OK I have got to ask. Engines have been rebuilt for nearly 100yrs. I have rebuilt a few on my garage floor that lasted for years and I am not a pro. So why is the 3800 so special? Why does nearly everyone say to avoid a built engine and stick with a used motor? I just don't get it. Atleast with a rebuilt engine (from a quality shop) you know its condition. You just don't know with a 2nd hand or j-yard motor.
Please explain! Granted, I know that nothing lasts like OEM. I personally have not seen a rebuilt engine last 200-300k, but that's not what I am after anyway. I understand a built motor will never last if its abused or pushed too hard but then, so will an OEM engine.
Please explain it to me. Also, lets keep this clean & tactful. You should be able to get your point across without arguing. Nothing wrong with different opinions.
While the 3800 is quite common, it doesn't have much racing history. Without the racing history with GM support + hundreds of other shops around the country doing full effort builds on them, it will take a long time to learn the ins/outs of the engine details, and the vast majority of the shops will never get there. Therefore it is difficult to find a local shop that actually knows how to properly rebuild a 3800. If they don't know what works and doesn't with the 3800, then all they will be doing is winging it, and they might not even have the special tools needed to do it right (like bore plates).
Think about it, you can buy a GM book on building Super Duty 4, 60 degree V6, SBC, 4.3, Ecotec, 4T65e-hd, etc... ever seen a GM 3800 build guide? These guides help educate the shops on what areas of the build are super critical to do right.
I've rebuilt several engines and have never had a problem. Not a 3800 tho. I rebuilt my old 4.9 I had in my Fiero and a 4.3l in my brothers s10. It cost more than a used engine but at least I knew everything was new.
I'm running a rebuilt 3800 NA in mine, and it's tight, powerful, and quiet. Granted, another fiero nut built it for himself (while working at a notable speed shop) before joining the Navy, but I'm really happy with it.
Time will tell regarding durability, but I'm not worried.
Oil looks new on changes, and I'm getting 27-28MPG in it (not nice to it at all) and I'm running a 4-speed Muncie so highway gearing kills me..
A lot of it on the forefront ultimately has to do with overall cost. A used engine is typically quite a lot cheaper than a rebuilt unit. You have to consider that most used engine units of say the 3800 for instance can be had for $200-$500 range easily, while a "properly" rebuilt unit can obviously go above a grand and prices just rise above that into more thousands spent.
I also put "properly" in quotes because another issue in regards to a rebuild - besides the cost - is exactly what constitutes a "rebuild"? A "rebuilt engine" is a very dangerous term in the automotive world because it's interpretation can vary depending on who actually is performing the rebuild or who you are speaking to. Is a rebuild simply replacing all of the gaskets & seals and ensuring the engine subsequently runs? Or is it replacing internal moving components, checking that everything is to OEM clearances, and then if such clearances are traversed then dealing with the high likelihood of needed new components to replace those with excessive clearances? Then with these questions come a focus into the quality of the build. Was gaps and seams properly sealed? No excessive RTV or something that could cause damage used? Was all the common clearance tolerance levels properly checked and noted? Etc, etc, etc.
I think some of the individuals here too like DH have shown that an individual can take a used 3800 unit and it work for very little initial investment. To be able to have a fully swapped and running car, for under a couple of grand, that is not something more simple like a 3.4L Camaro/Firebird swap, is quite an accomplishment. Thus with the overabundance of good quality used 3800s out there - both N/A and supercharged - it can be very difficult to accept the expense and time to rebuild a particular unit when a good used unit may be had for much less money and time invested.
I have wondered this myself for a while and from what I have read (don`t hold me to this because I`m saying from memory) is that just two of the things that are problematic with the 3800 are that 1: the crank can`t be turned and 2: sometimes the head gaskets are hard to get to seal.
Had a ZZP rebuild for 6 months and less than 1500 miles.. endless issues, ended up selling it off. Have had my new factory crate engine installed for 16k miles now without any issues. My GTP has had a junkyard 99 GTP engine installed for over 100k, was said to have 60k on it when I bought it.
Regarding the "lack of experience", mentioned previously...
3800s tend to be bulletproof. It's essentially a 40+ year old design, evolved to what it has become. In normal use, they usually outlast the cars they are installed in. The yards are full of them. (Not unlike 4.9s in that regard, except there are more 3800s.) That being the case, when they DO break, most people opt to replace them with a lower mile swapout instead of a rebuild. The rebuilders just don't get the experience. They probably don't keep cores on hand, either.
[This message has been edited by Raydar (edited 07-09-2013).]
I tried googling a new short block and all I came up with was a rebuilt from zzp. Up north here they want around two grand for a used motor, so for me it would be cheaper to buy a rebuilt from zzp. Unless I could find a new crate short block.
Jeff at Engineered Performance offered me a good deal. He knows the whole story with my car. He doesnt have a new crate motor though, he has a built motor from his Bonneville he made me a really good deal on. Again, new vs rebuilt.
I prefer a good used over a rebuilt...unless its done by a certified expert. I bought a Chrysler New Yorker than ran great. I used the engine for a swap. I thought Id just have hardened seats and rings put in while it was out by a local shop. They ruined the engine. It used more oil than gas before it blew up. I dont even trust myself to rebuild an engine because I dont have a 'clean room'. Now if I ever buy an engine, its going to be a good running used engine thats not getting opened till its broke. Theres only one guy Ill trust to do a rebuild for me because hes built 2 super great engines for me already. Hes a lead engine man for a Nascar team.