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Building Blocks: How to Buy Used or Refurbished Engines

In choosing from the wide variety of used engine sellers out there, you?ll want to use a little judgment, especially on the process vendors and distributors use to ?certify? or provide engines that meet your goals for power and performance.

Those who work on engines know that it?s not just a matter of ?either it works or it doesn?t?; mechanics take great pride in outfitting, installing and calibrating engines for peak performance.

The same principles apply to buying a used, refurbished or remanufactured engine from a third party. If you?re looking for a solution for getting pep into your stalled-out vehicle, you want to know that the shop you?re buying from uses rigorous methods to make sure the blocks shipped are reliable and ready to go.

Re-manufacturing to company specs

For a lot of engine vendors, certification of the manufacturer?s standard is important, so the shop employs credible technicians to inspect and test the used engine so that it meets all of the criteria for a new one rolling off the line.

You can rely on certifications advertised by the seller to know that your used engine buy has been worked back to specifications.

QA Testing for a Used Engine

There are a variety of testing processes shops use to verify a used engine is in great shape. Even if the shop is not certified to one manufacturer?s ?seal of approval?, that seller can verify they ship great product by telling buyers about how they work on a used engine.

Dyno Testing

Testing with a dynamometer or ?dyno testing? is how shops measure an engine?s torque, and therefore its horsepower.

A good dyno test will involve running an engine under different conditions and different loads to note how it performs, so that the performance data is on hand either to re-work it or to prove its power first-hand.

Compression Testing

Another very common way shops test engines is by simple compression tests, where tools are inserted into the engine to see what kind of pressure the various chambers can sustain.

Compression testing is performed for results on cylinders individually: low compression in a cylinder can mean a bad exhaust valve. When compression is low on all cylinders, it?s a more general problem.

Compression testing basically confirms that there are no worn parts like valves or rings compromising the needed pressure for the engine?s performance. Shops use ?compression ratios? to compare compression at the top and bottom of a piston cycle.


When you know you have a good shop that performs these kinds of tests, you can pick out an engine from the inventory. Be sure to call in with necessary information on your vehicle like the VIN number, etc., to make sure you get the right engine shipped to you, as there can be confusion between different engines of the same make and model.

Make a used engine the perfect fit for your grounded car and get running again when you find an affordable contract with a legitimate and credible used engine dealer.
About The Author Brian Hanson: Owner of, the online resource for new, used and refurbished engines, as well as used transmissions and used fuel injectors.
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