, look out for the following;

  • Complete set of engine sensors

  • Intact engine harness

  • Intact fuel rails, charge pipes, and injectors.


Check for the main engine components


Buying a used car engine can save you a lot of money. However, you should inspect each engine properly before payment. Some of the common engine components to inspect are;

  • Alternator

  • AC compressor

  • Power steering pump

  • Starter

While inspecting, there's a possibility you may come across a cracked or worn rubber component. This should not deter or discourage you from buying. Those rubber components can be replaced easily and won't affect your used engine's life or performance.

Check the spark plugs


You should check the used engine for intact spark plugs before buying. The spark plug or sparking plug is located in the engine's cylinder and aids the combustion system in the engine. A set of spark plugs costs between $16 and $100, depending on the plug type and engine type. Engines with more cylinders require more spark plugs, which may cost you more money if ignored.


Carefully check the top part of the engine and ensure that the spark plugs are present and in good condition. If absent, bargain accordingly by deducting the price of each missing spark plug.


Pro Tip: Avoid used engines with missing or melted electrodes.


Check the engine insulator


The engine insulator or engine compartment insulation keeps heat and noise in the engine from reaching the vehicle's interior. This part of the engine is essential, especially as it protects the drivers, operators, and passengers from high temperatures that can damage onboard electronics.


Check for the engine insulator and ensure it is in perfect shape. Avoid used engines with missing, damaged, or discolored insulators.


Check the oil quality


An adequately maintained used car engine is a gem to own. One of the major indicators to watch out for is the oil quality. Used engines with quality oil show that the previous owner had properly maintained them. However, it may be a negative maintenance sign if the oil quality is bad.


The oil level in the used car engine should not be a deal breaker, especially as it will be drained and replaced.


Pro Tip: Check the oil component of the used engine before buying. Avoid used engines with white or cream streaks in the oil or under the oil cap. The white or cream streak is often due to coolant escaping into the engine. It also indicates problems with the head gasket.


The head gasket can cost between $1,624 and $1,979 to replace. The labor cost for replacing the head gasket may also be between $909 and $1147. That's a lot of money to spend on a used engine.


Buy or rent an inspection camera


Buying a used engine can be tricky, especially if you don't know what to look for and how to look for it. However, an inspection camera costing less than $100 can reveal important information about the used engine. While you won't be using the inspection camera daily, it can save you the stress and heartache of making a wrong buying decision.


Use the inspection camera to look into the engine's inner components. It will give you a solid idea of what the engine looks like from the inside before buying.


Choose established junkyards


Established junkyards often have used engines in good condition waiting to go. One of the biggest advantages of buying from them is engine availability. You can also trust that they can be reached when services are unsatisfactory. The same goes for certified engine suppliers, however, you may need to wait a few days to get your used engine.


Buying from established junkyards gives you the peace of mind you deserve and improves your chances of getting value for your money.


Inspect the turbocharger


Turbocharger failures are rare, but they do happen. You don't want to end up with a used engine whose turbo has been damaged. Turbo damage can be due to different factors, including age, oil seal problems, and thrust bearing failure from low oil pressure.


Inspect the turbine diligently for damaged wheels or broken compressor shaft.


Check the coolant


A coolant check can also give you an idea of the used engine's condition. Look inside the radiator hose or coolant passage for corrosion and rust. Avoid engines with orange corrosion inside the hose of coolant passage.

With these inspection tips and checks, you can rest assured that you're buying a functional and high-performing used engine. You can also save time and energy by contacting our used parts store at Orthodox Auto via phone at (215) 608-3270. We'd be glad to answer your inquiries about used auto parts and the hidden gems we have at our junkyard.