During my 50 years as an ASE and General Motors Master Technician, vocational educator and homeowner, I rebuilt or reconditioned thousands of automotive parts and components, as well as washing machine motors and dishwasher pumps. However, I never remanufactured anything (remanufacturing is done under controlled, pristine conditions not on a workbench in a repair shop and restores a product to “as new” condition).

Installing rebuilt parts such as alternators, starter motors and water pumps are DIY repairs that take the strain off your wallet. However, replacing an engine or transmission are best left to the pros.

Ahead, you’ll get information from experienced engine remanufacturers, highly skilled engine machinists, automotive technicians and others who can help you decide which option is best for you.

Why Do Car Parts Wear Out?

Car parts wear out from normal wear and tear caused by friction, age, weather conditions, and driving habits. But lack of basic maintenance and ignoring the signs (fluid leaks, noises, and vibrations) causes parts to wear and fail prematurely. Performing basic DIY maintenance reduces wear on your vehicle’s components, extending their lifespans.

What Does Rebuilding Mean?

Rebuilt parts have been disassembled, cleaned, and measured for wear. Any broken parts are replaced with new or reconditioned ones, however, parts that are still within the manufacturer’s specs are reused. While some rebuilding still occurs inside repair shops or specialty rebuilding shops, aftermarket rebuilders are the main suppliers of rebuilt parts.

How much does it cost to rebuild auto parts?

How much it costs to rebuild auto parts depends on the part, make, model, year and what needs replacing. For example, rebuilding a four-cylinder engine will cost much less than a V-8. Some rebuilders will rebuild your part if the part you need is unavailable. This option is perfect for classic cars where all stamped parts (engine, transmission) match the vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), increasing the vehicle’s value.

How long do rebuilt parts last?

Again, how long a rebuilt auto part lasts varies remember, lack of basic maintenance shortens the life of car parts. Rebuilt parts from a major rebuilder can last as long as, or longer, than a new part. For example, a rebuilt water pump at a major parts supplier comes with a two-year warranty. Consequently, the same water pump new from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) only comes with a one-year warranty and can cost twice as much.

Most common rebuilt parts (water pumps, alternators, starter motors, CV axles/half-shaft/drive axles and brake calipers) come with new bearings, brushes, seals, gaskets, or O-rings, and are tested to meet the OEM’s specs.

Rebuilding Pros & Cons

Rebuilding auto parts has benefits, but there are some caveats to be aware of.

Pros

Less expensive than a new partTested for proper operation, leaks, noise, vibrations and fitmentReputable rebuilders offer warranties as high as three years (including parts and labor)

Cons

Quality issuesMixing new and old parts can affect performance and reduce part longevityMay not be an exact fitIn-shop warranties can be as low as 30 days, and may only apply to the part itself (in other words, if the part fails, you’re on the hook for the labor to replace it).

What Does Reconditioning Mean?

A reconditioned part is repaired to improve its operation and functionality. Because not all damaged or worn components are replaced, reconditioning parts may not meet the OEM’s original specifications.

How much does it cost to recondition auto parts?

Reconditioning is the least pricey of the three options here. For example, reconditioning an alternator usually includes replacing the commutator brushes, internal diodes and voltage regulator. Other electrical parts are checked for continuity, opens and resistance, but bearings, armature and stator are only cleaned and reinstalled.

How long do reconditioned parts last?

Reconditioned parts have the shortest lifespan. As Kelly Petry, from Jasper Engines and Transmissions, stated, reconditioning just “fixes what is needed to get back on the road.”

Reconditioning Pros & Cons

Pros

Most cost-effectiveCan be the quickest way to get back on the road

Cons

Reconditioning inside a repair shop can affect quality issuesMixing new and worn parts reduces overall performance, functionality and part durabilityWarranties as low as 30 days/parts only

What Does Remanufacturing Mean?

Remanufactured parts have been restored to meet or exceed new OEM part specifications. Assemblies are entirely stripped down, thoroughly cleaned, measured and inspected, while all wear components are replaced or repaired. For example, remanufactured starter motors or alternators will have the original armatures checked for runout (straightness), rewound (replacing and insulating the wire coils and field windings) and rebalanced.

To achieve a reliable, long-lasting seal, engine remanufactures refinish (mill) all engine gasket and mating surfaces to remove imperfections, explained Marco D’Amore, senior engine machinist at Lorenzo’s Fast Flow Cylinder. “Cylinder blocks and heads are ‘decked’ (machined) if an engine shows signs of a blown head gasket,” said D’Amore.

According to Petry, remanufactured engines use “reground and rebalanced crankshafts and fully reconditioned cylinder heads.” He added that to ensure reliability and durability, remanufactured parts “endure rigorous testing and extensive quality control.” This allows remanufacturers to offer warranties equivalent to or longer than those of a new part.

How much does it cost to remanufacture auto parts?

It depends on the part and the remanufacturer, but will be the most costly. For example, a remanufactured 350 cu. in. small block Chevrolet gasoline engine can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000, plus “core” (returning the old part) charges.

How long do remanufactured parts last?

With proper maintenance, remanufactured parts (including big-ticket items such as engines, automatic and manual transmissions, transfer cases, and differentials) should last as long as or longer than the original OEM part. Additionally, using warranted remanufactured parts can increase the value of your vehicle.

Remanufacturing Pros & Cons

Pros

Direct fitReplacement parts meet updated OEM specificationsExcellent two to three-year and up to 100,000-mile warrantiesPeace of mind that you’re installing a quality part that has undergone extensive testing

Cons

Most expensive optionUpfront core deposits are non-refundable if your old part is damaged and unusableIncludes reconditioned or repaired parts

Rebuilding, Reconditioning, and Remanufacturing Auto Part Tips

In my experience, I have found replacing related parts and servicing the replacement part’s system increases your auto life expectancy. For example, when replacing the water pump, I recommend checking all hoses, flushing the coolant system, replacing the thermostat and adding new coolant. Additionally:

When replacing an engine, alternator, water pump, power steering pump or any other belt-driven component, also replace the serpentine belt and belt tensioner .When replacing any electrical part to eliminate voltage drops or spikes, also secure, tighten, clean, install or replace ground straps and cables and clean and service the battery and battery terminals.During any automatic transmission repair, also flush or replace the automatic transmission fluid cooler.During a major engine repair, flush or replace the engine oil cooler, install a new water pump, change all filters, fluids and the thermostat, and check all hoses.When replacing parts in these systems, flush the power steering and brake fluids.

FAQs

Does installing rebuilt or remanufactured parts affect insurance costs?

No, installing rebuilt to remanufactured parts does not impact insurance. According to Greg Englebreth, of State Farm Gregg Englebreth Insurance Agency Inc., installing these parts actually helps keep insurance costs down, especially if installed as part of an insurance claim. In fact, when State Farm directs a repair shop to use the “Most Cost Effective” part (not least expensive), they warranty the part even if it’s used from a salvage yard for the vehicle’s life.

What is the difference between salvage and reconstructed/rebuilt titles?

Salvage titles (or certificates) designate a vehicle as a total loss (repair cost exceeds the market value) by an insurance company and are not permitted on public roads. Once reconstructed, the vehicle must receive a comprehensive inspection and be judged roadworthy to become eligible, depending on your state, for a reconstructed/rebuilt title.

Are reconstructed/rebuilt titles bad?

The answer to whether reconstructed or rebuilt titles are bad is yes and no. According to Kelly Blue Book, rebuilt or reconstructed titles decrease a vehicle’s value by 20 to 40 percent. However, if you plan to keep the vehicle for a few years, over time, a DIY restoration of a “total” loss vehicle will easily save you several thousands of dollars compared to purchasing a new vehicle.

Can you turn a reconstructed/rebuilt title into a clean title?

In my home state of Pennsylvania, converting a reconstructed/rebuilt title into a clean title is illegal. Check with your state’s DMV to verify their laws concerning salvaged, reconstructed/rebuilt titles.

Does a reconstructed/rebuilt title affect insurance?

Yes. The value of a vehicle having a reconstructed/rebuilt title can be significantly less after repairs are complete (called diminished value). On the flip side, any claim would result in a much lower insurance payment.

About the Experts

Kelly Petry has over 20 years experience in the automotive repair industry, and currently handles engine and transmission technical support for Jasper Engines and Transmissions.

Marco D’Amore, has over 25 years of experience as an engine machinist and as the lead cylinder head reconditioner at Lorenzo’s Fast Flow Cylinder Head in Langhorne, PA., is considered an expert engine rebuilder.

Greg Englebreth, ChFC, CLU, has well over 25 years in the insurance industry and is the principal of Gregg Englebreth Insurance Agency Inc. located in Phila., PA.

Sources

Interviewed sources:

John Stella has been in the auto service industry for over 30 years, first as an ASE and Oldsmobile certified technician. John traded in his wrenches to become senior bodyshop estimator at Faulkner Collision located in Phila., PA.

Joe Simes is an ASE and Toyota Master Technician, PA certified emissions and safety inspection instructor and inspector and a Pennsylvania Department of Education certified automotive technology instructor at North Montco Technical Career Center in Lansdale, PA.

Other sources

Kelly Blue Book: “My car has a salvage title. How does that affect the value?” (2024)Pennsylvania Department of Transportation: Fact Sheet “Application for Certificate of Title” and Fact Sheet “Reconstructed Vehicle Titling Procedure.” (2024)Forbes: “Diminished Value Claims Explained” (2023)Hemmings Motor News: Car Culture, Matching Numbers? (2018)Read More