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August 22, 2011 6:28 AM   Subscribe

If oil was vodka, my '05 Pontiac Vibe would be F. Scott Fitzgerald. Should we have the engine rebuilt or replaced? Automotive snowflakiness inside!

I bought an AskMe-favorite Pontiac Vibe last December. We love, love, loved our new Vibe... for about a week, until we discovered that it was eating a metric shit-ton of oil. Evaluations by two separate mechanics confirmed the verdict: the car's valve seals were shot, most likely due to poor maintenance on the part of the previous owner.

Mechanic #1 (an automotive wunderkind) said, "You can just get the top half of the engine rebuilt - it'll be about $1500 and should fix your problem right up!"

Mechanic #2 (our trusted regular mechanic) said, "There ain't no WAY we're rebuilding that engine - half the times we've done that, the BOTTOM half of the engine has blown out within a year. Call [local auto salvage yard] and pay them to put a new engine in it ($2000 - $2500).

We've managed to keep the ailing Vibe rolling for the past nine months (we've gone through a looooot of oil). However, this weekend, its engine started making sewing machine/jackhammer-y noises and shuddering violently when idling (also: stalling every few minutes), so the time is nigh to make a repair decision. What would YOU do, AutoMeFites?... replace the entire engine ($2000 - 2500, plus the cost of a rental car for 1 - 2 weeks) OR have the top half rebuilt (for $1500 or so, plus the cost of a rental car for a week)? Are there generally-accepted practices in this situation?
posted by julthumbscrew to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Too late to make the decision, the decision has been made for you. The "sewing machine" noise is the sound of things that need oil not getting oil, and the jack-hammer noise means something is seriously out of kilter, probably warped bearings. Motor is most likely shot.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:33 AM on August 22, 2011

Given your description of the noises it's making, I'm thinking you may have bottom-end problems now. Sounds like it's time for a new engine.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:34 AM on August 22, 2011

If the rest of the car is in above average shape, I'd replace the engine. See if you can get a Toyota engine (Vibe manufactured by Toyota), rather than a salvage. Or at least check the price.

I also would consider the whole engine shot at this point.
posted by gjc at 6:38 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with your mechanic. Go to the yard and get a whole new engine. I'm not a fan of the engine they put into the Pontiac to begin with, so I might be biased, but the noises indicate that your engine may be on a slippery slope downward.
posted by Yellow at 6:53 AM on August 22, 2011

Thanks, guys... looks like the verdict is unanimous. I will look to replace Vibe-y's engine forthwith.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:07 AM on August 22, 2011

You probably don't want to run this any more unless you're replacing the engine yourself. It's in the process of destroying itself and you'll just be adding the cost of a tow to the bill if you're driving it around when the process is complete.
posted by tommasz at 7:27 AM on August 22, 2011

replace the entire engine ($2000 - 2500, plus the cost of a rental car for 1 - 2 weeks)

Agree that this is the correct response, but seriously, if anyone tells you it takes 1-2 weeks to change an engine? Walk away. It's a day's work at most.
posted by Brockles at 11:13 AM on August 22, 2011

There are numerous sites online that sell used japanese engines from Japan. I have been told that there is some kind of weird tax laws that make it better to change out engines on cars every few years and this makes for a fairly cheap import engine supply for cars in the US. I have only dealt with honda stuff but I bet there is just as much toyota supply as well. I am not familair with what engines fit in which toyota but I have had good luck starting with wikipedia to find the engine type for your car (toyota matrix) than doing a google search for that engine with something like used japan engine honda h22a4 (an example only). You will need to pay freight to get the engine where you need it (unless you are lucky and live next to one of the importers-usually next to a major port like long beach). This is the cheapest way to get a good engine for your car I bet.
posted by bartonlong at 5:02 PM on August 22, 2011

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