What to do when THE BIG ONE Happens


It happens more than you think--engines and transmissions do fail. And it is costly when they do. There are several options when you have a catastrophic engine or transmission failure and you are out of warranty OR did not purchase a service contract to protect you:
1. Cry, cuss, throw things and give up.....not good options

2. The only way to find out for sure what your options are is to have a skilled mechanic at a trusted garage, dealer or repair center take out and tear down the engine/trans to the point where an accurate assessment can be made of the damage.

3. Engines and transmissions can be rebuilt by a skilled mechanic IF they know their stuff---you wouldn't let a brain surgeon work on YOUR brain if he had only done it a few times--you want the guy with the most experience and the best track record. Same thing goes for major vehicle repairs. Rebuilding is an option, but only if the internal engine/transmission components, or the block/case, were not damaged to the point where long-term reliability will be a problem. Most of the time, you can buy a rebuilt engine from the original manufacturer or a major parts vendor for less than you could rebuild yours--you will definitely save on labor.

4. I always, ALWAYS prefer to buy original equipment (OEM) engine and transmission assemblies from the manufacturer (i.e. GM, FORD, HONDA, etc) as opposed to rebuilds from a aftermarket parts vendor. The OEM rebuilds are better in my opinion, and I have seen some real horror stories with other aftermarket assemblies. If you buy OEM, you typically get a parts and labor warranty of anywhere from 1-3 years. That makes me feel better.

5. Another option for older cars is to locate an engine/trans from a junk yard. You must be careful to make sure that the engine or trans you are using is exactly like the one you are replacing--if not, you could have problems from now on. The on-board computer systems get all unhappy if someone installs the wrong engine or trans--and they will pitch a fit! It matters less on vehicles built in the 80's or older, but it can still be an issue, so be careful with junk yard purchases. Also, most junk yards don't offer warranties. They will simply give you another engine/trans if the one you purchased doesn't work--that sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen.

6. You can always trade cars. I have traded for many cars with a blown engine or a trans that is out. I simply reduce the appraisal by my expected cost of replacement. The good news for you---the engine becomes my problem, not yours. Car dealers are used to this kind of stuff, and we don't need a loaner car while the car is in the shop like you would. At least "test the waters"--get a bid on the car 'As-Is' and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised how easy it can be. Just make sure you know what your car would be worth with a good engine. Don't get "snookered" just because you are in a bind.

All of this is made easier if you are dealing with competent, professional service and sales people who want to help you. Most new car dealers and repair shops that think "long term" tend to work harder to help folks who are facing these types of issues.
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