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I've noticed that there are a lot of questions on this board about engine swaps, which makes me think that it is a fairly common practice in at least some countries. What are compelling motivations for performing an engine swap?


Why i am asking this because where i live (Netherlands) engine swaps are quite uncommon. Usually engines perform fine for at least 200-300K KM, after which a car is so old (at least 10-15 years) that the economic value of the car does not warrant the need for the high cost involved(*) and amount of time needed to perform an engine swap. Of course there is the occasional enthusiast exchanging an engine or sometimes the engine on a newer car has failed, but still it is not done that often.

(*) Assuming an engine swap is done by a qualified mechanic and not by someone in their back yard, since most people lack the tools, space and technical knowledge needed.

closed as too broad by GdD, Zaid, CharlieRB, Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 27 '18 at 15:27

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I don't think this is answerable as it is @MadMarky. It's too broad, and it's going to solicit opinions rather than facts. You're assuming that it's common because you're on a mechanic Q&A site where the topic comes up often, when it's likely not the case. If you want to know why engines get swapped then I suggest it would be a good idea to rephrase the question. – GdD Mar 27 '18 at 12:22
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    Alternative wordings that would be a better fit in my opinion: "What are compelling reasons/motivations for performing an engine swap?" or "When does it make sense to swap an engine rather than rebuild it?" – Zaid Mar 27 '18 at 12:41
  • @Zaid thanks i'll incorporate your suggestion – MadMarky Mar 27 '18 at 12:46
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    I presume there are just as many engine-fails and engine-swaps in the Netherlands than in any comparable (Mid-Europe) market. Where do you get your data from? – Daniel Mar 27 '18 at 13:24
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    @Daniel not too sure about how comparable the data is to other European countries. Because of the yearly MOT most cars are exported or scrapped before the engine wears out, due to excessive rust or other serious defects. – MadMarky Mar 27 '18 at 13:40
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This is a highly subjective query.

Sometimes engines are swapped because the body, or "Shell", of a vehicle is in good condition but the engine failed. Possibly due to neglect. Possibly due to abuse. Whatever the case, it's cheaper and easier to spend ~$3000 to change out an engine, than to try to find a quality used vehicle for likely more money.

Other times it's purely for performance reasons. Honda's tend to be a very specific example of this. My neighbor probably does an engine swap a week in his home garage with just a chain hoist, and an engine crane. Not exactly expensive tools. Take a engine from a vehicle with a more powerful engine, put it into a lighter vehicle, and you have instant "performance." The other part of this is that crashed cars are generally very cheap. Salvage what you can and it saves money.

I don't know what the car culture is like in the Netherlands, but in America, it's a lifestyle for most people. It's everything to some. People spend all their disposable income, and even more, on it. Some people prioritize it over everything else. So like any other lifestyle, or hobby, an outsider can't really understand it, unless they empathize with the concept of earning money and doing what you love to do.

Plenty of folks keep vehicles for over 10 years, like you mentioned, without swapping engines. I don't feel that all USDM vehicles are flawed relative to EDM vehicles. I've been involved in numerous engine swaps done out of necessity, but I've never owned a vehicle that I needed to swap an engine in. I have also been involved in many swaps for performance and/or personal choice. There is a very strong level of desire for "modification" in America, as well as other countries like Japan, for example. Maybe it's this desire to "stand out" and be different, that is different from the overall culture of the Netherlands? I don't know.

So in conclusion, this is highly subjective, but the occurrence of engine swaps might be due to a difference in culture, necessity, supply, or just to be different.

  • I think Dutch culture is alot more about power efficiency than about power. And a swap to a less fuel using engine probably does not pay off in a sensible time. I guess most of us dutchies just start by buying a fuel economical car rather than buying a muscle car and swapping the engine to a fuel efficient one. – Hennes Mar 27 '18 at 18:45
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I think you've made an assumption in your question which suggests an answer. Where you say that specialist tools, space and technical knowledge is required to swap an engine. If this were true, engine swaps would be relatively rare. However, swapping a complete engine is usually simply a case of draining the fluids, disconnecting the looms and linkages then unbolting it. The only specialist tools that may be required are an engine crane but these can be hired at very low cost. They aren't always required either. It is possible to drop an engine into a wheeled trolley or even a trolley jack and roll it out from under a raised vehicle.

As for space and time required, an engine swap can be undertaken on a private driveway on in a single garage and completed in a matter of hours. Indeed I've personally removed an engine and box from a car in under an hour.

Compared to the costs of rebuilding an existing failed engine, swapping for a known good second hand replacement is a very low price option.

I know that personally, the first ever engine swap I performed, with only basic tools, took me one weekend. That's parking the car on the driveway on Saturday morning with the old engine in and driving it away on Sunday afternoon with the new engine fitted.

  • I suppose it depends on the vehicles make and age. For most of the newer vehicles here (VW, BMW) everything is hooked together with computers and CAN bus. On newer BMW's you cannot even swap the battery without telling the ECU so. – MadMarky Mar 27 '18 at 12:39
  • Not so, like for like is plug and play. With an engine swap, you aren't touching the ECU, clocks or anything on CAN-BUS. All the connectors in the loom are designed to easily fall into place and only fit in the correct orientation. It's literally the difference between changing your socks instead of darning a holed sock. – Steve Matthews Mar 27 '18 at 12:41
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There are basically only two reasons for an engine swap:

  1. As a Repair: If it is, over all, the most economically sound option.

  2. As Tuning: The original Engine may not be able to produce the desired output.

As especially the latter reason is not quite common, people tend to ask about that on the internet to reach a broader audience. To find somebody who has first-hand experience. While it is easy to find someone who knows how to change break pads just around the corner, with engine-swaps it is not.

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