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What is an Engine Swap?

An engine swap is the process of replacing a vehicle's original engine with a different one, often for enhanced performance or to rejuvenate an aging car. This transformative procedure can unlock new levels of power and efficiency. Wondering how an engine swap could revitalize your ride or take it to the next level of exhilaration? Let's explore the possibilities together.
Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

An engine swap is a process in which an automobile's engine is removed from the chassis and replaced with another. Many times, the engine swap is completed due to the amount of damage inflicted on the vehicle's original engine. It is often less expensive to complete an engine swap than to repair an existing engine. Perhaps the most common reason for attempting an engine swap is to increase performance from a vehicle. Many times, a small, low-performance engine is removed from an automobile, and a larger, higher-performance engine is installed in its place.

There are different levels of an engine swap to be considered once the decision to change an engine has been made. While the goal of an engine swap is to replace a broken or worn-out engine, financial circumstances may dictate many alternative processes to a complete engine swap. Replacing the short block or long block is often a more financially-friendly method of restoring power to a vehicle. This option is dependent on the quality of the vehicle's original power plant.


The option of a short block replacement entails replacing the worn-out engine block and rotating assembly consisting of the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and rings. When completing this type of swap, the engine's original cylinder heads are usually rebuilt while the camshaft and lifters are typically exchanged for new pieces as the engine is being reassembled. Gaskets and bearings are also replaced, while components such as the water pump, intake and fuel system are cleaned up and reused.

Replacing a long block involves everything from the short block assembly; however, a long block comes equipped with the camshaft, lifters and timing components as well as new cylinder heads. This is a more complete assembly and allows the installer a much easier and less time-consuming task when installing the engine in a vehicle. Although the long block is more costly than the short block, once the cost of machining the original cylinder heads is factored in along with the cost of the camshaft and timing components, it is a very competitively-priced option for the engine swap.

By completing an engine swap in an older vehicle, the life of the vehicle can be drastically extended. Replacing an engine in a newer vehicle allows the user to enjoy the vehicle instead of replacing it prior to paying it off. The task of changing engines is not an exercise for the inexperienced mechanic. For the mechanic with the know-how to complete the job, it becomes a viable option over replacing an entire vehicle.

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Discussion Comments


Here is something else to consider with engine swaps -- will the suspension in the vehicle support the new engine? There have been some radical swaps over the years by people trying to turn vehicles into tame economy cars to asphalt-eating street machines.

Let's say you've got an old Chevrolet Vega with a straight four under the hood and you want to replace the engine with a small block, Chevrolet V-8. That's a radical switch and the new engine will be much heavier. If the weight is too great, suspension components might have to be changed and something may have to be done to address the car's balance, too.

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