The Truth About Cars » throwaway motor The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » throwaway motor Piston Slap: The Truth about “Throwaway” Motors (Part II) Wed, 24 Jul 2013 12:43:28 +0000

Bob M. writes:

Sajeev, I’m a bottom feeder with cars. All I’ve ever owned are used domestic cars with pushrod engines. I overhauled a Pontiac 2.5L once just to get the experience. My idea of engine maintenance is valves at 100k and an overhaul at 150k. 

I’ve heard that many imports aren’t rebuildable because the cylinder walls of the block are too thin. Can you enlighten me about what people do these days when their engines are wearing? Are valve jobs common? Are some brands more repairable than others? What lifespans do people expect to get from modern engines?

Keep on Truckin’

Sajeev answers:

My how times have changed!  While plenty of older cars (even the Iron Duke GM engines) don’t absolutely demand your 100k/150k regiment, you are committed to the best performance from these ancient, antiquated designs. Sadly, your thinking is far out of line with modern engine design.

Fancy, modern aluminum castings have completely changed the game…for the better.  Expensive to replace torque-to-yield bolts? Not so much.  Fact is, newer engines last longer and give max performance for longer intervals, but they are throw away motors.  That’s the general consensus, but let’s answer your questions individually:

  • Can you enlighten me about what people do these days when their engines are wearing? Back to the term “throw away motor”, as people normally get another motor from LKQ (or similar computer-intensive junkyard) and swap them out.  Rebuilding a modern motor isn’t a very bright idea, unless the car is super valuable with the original block or you want extra power from a big-bore re-sleeve, like this Lingenfelter job for LSX-FTW engines.
  • Are valve jobs common? Heck, I can’t find anything to prove that valve jobs even happen (in significant quantities) these days, much less being a common practice.  Again, throw away motors mean you can find a better one elsewhere.  But more importantly, engines don’t wear out like they used to.  Reduced performance from worn out valve train isn’t a big deal anymore.
  • Are some brands more repairable than others? If you live in the US, the most repairable brands will be from Detroit. Parts are plentiful, cheaper and more local machine shops will do the work without needing further research.  Sadly (or not?), the art of repairing an engine is more of a niche service these days.  At least for mainstream vehicles, like those once powered by GM’s 2.5L Iron Duke.  I suspect Japanese brands are a close second, everything else shall be challenging and/or cost prohibitive.  Not that people aren’t tweaking AMG and BMW motors regularly in the USA…but the best motor to get your (pushrod-loving) hands dirty these days is a Chevy (Truck) LS motor with an iron block.
  • What lifespans do people expect from modern engines? With the use of synthetic oil, regular fluid changes and tune ups, I think most folks expect over 150,000 miles from their engines.  And that’s being modest: 200+k is likely. Provided most 1-owner cars aren’t traded in well before this time, of course. Our society of consumption makes this personal expectation question most difficult to answer!

Some engines have proven otherwise (sludgy VWs and Toyotas, piston-slapping Chevys, head gasket eating Subies, etc) but one fact remains: advances in 1) metallurgy 2) technology 3) production means that the old ways of your pushrod motors (and my Windsor V8s, FWIW) are a thing of the past.

And we are far better off this way.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

]]> 129 Piston Slap: The Truth about “Throwaway” Motors Wed, 13 Feb 2013 12:23:00 +0000 Dan writes:

Dear Sajeev,

A recent post on the CX-9 users forum (at caught my eye. An stalwart owner tore down his 3.5 (Ford) engine to clean up a sludging problem and broke a rod bolt in the process. He then discovered much to his dismay that replacement rod bolts are not considered “serviceable parts” by Mazda. In fact, it turns out that most of the internal engine components you would want to replace in a rebuild are not available from Mazda. (This is true for both the 3.5 and the more recent 3.7 litre versions.) Unavailable items include pistons, rings, bearings, etc. Searching on-line one can find the typical factory exploded parts diagrams with all these internal components listed, but in lieu of part numbers there is the notation, “This part is not serviced.” (Here’s an example)

These parts also don’t seem to be available from Ford for the Ford versions of the same 3.5 or 3.7 litre (Duratec) engines. Equally strange, there don’t seem to be any after-market sources either. How is that possible? Have we finally entered the era of the sealed-for-life, black box engine, with no serviceable parts inside? Is engine rebuilding going to go the way of lamp-lighting, blacksmithing, doctor house calls and the like? Fortunately long and short blocks are available from Mazda, but at the kind of prices ($2800 and $6400 respectively) that always made rebuilding an attractive alternative. I know many independent mechanics often prefer to use salvage engines, but some problems still require actually tearing into an engine. How can you rebuild an engine if you can’t get the parts?

Sajeev answers:

Two things: torque-to-yield bolts and other replacement parts nightmares are a sad new reality, but engine building is here to stay. It just won’t be for everyone.

Actually, who in their right mind wants to do it now? Thanks to advances in Inventory Management and the Internet, you can easily throw away your old motor and get a replacement with a warranty from a host of on-line junkyards.  For the price of replacing those torque-to-yield bolts, you’ll cover the shipping on a junkyard motor. Actually probably more than just the shipping. And while the motor is used, today’s engines are far more trustworthy than they were 20-30+ years ago.  If the junkyard motor is bad, the warranty will cover it.  So who cares about actually rebuilding a motor?

For the nut jobs that want to build one, you can get the parts. Not from a manufacturer, but from places that cater to engine builders.  Then engine builders like Nautilus Performance can go above and beyond**…if that’s what you really want. And that’s just for the Ford Duratec V6: there is a late-model performance engine builder for damn near any make out there. I suspect the Duratec gets such love because of the Noble M12 supercar.

**This is not an endorsement for that engine builder, or any aftermarket builder.  I just Googled this to prove the point: you can rebuild an engine with readily available parts, but you don’t really want to. Unless you are nuts enough to be a modern-day hot rodder.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: Recall or Total Recall? Mon, 24 Sep 2012 11:35:36 +0000

Ted writes:

Here’s what I got: 2002 Saturn L200 156000 miles bought new. Excellent car no problems whatsoever, maintained precisely. Question about timing chain scuttlebutt. Should I change it preventatively , switch to synthetic oil, or just do not worry about?

NHSTA stats report only 7 incident per 1000 of the non-recalled vehicles. Also if chain busts does it just bend valves or can it cause piston damage. Appreciate any advice.

Sajeev answers:

Much like our last reader with some admirable Saturn L-love, I wholly appreciate someone who can love a cool car that most will simply toss aside.  And most Saturns (save for the ION) had a lot of family friendly cool going for them, and the L-series is high on my list. My fav is the original Saturn SC2 coupe in a delicious bronze, or brown (natch)!

Oooooh yeah, what a shape!  So anyway…

I’m not thrilled with the idea of changing a recalled part on a non-recalled vehicle. While the repercussions are stiff (these are interference motors), finding a decent replacement engine from an automotive recycler is a great option. More on that later.

Switch to synthetic oil?  Probably not a bad idea.  At this age and mileage, gaskets might leak because of the switch to an oil with different molecular properties (for lack of a better phrase) but I don’t know. I suspect this car is a “keeper” so make the switch.

About interference engines: often the valves just bend, because the inertia (weight and velocity) of the pistons will literally slap the valves around like a little punk kid.  That’s not to say that piston damage cannot occur, especially since a chunk of piston can fly out, and rip apart the cylinder wall. Ouch.

But most modern engines are “throwaways” because of the expense of machine shops and replacing the torque-to-yield bolts. And when you add the ease and affordability of modern on-line junkyards, it’s a done deal. I spotted several good replacement engines for under $1000 at  So don’t spend hundreds fixing the timing chain when you can get a lower mileage replacement, replace the timing chain/gaskets, and get it done for less than $2000.\

I am getting rightly slammed for my piss-poor advice, so I’m gonna flip-flop on the issue like (insert politician’s name here).  Change the timing chain with the recalled part.  It’s a big improvement over the original design, something I completely overlooked.  While you’re in there, maybe throw a new water pump and fresh rubber hoses/vacuum lines or anything else you unbolt to get to the timing chain.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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