The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

I have become addicted to watching engine tear down videos on YouTube. The genre is pretty standard, a guy runs a parting out business, and buys what are called "core" engines. When you have to bit the bullet and replace the engine in your car - usually because the cost to repair is >> than repairing it - the manufacturer will send it out to be repaired, or "remanufactured" to be resold. Same as with common parts like starters and alternators.

Sometimes those cores are not suitable to be remanufactured, so they are sold to these secondary sources, who will strip it down, and sell any usable parts, and then sending the rest to the recyclers (aluminum and steel are bought by weight).

By the time an engine gets to this state, it is usually pretty messed up. There is the reason why it got there (spun bearings, broken rod/piston, bent valve, etc.) and there is the environmental damage of it sitting in a yard, or other environment, Rust, standing water, and other no-bueno situations.

That is the lead in. Sorry to make you read it all.

In the lore of automotive fandom, there are some powerplants that are lauded by owners for their longevity, and reliability. There are also some that are notoriously bad.

In the category of the uber reliable, is the Toyota 22R engine. A notch or two below are the Toyota modern V8's. The 1UR and 4UR models fall into this category. But there are many others, including the venerable Small Block Chevy (SBC) that have transcended into a sublime ether of "awesome".

How to get ther? A combination of solid engineering, well thought out design, and iterative design improvements lead to prior weak points being engineered out, and that leads to engines that have long lives in practice.

When an engine goes bad, there is usually a reason. And that reason is 99% of the time the cause was either operating well outside the design parameters (the "money" shift, and over revving) or poor maintenance. Mediocre powerplants sometimes have design choices that can accelerate problems. Apparently, in the early 2020's, Hyundai 2 liter 4 cylinder powerplants had rod big ends that weren't properly deburred, leading to some catastrophic bearing failures, and a fuck-ton of engines being replaced before ticking up 100K miles (a really bad measure for a modern powerplant.)

Or the VW 2  liter TSI powerplant that has a wimpy cam chain tensioner that fails at a high rate, leading to piston/valve contact when the timing invariably slips. Oops.

Those are serious cases.

But most of the failures are caused by poor maintenance. Failure to change oil at recommended intervals. Or using crappy oil filters. Or the wrong oil. When the manufacturer specs 5w50, and you put in 10w40, you may think it isn't that big of a deal, but modern powerplants, increasingly small-ish 4 cylinder turbocharged engines are hyper tuned to be optimal with the proper weight of quality oils, and deviating from it is no bueno.

The evidence of this mal-maintenance is clear in the teardowns. A lot of varnish build up in the valvetrain is usually the first hint. Then the inevitable sludge in the drain pan. That leads to oil pressure issues, akin to when your coronary arteries become constricted because of blockage.

One egregious case is a Mercedes 3l, v6 turbodiesel that apparently the owner never changed the oil, but just kept adding it.

If you watch that, I swear that you will run out and get your oil changed stat.

The lesson here is that while there are some engines that have design flaws, all too often catastrophic failure is caused by neglect, and poor maintenance.

And for heaven's sake, don't go to jiffy lube. Find a local shop and establish a relationship (shout out to Acura and Honda Connection in San Jose that lovingly took care of my S2000, and will take care of my new Acura RDX once the warranty runs out, they are damn good people, and do fantastic work!)

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