First of all, you need to have a base vehicle in mind. From there, the desired engine configuration must be considered. Doing any of these without a budget that relies on existing money in your savings account or piggy bank is a waste of time.
In the best case, you can take the time spent reading about engine swaps that you cannot afford as an enlightening learning experience, but its utility is limited to pub talk and the ability of randomly providing facts and figures in car related discussions.
With the base vehicle in hand, the future engine swapper must determine what are the characteristics that he or she wants to gain from the change.
Some want more power and torque, others want better mileage, while others want something different than what’s popular. The last option is the most expensive, so remember that before you imagine a quad-rotor swap with twin charging in a Lada.
This takes us to another important thing to point out before getting into the list of tips for those wanting to swap the engine of a car. The base vehicle must be a platform that is worth the modification and the own expenses.
While it may sound “fun” to do a crazy swap on a crappy vehicle, you won’t be laughing when the freshly upgraded clunker you own will not turn after the engine change, and you will be left with a one-hit wonder that is only fast in a straight line. Don’t be that guy that has a car that can’t turn for its life.
Let’s do a quick recap before we get into the gritty details. First of all, in most cases, the estimated budget will be exceeded. Any problems in funding the project will lead to delays. That is why doing a swap on your daily driver is not the best idea in the world.
Secondly, make sure that the vehicle that you want to fit a different engine is “worthy” of receiving the modification. If the body is junk, or the vehicle has paperwork issues or other problems, it might be best to start with something else.
Another part of the “worthy” equation is that the base has the right characteristics before the swap – something with weak rigidity, bad handling overall, or poor aftermarket support is going to cause headaches.Research the project and find others who did it
Most vehicles that are worth receiving an engine swap have dedicated forums. In the worst case plot, you will discover a section for them in a brand-specific forum. If even that fails, there are always general forums that focus on tuning.
Join the free ones and do your research. Start by looking for projects based on your model, and see where they had any problems and what were the results. Save the links for later, and open a new document on your computer to list the pros and cons – write them by hand, on paper, afterward.
Do not despair if there is any forum for your car model or make. If you cannot find anything, it is too new, or it is just not that popular. The latter problem might be extremely expensive, because you would have to get many parts made by specialists instead of getting off-the-shelf units.
At this point, you should hold a list of projects that have done something that you want to achieve. Make a list of them and select your number one favorite.
Look for the best solutions used by owners and write down their tips and their setbacks. Write up a list of questions, and then politely contact the owners of the swaps and ask them about the things you wrote down.
It is preferable to be “that guy” that asks “dumb questions” to people that have swapped engines in their cars than to spend thousands of dollars on a project that failed because something went wrong along the way.Is it legal?
If you are planning to swap the engine in your race car or drift mobile, all you have to do is to stay within the limitations of your class. However, on street machines, it all depends on the laws in your country and state. Some swaps may be permitted, while others are forbidden or simply too expensive to be worth the effort.
The list of reasons that could make a swap illegal can be long, and it goes from the new power level of the engine that is about to be fitted when compared to its stock counterpart, and can go into emissions standards and other things like that. Your insurance agent might not be happy about your swap plans, so be sure to ask before you get going.
Another potential problem is the source of the new engine, which should come with some form of documentation. We are referring to proof of ownership from the vendor, as there is a risk of purchasing an engine from a stolen vehicle, which will get you in legal trouble almost anywhere around the world.Who is doing the swap and how good are they at it?
You have an engine swap in mind, but you do not know how to get it done. That is why you should seek the help of a professional workshop. We are underlining professional here, because this is the kind of job that is not to be trusted in the hands of amateur mechanics, because the risk of losing parts or getting lost in the process could lose you time and money.
Be sure to do your research regarding the workshop you want to contract the work for the swap before paying anything. Ask various reputable shops about their experience with this kind of work, and request to see photos of the results. It is also wise to ask for a quote for the work, along with an estimated timeframe for completion.
There’s another possibility regarding a swap – doing it yourself, with the help of friends and an amateur mechanic. The DIY way is more satisfying than paying someone to do it, but will take up your garage. You also have to put in a ton of work to get it done, because nobody else is going to do it in your place if it happens in your garage.
If you choose this option, remember that your significant other might not be okay with the project, so it's obvious that you should ask them for their opinion before you go further with the project.Can you make everything work right?
Your car was designed from the factory to operate in a reliable manner in the configuration it was assembled. Whenever you fit something that was not present in the original configuration of the vehicle, the level of reliability might be affected.
This problem can present itself even if you choose an engine that was fitted to the same vehicle you own, because it might have different ancillary components. We are talking about bigger radiators, other steering components, different suspension parts, and multiple other elements.
A complete swap should not affect the functionality of anything in your vehicle, from the A/C to the speedometer. If you are not sure it can be done, it is best to find out a precise answer before starting any work regarding the swap.Is the "new" engine in the best possible condition?
So you have reached the point where everything above has been figured out, and you know what engine you want to fit in a particular vehicle. You have even discovered multiple vendors for the distinct type of engine you want, and all you need to do is buy it.
Before purchase, ask the seller if they are available for a compression test. That is one of the best tests of an engine’s condition. Do not buy a defective engine for a swap unless you know what you are doing and there is another way. This rarely happens, and you might not save money if you buy a damaged engine to fit in your car.
Many people swap engines without giving the “new” units a proper tune-up. If you are at it, it is best to rectify any problem with that engine before it is installed in the vehicle.
It will protect you from a few migraines in the long run. However, do not go about and tune it before installing in your car, as it might be powerful enough as is. Am I missing something?
Take the budget estimate you made and add 40%. That is an optimistic estimate of what your swap will cost if nothing else goes wrong during the work. It will need more time than you thought to get the engine fitted, and it might not be perfect from the beginning.
Once the engine is installed, do not go about driving your enhanced automobile. You still need to get better brakes, proper tires, and an appropriate suspension. Otherwise, the beloved swap you just made might be flawed by the old components that were suited for your previous engine.
With all of the above sorted, enjoy your drive. Don’t forget to share you engine swap stories with us.