How to Restore an Old Car Engine

The hardest part of a car to maintain is the engine. It’s also one of the most expensive parts to replace. An entire engine replacement can cost up to $4,000 or about 10-20% the value of the car.

Your best bet in many cases, whether you’re trying to restore power to your old car engine, or working on a classic car, is to try to restore the existing engine yourself. Below, we’ll show you how.

How to Restore an Old Car Engine

For the sake of this guide, we’ll take for granted that your old engine is in decent shape. There aren’t any big broken or missing parts – i.e. cylinder heads, carburetors, pistons, etc – or critical issues. It just needs to be brought up to speed. You can do this by cleaning a few key areas of the engine.

The Fuel System

Old engines often either lose power or stop working altogether due to a build-up of gunk deposits in the fuel system. If the engine can turn over, you’ll want to add a fuel additive cleaner to your gas tank. This will clear those deposits and clean the entire fuel system.

If your engine won’t start yet, you can skip this step for now.

The Fuel Injectors

An engine needs gas and a spark from the spark plugs to ignite and get the engine’s pistons going. If your engine won’t start, it may be due to clogged fuel injectors.

The fuel injectors are the devices through which gas is introduced to the spark and thus firing the engine. Over time, they can get clogged with carbon and other gunk. To clean them, you can purchase a fuel injector cleaning kit from a local auto repair shop and follow its instructions.

Once, you’ve done this you’ll want to see if the engine starts and if does, clean the rest of the fuel system.

The Ignition System

As we’ve mentioned, the spark plug is what provides the spark that ignites the gas and gives the engine its life.

So if you’ve cleaned the fuel injectors and the rest of the fuel system and the engine still won’t start, you’ve probably got faulty leads or spark plugs. The leads are what connects to the spark plugs and provide the electricity for a spark.

On an old engine, it’d be smart to replace both components. They tend to be the first to stop working if an engine sits for too long. Carbon and other deposits collect on the plugs, blocking the space where the spark is supposed to ignite. You can try cleaning them first, but they’re usually cheap enough to buy new and avoid the hassle altogether.

Need More Car Advice?

Once you’ve got your ignition system and your fuel system functioning you should be able to run the engine with no problem. Once the engine is functioning, you’ll be able to further troubleshoot other problems the engine may have.

If you need any more help restoring your old car engine or are looking for other general automotive tips and tricks, check out our car manual archive. Armed with your car’s original service manual, you should be able to restore your car with ease.

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