Q: I've been shopping for a replacement engine for my '93 Tahoe and I've run into a lot of confusing terms. I hope you don't think this is a dumb question, but what are the differences between a short-block, long-block, crate motor, remanufactured engine, high-performance motor, and replacement motor? Why do some people call them engines and others call them motors?
I've never installed an engine before, but it seems to me that you just take out the old stuff and replace it with the new stuff. Is any particular type of engine easier for a novice to replace? Thank you for taking time to help me.
John Ellis, via e-mail
A: Big-block, small-block, short-block, long-block, ice block, roadblock - it can be quite confusing. There are actual differences, plus a fair amount of confusion among terms. What one company calls a complete engine and another calls complete could be many components apart. You need to get a list of what is included and what is extra.
A short-block is much less inclusive than a long-block. In general, a short-block consists of the block and everything below the cylinder heads. You get the block, crankshaft, rods, pistons, rings, camshaft, lifters, timing gear, oil pump, and oil pan. All those components should be either new or rebuilt and identified as such.
A long-block is everything included in the short-block, plus the assembled cylinder heads. A long-block may or may not come with the so-called accessories such as the intake manifold, flywheel or flex plate, harmonic balancer, water pump, starter, and exhaust manifolds. Many companies expect that you will use your original accessories; not including accessories helps keep costs down. A crate motor is generally a totally new engine like you would expect to get right from the factory strapped to a crate, hence the name. Crate motors such as the Mr. Goodwrench GM products or the various performance crate motors offered by aftermarket companies are among the best deals and the least hassle. By getting a total package of all new parts, you get reliability and compatibility all in one handy package. Prices for crate motors are very competitive compared to piecing together an engine and having the machine work done separately.
The ability to skip costly machine work by using a new engine can be a considerable savings. You can usually avoid the hassles of dealing with an engine core. Engine rebuilders traditionally want your old core engine, or else they charge you several hundred dollars more. With a crate motor you don't have that problem, although you do need to sell or scrap the original engine.
A remanufactured engine is just that: a used engine that has been thoroughly gone through and fitted with new replacement parts (as needed or as specified). If you're considering a remanufactured engine, be clear on what parts are new versus reconditioned.
Crate motors tend to be the most complete, but even that can vary between companies. A pan-to-carb engine is a term for a complete engine. You can get crate motors with fuel injection and aftermarket kits to adapt the computer parts to a non-computerized truck.
High-performance crate motors are a step up from the standard units. Depending on the level of performance desired, you could get bigger camshafts, higher-compression pistons, modified or aluminum cylinder heads, and large-capacity induction systems. These engines cost more, so be sure you're clear on just what is included. A replacement motor is another term for a factory crate motor. It's a factory-fresh version of the original equipment engine.
The terms engine and motor are pretty much interchangeable. Technically, an engine is a device that burns combustible fuel that is ignited, causing an explosion that converts that force into mechanical energy. A motor is a device that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. A starter is an example of a motor. A battery-powered golf cart has a motor and a gas-powered golf cart has an engine.
Crate motors are tough to beat for anyone wanting a new engine or increased performance. Crate engines are great for novices because the less assembly work needed, the fewer chances for things to go wrong. Cost is always a factor, so it pays to comparison shop.
Noise Pollution Solution
Q: I'm trying to add a little luxury to an '84 Dodge D100 Ram Miser Sweptline pickup. As you might guess from its name, it's a very bare-bones truck. About the only thing in the cab that isn't metal is the bench seat. Besides all the metal surfaces, there's a lot of wind noise coming through the doorjambs and around the windows. The truck is rust-free and runs strong, so I'd like to keep it for a while, but I realize this isn't a great truck to dump a lot of money into. What can I do relatively inexpensively to make it so it doesn't sound like I'm riding around in a tin can?
Ian MacCallum, Champaign, IL
A: There are many options available for making the interior of your truck much quieter. The padding, insulation, and upholstery that are missing from your truck are part of what makes the deluxe models more expensive. You might be able to find a wrecked deluxe-model Dodge pickup and strip the whole interior, including seat, door panels, carpet, headliner, and insulation. Dodge cabs were the same design for so long that you have a wide range of years to choose from. You need a noise barrier between the road, engine, running gear, and so on and the interior of the cab. You also need to block any extraneous openings that let noise and heat/cold into the cab. The more insulation you can add, the quieter it should be.
There are two basic ways to insulate your cab: You can stick stuff to the metal, or you can spray insulating materials on the metal. There are pros and cons to both methods. Spray-on insulation allows you to cover virtually every surface, but it requires more prep work than stick-on insulation. An impressive, relatively new spray-on material is called Cool Car Ceramic, which is a liquid-ceramic insulation and acoustical coating. It can be applied with an undercoating spray gun, a house painting-type sprayer, or a brush. Cool Car Ceramic is a composite product made of air-filled, microscopic ceramic and silicon beads that are held in suspension by resin binders. It is available in white or black.
Since the Cool Car Ceramic won't show, your spraying techniques don't have to be very precise, but any area that you don't want insulated must be taped off. With this spray-on product you can get down inside the door panels where it's difficult to apply stick-on type insulation. The makers of Cool Car Ceramic claim heat reduction in the 10 to 15 degree range and a noise reduction of 10 to 12 decibels when applied according to the directions. Cool Car Ceramic can be obtained by mail order through RB's Obsolete Automotive Inc. [7711 Lake Ballinger Way, Edmonds, WA 98026, (800) 426-6607, www.rbsauto.com].
The adhesive-backed sheets of insulation material are available in a variety of thickness and composition. There are bubble wrap, foam, aluminized, rubber, and tar-like versions. A good place to find these materials and get some expert advice is at a custom automotive stereo shop. Most of these products have an adhesive backing or need to be applied with contact cement.
Once the adhesive touches metal it can be hard to move; that can make installation in tight areas a challenge. Inside doors are particularly tough because of the need to get around the various braces. You want the insulation to cover as much surface area as possible. Any necessary openings should be as small as possible. Areas to receive adhesive-style insulation should be as clean as possible. The cleaner the surface, the better the material will stick. An application of wax and grease remover can be helpful. You can also lightly scuff the metal surfaces with a Scotch-Brite pad.
When you're cutting sections of mat to fit specific areas, be sure to save any scraps. Those little pieces can be used to fill in lots of little nooks and crannies. Large flat expanses of sheetmetal, such as the roof and back of the cab, are natural noise resonators. These areas should be as heavily insulated as possible. Carpet with a good pad is a must for noise and heat insulation. You can cut and fit flat carpet, but the molded factory-style replacement carpeting is far better and easier to install. You should check the condition of your door hinges and latches; they need to fit well to keep out noise. Chances are good that some or all of the weather stripping is in need of replacement.
Vent windows are a frequent source of wind noise. New rubber moldings are the correct way to fix the problem, but a clear vinyl tape will lessen the noise. By applying one of more strips of clear vinyl tape (not common Scotch tape) to the edge of the glass you can take up some of the slack caused by worn weather striping.
Q: I bought a '91 Nissan Pathfinder from a dealership in Southern California. It was an original California vehicle that had all the paperwork to prove it. I live in Aspen, Colorado, but I bought the Pathfinder while visiting relatives in California. The California SUVs seem to be in much better shape than the local ones here in Colorado.
My problem is difficulty with starting. I didn't have any problems when I checked out the Pathfinder at the dealership or when I was driving around Southern California visiting relatives. Then, after I got back home and the weather started getting colder, the truck got harder and harder to start.
I checked things such as the spark plugs and filters and didn't find anything wrong. I buy the same brand of gas in Colorado as I bought when I was in California. Could there be something in the gas that is different in Colorado? I don't know what else could cause a perfectly good-starting engine to suddenly become much more difficult. Can you suggest anything? Thank you.
Jason Fuller, Aspen, CO
A: If your Pathfinder was an original Southern California truck, it most likely has a low-altitude coolant temperature sensor. You need the high-altitude sensor now that you're driving on roads that can be 2 miles higher than the ones your SUV originally traveled. Contact your local Nissan service department for assistance with this problem.
Q: I'm pretty sure I have a leaky power steering pump in my '87 Chevy Silverado Fleetside pickup. There's a definite puddle under that part of the truck when I back out of the garage in the morning. I find that I need to add fluid about once a week. It's starting to squeal just a tiny bit, but not so much that it bothers me. I know I need to replace the pump, but the last time I replaced a power steering pump on an '85 Monte Carlo, it was a giant pain in the you-know-what. Is there any brand of power steering pump stop-leak fluid that works better than others? Is there anything else I can do to buy more time before I either sell the truck or replace the pump?
Ray Thorsted, via e-mail
A: If you have power steering pump leak, it's likely a bad O-ring between the power steering pump housing and its cover or a bad hose. You could replace just the seal, but rebuilding power steering pumps at home isn't done much. It's just easier to buy a remanufactured pump. If you don't want to do the job yourself, bite the bullet and pay a shop to do it. The shop can do it quickly and easily on a hoist. If you suspect a leaking hose, it can be a little tough to figure out exactly where the leak is. Leaks on hoses tend to travel or be in some hard-to-see underside location. If the hose has a low spot, that's where it tends to drip even if the actual leak isn't there. Any indications of swelling or cracked hoses mean they should be replaced ASAP.
As for the cures-in-a-can, they can give you a little relief from squealing, and if they help expand worn seals, they can lessen the leakage. At best these products are a short-term Band-Aid.
Q: I have a late-model Chevy pickup with the 5.3L engine. I am planning to add a mass airflow sensor, an air-induction system, and reprogram it. My question is, are there any long term effects to this engine by doing these things to it?
Jerry Milhime, via e-mail
A: Don't worry. The modifications you propose are painless. The engine will do just fine and you should notice a nice increase in performance. These parts are designed to work as perfectly as possible with these engines. The last thing performance parts manufacturers want is unhappy customers. The changes you're looking at are so common they're virtually default mods for your truck.