Are Junkyard Engines Good? What to Look for?

Engines are built to last, but sometimes this may not be the case. Issues may arise that end up destroying your engine. Now, you have to either fix it which may cost a lot or buy a used one, this may be the better option.

You want to get the best deal, so you turn to a junkyard to find the engine you need. But how can you be sure these engines are worth buying? And what measures can you take to make sure you get the best out of your purchase.   

Are Junkyard Engines Good?

Yes, most junkyard engines in good condition are just as good as buying a new engine. However, you must have a trained mechanic to help with the engine checks to make sure it’s a good working unit before you buy one.

Most cars that end up in a junkyard aren’t always there because of engine issues. These cars have either been in some form of accident which rendered it totaled. In these cases, the engines may still be running fine if they had no frontal impact.

Junkyards know this, and most of them strip the car for its good parts, which include the engine. It is brought out of the car and sold as a whole engine unit or torn down for parts. 

Before buying one, a trained mechanic should accompany you to inspect the engine. They know what to look for to help determine if the engine is worth buying or not. Testing is also done by the workers at the junkyard to make sure the engine is fine, but having your mechanic confirm this is essential.

Also read: 8 Cars that Look Like Mustangs (But are Cheaper)

Is it Hard to Find the Right Engine in a Junkyard?

No, it isn’t hard at all to find the right engine in a junkyard if you know what you’re looking for. Just because it’s a junkyard doesn’t mean everything has to be a mess. Most junkyards keep stock of their inventory and even arrange broken cars and parts according to the make and model. This makes finding things relatively easy. 

Finding the right engine should not be hard. If you’re looking for an engine, it’s for a specific vehicle. Researching before time to know what type of engine to buy will make the process easy.

Next comes finding the right engine at the junkyard. If you or your mechanic know the engine you’re looking for, all you need to do is ask the junkyard attendants. They know where everything is arranged and will take you to where the engine you desire is kept.

Finally, there is the inspection, this is where your mechanic comes in. You should have already discussed your requirements with the mechanic. This way he knows your expectations, as well as helps to identify a good engine for you.

What are the Risks of Buying an Engine from Junkyard?

The main risk associated with junkyard engines is buying a bad one. There are good engines and bad engines. If you do not do your due diligence and properly inspect an engine before buying, you might just end up paying for a bad engine.

Junkyards do test their engines to make sure they’re okay before putting them up for sale. Information like engine condition and mileage are recorded. Just going by this information may expose you to some risk.

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Some junkyards may not have good business practices and try to rip you off. They will tell you an engine is in perfect working order, when in fact it isn’t. Lying about the mileage also increases the asking price and makes you pay more. This may seem crazy, but there are some shady businesses out there. Without knowing what you’re doing, they will sell you a bad engine.    

It’s in situations like this that your mechanic comes in handy. They can help verify if the facts stated are true or not and eliminate the risks involved in buying a used engine.

Also read: 10 Cars Under $20K that Look Like They’re for $50K+

What to Look for When Buying an Engine from a Junkyard?

Looking for vehicles that have been in a collision is best. This way, you can almost be sure that the car is there because of collision damage and not a blown engine. In cars like this, the engines are usually operational and ready to be used.

Making sure the engine is operational is just the first step. There are a few more things to check to make sure this is the right one.

  • Mileage and Age: Making sure the engine has the exact mileage as stated is necessary. You may be tempted to buy a higher mileage engine but the life expectancy may be short compared to an engine with lesser mileage.

You may also end up getting a newer engine from a model year that’s newer than yours.

  • Engine Condition: Reputable junkyards will do some testing to make sure the engine is working fine, but you still need to make your checks. A certified mechanic can test the engine to make sure it performs great. This can be done by doing a compression test to make sure it turns over, or doing a full test run by putting on the engine and making sure it runs.
  • Engine Compatibility: Manufacturers share engines across various models. In doing your research, you may find out that your engine can be found in a different model if your specific model isn’t available. There may be slight changes, but you have to make sure the engine you’ve gone for will work in your vehicle.  

How to Test a Junkyard Engine?

There are a few tests you can perform on a junkyard engine or any used engine. These tests will help determine how good or bad the engine is.

  • Manual compression test: Performing a manual compression test tells a lot about the condition of engine internals. If it spins too freely, then you may have some broken or loose parts. If it doesn’t spin at all no matter the force applied, then parts are probably seized. These are signs this engine may have an issue.
  • Leaking Test: Most junkyard engines are drained of their fluids when they’re out of the vehicle. But performing leak tests before purchase will ensure the engine seals and lines are air-tight. And in cases where the leaks are minor, you can easily identify parts that need replacement before installing the engine in your car. 
  • Visual inspection: Checking the intake manifold, throttle body, exhaust manifold ports, and spark plugs. High oil consumption and excess carbon build if any can be identified this way. Spark plug checks also help determine if the engine runs too rich or too lean.

Honestly, inspecting your engine is best done by your mechanic, as there are a few issues specific to certain engines that a mechanic can look out for.

Also read: Are Junkyard Alternators Good? What Should You Look for?

How Much Should You Pay for a Junkyard Engine?

Engines can cost as low as $100-$15,000 depending on the vehicle. Honestly, there is no ideal price for a junkyard engine, and they greatly vary depending on your vehicle. The more expensive your vehicle is, the more expensive the engine.

Prices of engines at junkyards are usually way cheaper than getting one from a dealer or used car parts store. But the added accessories or lack of it affect the price. Some engines may have the entire unit intact with no parts removed. Meanwhile, some of them may have some parts taken off and sold already. This affects the price of the engine.

Demand and supply is also a factor, if a particular engine is in high demand then the price may go up slightly and people are willing to pay more for it. 

Lastly, engine configuration and brand name. A V8 engine will cost more than a 4 cylinder, and a Mercedes engine will cost more than a Toyota engine. All these factors will affect the final purchase price.

Can You Return the Junkyard Engine if it’s Not Right?

Yes, you can return an engine if it isn’t right. Never purchase an engine without a warranty. This may not be full coverage, but it does give you a grace period, e.g. 90 days to test out the engine and fully determine its working condition. If anything goes wrong within the stated timeframe the engine can be returned. 

Always ask for some kind of warranty on an engine. Most reputable junkyards already offer this, and they will offer it to you. Make sure to read through the conditions stated in the agreement and take advantage of it in any way you can. If there are extra services offered within the agreement, take advantage of them. You can maximize your purchase this way.

If a junkyard doesn’t offer any warranty on their engine, then you need to forfeit the deal. This shows a lack of confidence in the engine unit and should anything go wrong the very next day, you’re stuck with that engine.