The Expert Guide – What is a Crate Engine?

by | Aug 20, 2018

In the simplest terms, a crate engine is a full and complete engine that is delivered directly to you – on a crate. The objective of a crate engine is to make upgrading as simple as possible by providing a turnkey solution that removes the difficulty of building or rebuilding an engine.

Some aftermarket crate engines will include the block, rotating assembly and heads; while other builders will also include a camshaft, intake and carburetor to make the install even more efficient.

Buying a crate engine built by a professional with integrity can be highly beneficial. When your original engine has failed, crate engines are the quickest way to give your vehicle a new lease on life.

In other cases, people love their vehicle but aren’t satisfied with the performance of their current engine. Custom crate engines give these individuals the opportunity to build their ideal vehicle, with an engine designed specifically to meet their particular goals.
By theory, crate engines are supposed to make our lives easier, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for or what to look out for – you may end up making a costly decision.

Need An Engine? Here Are Your Options

In general, there are four types of engines you will come across during your search – remanufactured engines, rebuilt engines, used engines, and new engines.
  • Remanufactured engines are engines that are rebuilt to the exact specifications of the original. When remanufacturing an engine, a builder will repair some parts, reuse others, and add new parts where needed. Remanufactured engines are tested to original equipment standards.
  • Rebuilt engines on the other hand are only fixed enough to solve the issue that caused it to fail in the first place. Damaged parts are disassembled and worn components are replaced to bring the engine back up to a working standard. Unlike remanufactured engines, rebuilt engines are not tested to original equipment standards
  • Used engines aren’t reconditioned or modified at all. They are simply taken out of one vehicle and offered for sale. While they are typically the cheapest engine replacement option (in terms of up front costs), they are also the most prone to problems and issues.
  • New engines are just that — brand new. All of the parts making up a new crate engine are entirely new, and the engine is built to the customer’s ideal expectations. Buying a new engine by the right builder is the best recommended solution, and is typically cheaper over the long run than every other engine option.

Tips for Buying a Crate Engine

Crate engines can be an awesome investment, but not every crate engine is built the same. There’s a difference between a crate engine built by an experienced team vs. those built by a novice; one built with the perfect parts mix vs. one thrown together with non-compatible parts; and etc.
Make sure you consider these five tips before purchasing a crate engine for your vehicle.

1. Buy It New:

Nobody buys an engine expecting problems, but many buyers who don’t know what to look for often end up with issue after issue. Buyers of new crate engines experience far less problems than those who purchase remanufactured engines. Their engines deliver a far greater performance, a much longer life expectancy, and in most cases, are far cheaper over the long run. Whether for stock or high-performance applications, new crate engines are more reliable and will give you the comfort in knowing that there are no used or refurbished parts in your engine.


2. Know Where Your Parts Come From:

The performance of an engine is a clear representation of the parts used to build it. Some builders choose the cheapest parts possible so they can maximize the amount of profit they make on each engine. A perfect crate engine however, is one built with the perfect parts combination to best meet an individual’s goal. An engine built for noise will have a far different parts mix than one built for horsepower. The parts combination used to build your engine will also determine its overall reliability and life expectancy. Your engine builder should be able to tell you exactly what parts are being used – what brand manufactured each part and where the parts originate from. Some engine builders hope to avoid these questions, advertising their engines as top-quality although they are full of cheap parts from unknown Chinese brands. Many new engine builders even purchase their blocks from overseas, handing over a fragile engine to the consumer that is brittle and likely to crack over time. Make sure that you are able to access a parts list and double check to ensure that the parts listed are actually the ones that end up in your engine!


3. Review Your Builder:

Not every engine builder is a professional, nor does every builder have the experience to build the specific engine that your vehicle requires. Just like in many industries, there are unscrupulous builders out there who amp up their claims but build engines that fail to deliver what the client is looking for. When you buy an engine from a builder, vet them heavily. Ask around – if they’ve built so many great engines in the past, they should be able to provide a few references. Check their ratings with the BBB to see if there have been past complaints against them. A builder’s track record means everything; if their history is full of angry past customers, you will likely be the next one if you hire them to build your engine. On the contrary, trusted builders who have successfully delivered high quality and high performance engines to their customers will often have many positive reviews and a history of exceptional transactions. (View our build process here)


4. Make Sure Custom Means Custom:

A custom engine isn’t just built to your specific request, it’s also built for your specific vehicle. Your new custom crate engine should be a perfect fit to your vehicle’s compartment, but this isn’t always the case. In many cases, buyers find themselves replacing parts to make the engine fit or adding parts that they thought were included but were not. A true custom engine takes every aspect of your goals, aspirations, and your particular vehicle into consideration. Parts are selected both to specifically fit the vehicle and to deliver a final product that far exceeds the performance standards of the buyer.


5. Confirm Your Warranty:

A crate engine can be a major investment, and it is a serious risk to make that type of investment without a clear and reliable warranty. Most engine builders will offer a warranty, but these warranties aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes they are written in such complex language that buyers don’t realize the omission of very important components. Other times, buyers have a clear warranty but when a problem occurs, the builder avoids them and are unwilling to honor the terms of the warranty.


West Coast Engines – The Right Builders

At West Coast Engines, building custom crate engines isn’t just something we do – it’s the only thing we do. Day in and and day out, our team of engine experts work with clients all over the nation to build high performance engines that exceed their expectations.

Why should you buy an engine from West Coast Engines?

  • Expertise: Our team has over 30 years of combined experience and have successfully built hundreds of engines for satisfied customers around the United States. Over the years, we have built all types of engines for all types of cars – no matter what type of vehicle you are working on or what type of goal you hope to meet with a new engine, we have the expertise to get the job done correctly.
  • Customization: As a result of our experience, we know exactly what parts (and from what brands) will ensure a perfect fit for your vehicle. Furthermore, we know what parts are most compatible with other parts, and which work best together to achieve your specific objective. We don’t hide behind cheap parts – we select the best parts for your engine and provide complete transparency so that you know exactly what to expect when your new crate engine arrives.
  • Referral and Recommendation: We create awesome engines, and our customers take notice. Wherever you see West Coast Engines mentioned, you will also see great reviews from customers we have successfully satisfied in the past. Our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau will give you the comfort in knowing that your dream engine can come to life in our hands.
  • Warranty: We stand behind our crate engines with one of the best warranties in the business. In case of any issue, we are quick to honor our commitments – our reputation as the best engine builders in the nation depends on it! Every West Coast Engine is backed by a 5-year/50,000 mile warranty with a life expectancy of up to 500,000 miles.

If you’re ready to upgrade your engine, our experts are available to help you make the right decision. Contact us today to find out how we can help you build the engine you’ve been dreaming about!

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