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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Used Engine Job

I had a complex themed conversation with a customer late on Friday. I answered the phone and it was a gentleman with an inquiry into pricing for an engine job.

“Hi, I need a price for you guys to replace an engine for me.”

“If you give me the make, model, year, manual or automatic transmission, and number of cylinders, I’ll call you back with a quote.”

“Ah… sure… it’s a 1984 Acura four cylinder with manual transmission.”

Warning bells are clanging in my head because I know this guy can buy a late 1990’s to early 2000’s Acura with a running engine in decent condition for the same price as an engine job on his old clunker. It’s unfortunate, but true. I begin handling his inquiry with care.

“Is your Acura in showroom condition? I ask that because you could buy a much newer running one for the amount you’d pay to replace the engine on your ‘84.”

“I already talked to the guy at a wrecking yard and I can get an engine for $400. I just need a price for you to install it.”

I don’t install used engines because I’ve long passed the socioeconomic condition that would require me to do so for survival. They are a bad gamble, labor intensive, and you don’t know they’re faulty until you try to run it upon completion of the job. Of course the wrecking yard will send you another… no charge – the labor is a dead loss though. No matter how many times you explain to a customer about the gamble, if a shop takes in a used engine job… they own it until it runs.

“I’m sorry, I don’t install used engines or engines rebuilt by anyone other than my rebuilder.”

“You don’t?!”

He seems genuinely surprised so I explain the reasons behind my policy.

“I can understand then what you were telling me about it being a better deal to buy a newer car with the same money. Do you know any shops that install used engines?”

“None I know of,” I answer truthfully. “The wrecker may know where you can get it done. They may have more than one shop buying used engines from them.”

“I’ll call him back and see. Thanks for the advice.”

“Sure. Thanks for calling. Sorry I can’t help”

I hung up thinking times better not get so bad I start thinking about used engine jobs. Looks like it’s time to audit my expense sheet and see if I can shave off a couple of bucks here and there so I won’t be tempted. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

I never really thought about it from the mechanic perspective. Hum.

BernardL said...

We used to have a bunch of used engine shops out here in the East Bay, Charles. They installed those crated used engines from Japan and would install customers' wrecking yard engines too. All of them went out of business within a three year span long ago. Used engine work is a rough way to make a living. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Or you could get the 'it ran when it was removed' engine and then discover it ran until it seized. Sorry, personal history of 'moeny-saving' purchases coming to mind. :-) We own Corvairs, and Corvair owners are notoriously cheap, or maybe that's just my husband. :-) We have lots of cool parts now though.

Resist the call, Bernard. It's a bad, bad idea.

BernardL said...

It is indeed a bad idea, VL, and I prefer the word frugal. :)

Matthew Nowlin said...

Charles, I can understand what you're saying, but there is a big difference between buying a used engine from a junk yard and buying a used engine from a company that legitimately tests their engines. I do make a disclaimer that I sell used engines, but typically only for vehicles 2000 and newer. That way, I can provide customers with something truly low mileage and give them a one or two year warranty. In fact, I look at remans as only a way to plug gaps in my product offering since so many reman companies are... skimping now. Check out my blog on engines if you get a chance.

I enjoyed the read.

BernardL said...

Good comment, Matthew. Used engines in the old days were a mainstay of the repair business. The new stuff is so labor intensive it's just not a good way to go for me at my age. Your guarantee is longer than my rebuilder's.