By on October 25, 2019

Image: GM

TTAC Commentator OldWingGuy writes:

My question concerns how General Motors manufactures new replacement engines. Do they use old stock from when the engine was in production, or do they continue building them even though they have been superseded years ago?


I have a 2010 Chevy Silverado with the 5.3-liter engine, with Active Fuel Management. It has over 300,000 km. Oil pressure at idle is starting to drop, but not critical yet. Probably another couple years left in the engine. But I am contemplating putting a replacement new GM engine in when the time comes.

The issue is some of the 5.3L engines have Eaton lifters with an occasional nasty lifter noise. If your engine has this, the Eaton lifters need to be replaced with Delphi lifters. The only way to tell which you have is to remove a lifter, which requires removing both intake manifold and cylinder head. Not something to do with a new engine. So, if you buy a replacement engine from GM, has it been sitting around for 10 years ? Or are they produced occasionally? If the former, I would have no way of knowing which lifter was used short of pulling a cylinder head. If produced occasionally, I would assume GM uses the Delphi lifters.

Anyone out there know how GM produces new replacement engines for a ten year old vehicle ?

Sajeev answers:

I love questions that open multiple layers of concerns…not just because I can blow ’em off with deflective answers.

The only folks who’d know are inside General Motors, so find a dealership’s service/parts department manager motivated enough to find out. That’s because the odds of calling a customer service hotline for the answer is low, and no PR flack will dole out information to a journo if the truth hurts (I presume, I don’t know any PR-peeps!). Nobody wants to admit their employer made/is making a mistake, except when there’s no other option. If you aren’t a self-made entrepreneur, if you care about your job/career, you know the drill.

Don’t sweat it, that’s just life.

And it doesn’t matter how GM usually manufactures replacement engines: you need the specifics about valve lifters and if there’s a stop sale (so to speak) on 5.3L motors with Eaton bits.

I suggest offering a dealership the sale in exchange for verification of the Delphi lifters, otherwise you will contact Jasper to see if their customer support is any better. While I have no personal experience/vested interest here, the Internet is pretty kind to their work and their ability to perform readily available upgrades on their products.  For the most part.

Best and Brightest?

[Image: General Motors]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. 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. 

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28 Comments on “Piston Slap: Delphi Lifters Make the Sale?...”

  • avatar

    GM Gen III/IV/V V8s are said to have a lifecycle of 450,000 miles.

    In my experience that seems correct.

    So if it were me, I’d just take the plunge now and replace the Eaton DOD lifters with Delphis. Maybe do the timing chain and oil pump for kicks and giggles.

    Then relax and just keep it maintained.

    • 0 avatar

      Or more. The limo guy I use for airport runs has, the last time I rode with him, over 550,000 miles on it. The valvetrain does have some noise, but it soldiers on. Now, odd things are starting to fail, like the shift linkage. At least I got to my destination….

  • avatar

    As a mechanic with over 30 years under his belt, I second what Budda-Boom said. I favor Japanese imports myself, but I work on everything and I love the GM 5.3 engine for how smooth, powerful, and reliable it is (not three words I often use in combination with anything American-made). Pulling the heads is easy on a pushrod engine, and the parts are cheap compared to engine replacement. Just make sure you have an bench or area large enough to lay out all the parts in order so you can keep them in their original places. If you insist on taking the plunge on a replacement, skip the dealer and go with a Jasper engine. They use all updated parts and stand behind their engines with a much better warranty and customer service. Best of luck to you.

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for this specific situation, however in general OEM re-manufactured engines are cores sent to a supplier like American Engine Rebuilders who refurbish the engine back to specs.

    The manufacturer supplies any updated part super-sessions or spec changes to the supplier to ensure that when the engine is rebuilt, it has the latest and greatest. Sometimes, when there aren’t enough cores, some of the engines in the program are in fact new.

    If there’s an identified quality issue with a given part number that requires purging, they are purged. That’s the assurance you get from an OEM program.

  • avatar

    When i was a GM technician from 2010-2014, replacing the lifters and cam on high mileage, undermaintained 5.3L was pretty common. If the engine came into the dealer with a lifter noise, there were two options:

    1. Replace the lifters (and sometimes cam). Most technicians used whatever the parts department gave them without a second thought. Why? Because in my area, most of the trucks being repaired were likely to not be driven more than 50k miles after the repair. Most were likely being repaired so that they could be traded in or sold.

    2. Replace the engine. We sourced our long blocks from two places: a local remanufacturer whose reputation was just “ok” or GM. Trucks under warranty got GM engines. Trucks out of warranty got locally remanufactured engines (unless the customer chose GM parts although they never did). The technicians had no idea what parts were in either one for the same reason as above.

    If you can find a dealer who is willing to do the research to answer your questions, that’s fantastic. But is has been my experience that the dealer does not care since the vehicle with the dying engine is likely to not be driven much longer anyways.

    Side note:
    The one trait that all of the offending engines had in common was that their oil was changed when or after the truck oil life reminder was at 10%. Ive always suspected that the oil life reminder on these vehicles is programmed to allow engines to wear out or fail around 160-200k.

    • 0 avatar

      “Ive always suspected that the oil life reminder on these vehicles is programmed to allow engines to wear out or fail around 160-200k.”

      Pretty much. A typical durability cycle for these would be 150k, to get it through most warranty scenarios.

  • avatar

    I forgot to add, if you are seeing a drop in oil pressure at idle, i’d also suggest replacing the oil pump pickup O-ring. It is a small rubber O-ring that helps the oil pump seal to the block. This ring often becomes hard and brittle over frequent engine temperature cycling (time) and idle low oil pressure is almost always a symptom of a hard O-ring. When it becomes brittle, oil can leak past it and cause a small drop in pressure.

    Its a relatively inexpensive repair to perform if the truck is 2wd (a little more involved if 4×4) but is great cheap insurance to maintain oil pressure.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I heard in the past that short block GM engines (crate engines) are produced new in Mexico. Is that correct?

  • avatar

    I like Mr. Metha’s suggestion.

    Offer the local dealer your business if they can confirm what sorts of lifters the engine has OR go running into the arms of Jasper customer service and see if an “employee owned” company can help you more.

    Oh and then find one of those ECU tuners that lets you deactivate the cylinder deactivation.

    I wish I was privy to our local school districts vehicle maintenance info, they’ve got a ton of Suburbans, Tahoes, and Silverados with the 5.3 and AFM. Those suckers are rode hard and put away wet.

    • 0 avatar

      While its a great idea for engine longevity, removing the cylinder deactivation features is a little more involved that just removing the tune.

      A thorough AFM delete kit involves replacing the valley cover, lifters, cam, a pressure relief valve and few other small parts. The “plug and play” AFM deactivation module usually exacerbates any problems the engine has.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        “The “plug and play” AFM deactivation module usually exacerbates any problems the engine has.”

        As someone with a ’07 ‘Hoe running a plug n play AFM deactivation module how do you figure that? I’ve owned it since new and have had the plug and play module in it for 3 years. Nothing has gotten worse.

        It rarely ever gets driven other than when I need to tow something. At that point it’s always in “3” so it never runs on 4 cylinders anyways.

        • 0 avatar

          “I’ve owned it since new and have had the plug and play module in it for 3 years. Nothing has gotten worse”

          Ive seen several AFM deactivation modules successfully operate for many years. Like i stated, the module usually doesn’t create problems but only exacerbates any problems the engine ALREADY has. If there were no problems with the engine when you STARTED using the module, then there is nothing to worry about. The engine is at risk ONLY if a part of the oiling system is damaged or faulty when you started using the module.

          For example: if a lifter has partially or fully collapsed (this is a known problem with AFM lifters MY 2007-2013), and an AFM deactivation module is then installed, the lifter is still partially collapsed. The module does nothing to fix the lifter (even with AFM deactivated).

      • 0 avatar

        While early systems from various manufacturers did have oil burning issues, hasn’t that been rectified by now? I don’t see issues being mentioned anymore. And the newest GM system allows for any cylinder to deactivate which should keep any wear/temperature issues balanced. I, for one, only use AFM on the highway (shift models are set up that way) and getting 32 mpg out of a performance car is pretty awesome!

        • 0 avatar

          “hasn’t that been rectified by now?”


          For GM, the problem was mainly in 07-08 model years with some 09 and even some 10 models showing similar symptoms. It was caused by a combination of low tension piston rings, extended LOF intervals, and GM recommending the use of non-synthetic oil.

          GM recognized their flaws and changed the piston rings in 2009. They also started to recommending dexos (semi-syn) in 11+ model years. But I don’t think they fixed/changed the calibration of their oil life system. It still recommends 7000+ mile LOF intervals for normal driving conditions. Those long intervals might be adequate in cold climates but not here in Phoenix.

  • avatar

    If the time comes to change out the engine, consider a performance upgrade. Check out Summit Racing or Jegs.

    • 0 avatar

      What I didn’t say very well: If you are putting in a crate motor, there are a variety of crate motors available (within the same family/displacement – or not), many with more power than the stock motor.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine used to put 5.3L and some other LS motors into old Camaros and T/A’s to replace the stock worn/blown up 5.0 original engines. The 5.3 is an engine that, barring disaster, will last an amazingly long time. I have personally seen and confirmed a couple of them had over 150K miles on them and all the bearing clearances met factory specs. They had both been taken well care of, running full synthetic oil, changed a couple of times a year. When my friend would rebuild one of the 5.3’s, he would send the heads out for new valves and seat replacement, along with valve springs, of course. The pistons and rings would get changed and all bearings would be replaced, along with the oil and water pump and camshaft. The bore would have the ridge removed and then one of those pinecone/ball hone things used to smooth it up. One of those 5.3’s went into his son’s 1988 T/A and has had zero problems and has 60K miles on it with zero oil usage. The only real weakness in the 5.3 seems to be intake manifold gaskets tend to fail. I’ve never heard of any lifter issues other than being noisy, as my 2000 vintage 5.3 were.

    • 0 avatar

      LS intake manifolds are possibly the easiest intake manifolds to change I’ve ever seen. I would give that job to a novice, the intake is so simple to remove, it weighs very little making it easy to handle, and the gaskets literally clip into place. I was amazed at how fool proofed the engines are.

      I’ve never seen nor heard of them failing but thought I would add that. The first time I pulled an LS derivative apart it was a revolution in engine design coming from old Detroit and Japanese engines.

  • avatar

    I’d seriously consider the “parts truck” purchase. Yeah I realize that would mean storing a wreck on the lawn for many, except it’s a beautiful thing when any part you need is “in stock”, pennies on the dollar, or free at some point.

    For long term, high miles ownership, you’re likely going to need a transmission, rear end, and countless other parts that can nickel and dime you to death. Finding an upper trim truck, leather, nav, 20′ wheels is a bonus, along with updated, mid generation refreshed and aftermarket upgrades.

    It doesn’t hurt that you’re dealing with the 2nd most popular truck on the planet, but there’s a surprising number of decade old trucks around with around 50K miles, extremely clean and garage kept.

    Nothing beats original OEM parts, but of course you’d be looking for salvage title, totaled, but drives/running, with a bent frame, light damage, flooded, rolled, hail damage, etc.

  • avatar

    Please define the difference between 5.3 and 5.7 liter Chevy V8’s…..


    • 0 avatar

      Quite a bit, 75% of the time when someone said 5.7L I assume LT based 1990s 350 Chevy. Obviously the LS1 was 5.7L but it’s life span was so short I don’t think it ever developed more than a moments interest whereas the original LT based 350 is still a very important engine. The 5.3L uses(d) LS based architecture.

      To make matter More confusing GM is back to using LT nomenclature again, so we have pre 1999 LT based engines and post 2015 LT based engines which are light years apart. So now the 5.3L is LT based but uses the same displacement as the LS based 5.3L engine such as the one in this article.

      I feel like you knew all of this though…

      • 0 avatar

        Sort of……

        I stopped working on American rigs in the mid 1980’s when a 5.7 liter V8 was 350 C.I.D. and the 305 / 307’s were called 5.0 correctly or not I don’t know as by then the only American V8’s I touched were always in trucks, 350 / 5.7 liter rigs .

        I guess my question was : are 5.3 engines 307 C.I.D. or what ? .

        Your patience and explanations are appreciated .

        I know bupkis about LT etc. , just that they’re supposed to be better & more modern variants of the SBC 350 C.I.D. V8 . (?) .


        • 0 avatar

          I believe the CID of the 5.3L LS series and newer LT series is 327 CI.

          I haven’t worked on older an LT(read traditional SBC) in years, I’m sure it would come to me if I looked at it pretty quick as it’s the ground work of my engine knowledge.

          The LS engines series, read V8 architecture used in every GM V8 from about 1999-2015, (-2017 in some applications) so this includes LR4, LQ9, LS1,2,3,6,7, and countless others; is in my opinion everything good you hear, it’s got to be the simplest set of engines I’ve ever worked on, it is hard to screw up even for a novice that takes their time and carefully checks through. But it’s also capable of running with the best and can be built up beyond expectations. It’s the engine for everyone that can truly be everything.

          The new LT series engine has had teething problems, my experience with a 5.3L has been phenomenal as far as engine is concerned. Fuel economy is stellar, a full-size truck shouldn’t be able to get over 25MPG as easily as these trucks can on the highway. Power feels good, though it goes without saying there’s no replacement for displacement. I’ve never pulled apart an LT so if they were able to improve on the LS as far as reliability and platform simplification, I cannot say.

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