What is Engine Swapping and Should You Do It?

Engine swapping has been a fun and important aspect of the automotive technician career. Often seen as a great project for those working on cars. This process isn’t just about enhancing a vehicle’s performance; it’s an intricate auto tech project that tests your skills and technical aptitude. As an automotive mechanic, my journey into engine swap jobs started with a thirst for learning how to swap engines. It’s a difficult task that demands comprehensive knowledge, pushing my limits. But also offering a practical introduction to the breadth of automotive technician services.

For individuals aspiring to reach new heights in their automotive mechanic career. Enrolling in the Automotive Technology program at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) is a pivotal step. This 51-week program immerses students in learning industry skills essential for entering the automotive industry. The technical training received is meticulously designed to ensure they are prepared to tackle diverse projects with a professional finesse that is in high demand.

Embarking on engine swap jobs not only refines your abilities but steers your career towards a niche that’s both rewarding and challenging. It forces a professional to question, adjust, and innovate — essential qualities in the evolving world of automotive technician services. Thus, if you’re pondering whether you should consider a car’s engine swap, remember it’s more than a modification. It’s a testament to a technician’s journey through learning, achieving, and advancing beyond conventional auto tech projects.

What is Engine Swapping?

Embarking on the engine swapping process, which involves replacing an automobile’s original engine with a different one, is often pursued to improve the vehicle’s performance or increase its lifespan—sometimes both. This venture is especially compelling when an older car is off the road because its engine died, and there’s a desire to see it conquer the asphalt again. 

Engaging in this trickiest and time-intensive of jobs can be incredibly rewarding for those who like to tinker under the bonnet. Engine swaps can fall into two main categories. A like-for-like exchange, where the replacement engine is built to fit a specific car, or a non-factory-specific swap that needs modifications to make the new engine fit and function.

 While a like-for-like swap tends to be a simpler task, requiring minimal modification to correctly seat. It’s said that any engine swap carries its risks, emphasizing why the job shouldn’t be attempted without the right equipment, tools, and know-how.

Pros and Cons

Engine Swapping Pros

The allure of engine swapping lies in its distinct benefits, chief among them the ability to extend the longevity of a vehicle. By maintaining an older auto model through an engine swap, one can potentially improve its performance. Such engine replacements adhere to modern performance standards, breathing new life into vehicles’ lifespans without any major updates. 

From a financial perspective, the process of engine swapping can be less expensive than buying a new vehicle, offering not only financial savings but also enhancing its resale value due to better performance. This presents a golden opportunity for individuals with technical aptitude, especially ambitious automotive technicians looking to elevate their craft.

Engine Swapping Cons

On the flip side, engine swaps represent one of the more complex jobs, with the task taking hours and in some cases, even longer. Those considering an engine swap must weigh potential concerns such as the costliness of materials—though still cheaper than a newly purchased vehicle—against its time-consuming nature. The responsibility falls heavily on the technician. With an average time frame of 6 to 8 hours for an experienced technician.

 Specialized engine swap jobs may also necessitate a transmission change, further delaying vehicle servicing and adding to additional service costs. Moreover, there’s the need for vehicle re-registration and adding post-service steps and costs. Not to mention, emissions concerns are paramount; working technicians must recognize the importance of following local emissions regulations, ensuring compliance and safety for all.

Why Would You Consider Swapping an Engine?

Embarking on an engine swap is an alluring adventure for those aiming to improve performance or revive a classic car. Swapping an engine, especially to one with bigger capacity or designed for higher performance, is not just about achieving improved efficiency; it’s about the thrill of driving a rejuvenated machine. 

Whether it’s a small, light car that was originally designed with modesty in mind or a classic car you’re looking to bring back to life, the right type of engine can transform the power, output, and torque, making every ride an exhilarating experience. However, this exciting journey often comes with its hurdles—fear of your older car failing due to a shortage of replacement parts, or those parts being prohibitively expensive. 

In these cases, a full engine swap emerges as the next best option. Whether you’re a trained mechanic or a driveway enthusiast, taking on this ultimate challenge promises not just fun, but a sense of achievement. Fixing and maintaining cars becomes more than a job; it’s about seeing your next big project come to life under the bonnet.

How to Swap an Engine

Swapping engines may seem like a walk in the park to some, but it truly is an invigorating task that tests the limit of a technician’s skills. The difficulty and responsibility involved in ensuring a smooth transition from an old engine to a new powerhouse cannot be understated. To improve this process, adopting basic engine swapping practices makes the task easier. Through automotive mechanic courses, like those offered at UTI, students enrolled in the Automotive program gain hands-on experience with engine systems, parts, and machinery in a controlled environment of automotive technology classrooms and labs.


When it comes to engine wiring, its role in maintaining the power sourcing and ensuring that the radio, taillights, and other vehicle parts are powered and run smoothly is critical. A deep understanding of wiring systems and components is fundamental for auto mechanics to connect the new engine properly. Ensuring basic operation and maintaining communication between various vehicle parts.


Mounting the engine ensures it is securely installed to absorb shock and impact, keeping the vehicle running smoothly post-engine swap. Often, the manufacturer’s original mounting points may require modification or fabrication work to properly couch and connect the new engine. Demanding a high level of precision and creativity from the mechanic.

Linking Gears and Drivetrain

Linking Gears and Drivetrain is as crucial as the initial mounting—ensuring the engine replacements are securely installed to absorb shock and impact. Whether you’re working on a like-for-like replacement or adapting a new engine from a different manufacturer. Modification and fabrication work are vital to properly connect the gears and drivetrain. Maintaining the harmony and efficiency of the vehicle.

Cooling Systems

Maintaining the engine’s operating temperature is essential to filter out excess heat and prevent the vehicle from overheating. Automotive mechanics must ensure the engine replacements are compatible with the vehicle’s cooling systems or else modify them to fit. Thus keeping the engines within optimal operating temperatures and ensuring safety and longevity of the serviced vehicles.

Through my personal experience and the expertise. I’ve garnered in the field, it’s evident that each step, from wiring to ensuring compatible cooling systems, plays a pivotal role in the success of an engine swap. The journey from a novice to a proficient technician is filled with challenges, but with patience, accuracy, and continual learning. The task of engine swapping transforms from a daunting challenge to an achievable milestone. Reflecting the culmination of well-developed skills and hours of practice.

Feasibility of Engine Swap

Embarking on an engine swap journey melds the excitement of enhancing car performance with the intricate challenge of mechanical troubleshooting. Turning it into an adventure that appeals to both experienced mechanics and enthusiastic DIYers. 

It’s a quest driven by the desire to revive a classic car or boost a modern vehicle’s power. Requiring not just a deep dive into forums and Facebook groups for guidance but also a meticulous search for reliable parts from vendors like Retroford. 

This process, filled with trial, error, and the joy of hands-on work, goes beyond the technicalities of fitting a new engine—it’s about steering a beloved car into a new life. Marrying the thrill of driving with the satisfaction of overcoming the daunting yet rewarding hurdles of maintenance, planning, and execution.

Tools for Engine Swapping

  • Engine Swap Process: A challenging yet rewarding task that involves removing an old engine from a vehicle and replacing it with a different one to improve performance, efficiency, or both.
  • Tools Necessity: Essential for a successful engine swap, highlighting the importance of having a comprehensive toolkit comprising ratchets, sockets, screwdrivers, wrenches, breaker bars, and pliers, each serving specific roles in the swap process.
  • Material and Price Variation: Tools differ in price and are made from various materials; some are also better suited for specialized jobs, emphasizing the need for research to select the right tools for the task at hand.
  • UTI’s Automotive Mechanic School: Offers a unique advantage to students nearing graduation with the Career Starter Tool Set Voucher, enabling them to overcome financial barriers to obtaining high-quality, professional-grade, Snap-on® tools at a lower cost.
  • Significance of Right Tools: Underlines how crucial proper tools are for executing an error-free engine swap, suggesting that with the right tools. The daunting process becomes significantly more manageable, leading to a successful completion of the project.

Engine Swap Checklist: What You Need to Consider When Swapping an Engine

Embarking on an engine swap journey is not merely about dropping a more powerful engine into an old chassis like my trusty old Mazda MX-5; it’s an intricate dance of matching the right juice with the right car. My toolkit was not just a welder and toolbox stocked with skill and patience but also a thorough understanding that the benefit of a newer. More powerful engine needs to harmonize with the low weight, sport-style brakes, and suspension of the receiving vessel. Imagine trying to fit a high-performance engine into a Nissan Micra—compatibility is key.

Start with the Right Car

The quest begins with considering if your vehicle is a worthy candidate for swapping. It’s not merely about the desire for enhanced performance; it’s assessing whether the structural and technical facets of your car will benefit from such a significant change.

Choose the Right Engine

Next, research plays a pivotal role. Diving into blogs, online forums, and manufacturer-specific resources was more than a pastime; it was essential in making an informed decision. Settling on an appropriate engine is a story of compatibility, expertise, and sometimes, intuition.

Mounting and Fabrication

Mounting a new heart into the body of an old soul is where things get tricky. The right engine might not always mean a like-for-like engine swap; it often involves modifications and fabrication to connect everything from the axle to the drivetrain. This step proves challenging even for the most skilled home DIYers.

Drivetrain and Gear Linkage

With the engine mounted, the complex ballet of connecting the drivetrain to the gears begins. Precision is paramount, as any mistakes can cause a domino effect, jeopardizing the whole project. Solutions often involve custom shafts and fabrications. Tailored to bridge the new engine to the car’s existing front- or rear-wheel drive system.

Fuel and Cooling Systems

Lastly, ensuring the new engine unit is compatible with the cooling system and fuel assembly meant delving into research yet again. These are two of the biggest areas where you must decide whether to retain. The original parts like the radiator and fuel tank or replace them – each option with its own set of challenges and costs. Custom hoses and fuel lines became my friends in making sure the new heart of my Mazda beat in sync with its body.

Each step of this journey, from the choice of car to the final touches on the fuel and cooling systems, reinforced the essence of engine swapping. It’s a mix of art, science, and a bit of magic.


In conclusion, the allure of engine swapping represents more than just a mere enhancement of a vehicle’s performance; it embodies a deep dive into the heart of automotive craftsmanship. From my personal journey starting with a fervent ambition to master engine swaps to the nuanced technicalities involved in ensuring a seamless integration of a new engine into an old framework. Every step has been a testament to the blend of artistry and precision required in the automotive technician’s career. 

Programs like the Automotive Technology program at UTI lay a solid foundation. Equipping aspiring mechanics with the comprehensive skills and technical aptitude necessary to navigate the intricate landscape of engine swapping. Whether it’s the thrill of boosting a car’s performance. The satisfaction of extending its lifespan, or the financial benefits. The engine swap process reflects an essential aspect of automotive maintenance that pushes boundaries and fosters innovation. 

It challenges technicians to question, adjust, and innovate, ultimately steering their career towards a niche filled with endless possibilities and profound satisfaction. Therefore, embarking on an engine swap is not merely a project; it’s a journey of continuous learning, achievement, and the relentless pursuit of excellence in the ever-evolving field of automotive technology.


Should I do an engine swap?

Engine swaps can potentially improve:

  • Older auto models’ performance, since engine replacements help them better adhere to modern performance standards.
  • Vehicles’ lifespans, even with no major updates otherwise.
  • Financial savings, because engine swapping is usually less expensive than buying a new vehicle.

Is a swapped engine bad?

If you’re buying a used car, seeing a vehicle with an engine replacement can raise a red flag. However, the work may be beneficial — such as if the replacement was under warranty to repair a defect present in some cars. But sometimes, an engine may be replaced because of damage from a flood, fire, or accident.

Is it better to rebuild or swap engines?

A rebuild can maintain the vehicle’s original value, whereas a replacement, particularly with a used engine, may diminish it. Ultimately, the decision should be based on a balance of cost, time, vehicle condition, and the potential impact on value.

Is it legal to engine swap?

All vehicles with engine changes must pass an initial inspection at a Referee Center and must have a BAR Referee label affixed to the vehicle inside the engine compartment. After the initial Referee inspection, future Smog Check inspections can be obtained at a regular Smog Check station.

Why do people swap engines?

This is usually done either because of failure or to install a different engine. Usually one that is bigger and better to make your car more powerful and or economical. Sometimes older engines may have a shortage of spare parts so that a modern replacement may be more easily and cheaply maintained.

Can a beginner do an engine swap?

A lot of these jobs were done by people used to handling tools. No. If you don’t know what you’re doing then you’d better not attempt. An engine swap but if you know the difference between your ass and a hole in the ground then it’s pretty simple, assuming you’ve got the right tools for the job.