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What Is A Remanufactured Engine?

Know-How Notes: All About Remanufactured Engine Terminology

In the most unfortunate of circumstances, sometimes it is necessary to completely replace the engine in your vehicle. Regardless of the cause engine damage is often not repairable. And even if it is technically rebuildable, the cost of even a partial rebuild often outweighs that of a remanufactured engine. Sometimes it just makes more sense to buy remanufactured over rebuilding an original. 

Buying a reman engine is a simple process, and either your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store or your local NAPA AutoCare Center can handle the purchase for you. However it is a good idea to understand the terminology that you may hear or read when looking at the options for replacing the engine in your vehicle. This article won’t cover every possible term you might see, but it covers the basics and some of the more advanced terms that you will encounter. 

What Does Remanufactured Mean?Engine, Short Block - New Hi-Perf ATK-SP83

We will start with the first one: remanufactured. This means that the engine has been rebuilt to factory specifications. This is typically done with engines that have been returned as cores (like your old engine will be). Every engine block and cylinder head is tested and checked to ensure that it is a good candidate for rebuilding. Once it is determined to be rebuildable, the damaged components are replaced or reconditioned to meet the factory specifications. Small wear items like pistons, oil pumps, gaskets, and valves are replaced, while large parts such as connecting rods and the crankshaft are typically reconditioned when possible, though not always. If a part is not reusable, it is replaced. 

How you buy your reman engine depends on the level of damage. If the top end parts are reusable, specifically the cylinder heads, then you may be able to purchase just the short block. But if your engine has suffered a catastrophic failure or severe head gasket failure you may need a long block. 

Remanufactured Engine Types

Now that you get the idea of what it means to have an engine remanufactured, let’s take a look at some of the terms you may come across in the process:

  • Short block – This is the basic engine, which includes all of the major components of the engine block. These include the block, crankshaft, rods, and pistons. Most of the time the camshaft bearings are included, but there is usually no camshaft included. All of the extra components are not included. You would reuse those components in most cases.
  • Long block – The long block is a complete internal engine assembly. This means that the engine block has all of the major components installed that are required for it to run, including the oil pump, camshaft, cylinder heads, etc. Sometimes a long block will include the intake, but more often it does not. What is not included are all of the accessories, including the entire belt drive system, distributor/coil packs, sheet metal or “tins” (valve covers, timing cover, etc), or any of the carburetor or fuel injection components.
  • Dressed – The step up from the long block is the dressed engine. This is a long block that has all of the sheet metal or “tins” installed, and often comes with an intake and sometimes includes the ignition components.

Remanufactured Engine Terms

The above terms are the three options for all reman engines regardless of make and model. There are plenty of other terms that you may need to familiarize yourself with when making a complete engine purchase. These are typically make and model specific, and some engines vary by year and trim level of the vehicle for which you are purchasing the engine. You need to verify the exact needs of your vehicle BEFORE buying a remanufactured engine. 

  • 16v, 24v, 32v – How many valves the engine has is often a determining factor for upgraded engine options on certain models.
  • Cyl – Short for cylinder, this is the number of cylinders your engine has, typically 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, or 12. If you are unsure of how many cylinders your engine has, you can usually count the spark plugs.
  • Dip – This is short for dipstick. While every engine has a dipstick for the oil, the location can change, which will determine what iteration of engine you have. It needs to match.
  • DoD/AFM – Similar to VVT, this variant is active fuel management or displacement on demand. These systems deactivate cylinders based on engine demands.
  • DOHC – Dual Overhead Camshaft.
  • Drive (RWD, FWD, AWD) – This is the determination of the drive wheels on your vehicle. RWD is rear wheel drive, FWD is front wheel drive, and AWD is all-wheel drive.
  • H.D. – The standard abbreviation for Heavy Duty.
  • RMS (rear main seal) – This is the type of rear seal. There are one-piece and two-piece seals. This will often be dictated by the accessories you have to reuse, so make sure it matches.
  • Roller Cam – Most camshafts in modern engines are of the roller variety, which uses bearing wheels on the lifters to reduce friction.
  • Size – This is the size of the engine, typically expressed in liters or cubic inches. All modern engines are listed in liters (5.3, 2.6), whereas older vehicles used cubic inches (250, 450, 427).
  • SOHC – Single Overhead Camshaft.
  • Tin – If you need the sheet metal covers, then you need to look for this note on your engine list. “Tin” refers to all of the covers for the engine, even if they are composite plastic. If the engine you are looking at lists this, then it comes with the covers installed.
  • VIN – This is the vehicle identification number. Many times, you need to match a specific number in your VIN to get the correct engine. There will be a corresponding digit following, such as 5th digit VIN “H”.
  • VVT/CVVT – Another variant is variable valve timing, some vehicles offered this as an upgrade or a mid-year change to their vehicles. VVT allows the computer to adjust the timing of the valves on the fly to provide better economy and power.

Your engine’s computer requires the same components it was originally designed for, so make sure you verify what you need. You can’t just grab any engine from the same make and model and expect it all to work. While in some cases that is fine, most modern vehicles have very specific requirements and most vehicles have several powertrain options, so one engine won’t necessarily work with another’s components. This is of critical importance, so make sure you have the details before you order a remanufactured engine. 

Check out all the engine parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information or help on finding the best remanufactured engines for your vehicle, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Jefferson Bryant View All

A life-long gearhead, Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 4 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced.

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