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Engine swap basics

As many automotive DIY-ers eventually do, I’m currently knee-deep in my first engine swap. In my case, I’m not going for an exotic swap to win points at a car show. I’m also not building an sleeper that’ll win at the drag strip. I’m just doing a one-for-one swap to replace the tired engine in one of my cars with an (almost) identical unit.

A brand new engine simply isn’t available for the car, and a quality rebuild is way out of my budget. I ended up locating a used engine with healthy compression in my budget, so I decided to go that route. In reference to an earlier comment, I say almost identical because although the engines are from the same make and model, the old engine in my car is mated to a manual transmission whereas the one from the donor car was mated to an automatic. This necessitates the first and most necessary part swap – I’ll need the flywheel off my engine. If the clutch still looks like it has a good amount of life in it, I’ll keep it. If not, I’ll install a new one.

Aside from that, I had taken very good care of my old engine, and as such, there are a lot of low-mileage parts that I’m swapping to the donor motor in order to save money. Naturally, I’m replacing items such as cooling system and intake gaskets with brand new items. I will be re-using as many verifiable low-mileage parts as I can in order to keep costs down.

I will be replacing standard tune-up items with new parts. The engine will be getting new spark plugs, oil and air filters, new engine mounts, and a new cap and rotor. Items like molded cooling hoses will be transferred from the old engine, as I replaced them shortly before the bottom end finally wore out and wouldn’t hold oil pressure anymore.

The general rule I’m following is that if there’s a serviceable part on either engine, the better of the two goes to the new engine. Anything that’s even remotely questionable, such as oil pressure and coolant temperature senders, will be replaced with new parts. The goal is to put togethe

r the best engine I can on a budget with the best parts available.

When all is said and done, I expect to be able to get in the car, turn the key, and take it back out on the road. Taking the new and used parts into account, I should, in theory, be able to drive it for some time (keeping up on preventive maintenance, of course), before any repairs need to be done.

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