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Engine swap

Warning: in some jurisdictions with strict "smog" rules it may not be possible to register a late-model vehicle with an engine swap, even if it can be proven that it produces less pollution than the original engine (owing to "visual inspection" rules).
An engine swap is the process of removing a car's engine and replacing it with another. This is done either because of failure, or to install a different engine, usually one that is more powerful or more modern and maintainable.

While one can work wonders with engine tuning to achieve greater power, the same techniques applied to a better engine are unlikely to be much more expensive and may be much more rewarding.

An engine swap can either be to another engine intended to work in the car by the manufacturer, or one totally different. The former is much simpler than the latter. Fitting an engine into a car that was never intended to accept it may require much work – modifying the car to fit the engine, modifying the engine to fit the car, and building custom engine mounts and transmission bellhousing adaptors to interface them along with a custom built driveshaft.

A common anecdote among tuners is that the easiest way to make a car faster is to drop in a small block Chevrolet engine as used in the Corvette . Chevrolet engines have been used in such cars as Toyota Supras, BMWs, RX-7s, Mazda Miatas, Jaguar sedans, Datsun 240, 260 and 280Z's, Chevrolet Corvairs, and others. Other popular engine swaps are a Porsche engine in a VW Beetle, a turbo Subaru engine into an older Porsche 914, or a turbocharged engine from a Saab 900 into a Saab 99 or BMW. The low weight Suzuki Swift GTI engine mated to the Suzuki Samurai gearbox is a popular choice for smaller, British sportscars. The engine mount and gearbox connection similarities make the Ford Taunus V4 engine to Ford Cologne V6 engine a popular swap.

In the world of sport compact enthusiasts, engine swaps are common with Nissans. A stock Nissan 240SX produces 155 hp (116 kW) with its torquey KA24DE 160 hp (119 kW) engine. Swapped out with a Japanese turbo SR20DET, a Nissan 240SX will produce over 200 hp right out of the box. Mild modifications can increase power to a range of 250 hp to 300 hp (190 to 220 kW). Another common engine for swapping is the RB26DETT found in the Nissan Skyline GT-R. It produces 280 hp (210 kW) out of the box, and can be easily modified to produce higher powers.

As the price for turbocharged Subarus (such as the WRX) comes down, the popularity of turbo engine swaps into non turbo Subarus has gone up. The Subaru turbo 4-cylinder engine takes especially well to Porsche 914's, and also VW bugs and busses.

In the Honda world, popular engine swaps include the Civic Si (B16A), Integra GSR(B18C), and the Integra Type R (B18C5) engines. Swapping them into an lightweight 88-00 Honda Civic chassis can achieve greater performance.

Chrysler made many turbocharged vehicles in the 1980s, and these engines share much in common with their naturally-aspirated brothers. It is quite common to obtain an engine from a vehicle such as a Dodge Daytona and swap it into such an unassuming-looking vehicle as a Dodge Aries.

Engine swaps are also somewhat common within the Volkswagen tuning scene, often placing Mark III and Mark IV engines such as the VR6 and 1.8 T into the Mark II GTI, Jetta and Volkswagen Corrado. Less common is the swap into a Mark 1 Golf or Cabriolet, giving an amazing power to weight ratio, even with minimally modified powerplants.

In the Super GT racing series, engine swaps can be considered a way of life for the upper tier GT500 cars, most of which are provided with specially modified racing engines from the manufacturers. GT500 class rules themselves allow for any engine to be swapped into a car as long as it is from the same manufacturer. Notable examples include Toyota swapping in highly tuned 4-cylinder engines originally from the Toyota Celica into their Toyota Supra GT500 race cars.

British sports cars (such as MGs and Triumphs) from the late 1960s and early 70's were attractive light-weight cars that had excellent suspensions, but were known for troublesome electrical systems, barely adequate power levels and unreliability. It is popular to take one of these classic sports cars and add a more powerful engine. The all-aluminum Buick and Oldsmobile 215 (3.5L) V8 engines are a traditional choice for these cars. Swapping an MGB all-iron 1.8L 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed transmission for a Buick 215 V8 and a modern 5-speed transmission actually improves both cornering and acceleration because it reduces the overall weight of the car by about 40 pounds. Power is approximately doubled. Derivatives of that classic General Motors engine, the Rover 3.5L, 3.9L and 4.2L V8's are also often used. Although more recent narrow sixty-degree Ford and GM V6 engines are more compact, they usually don't equal the Rover engine's power-to-weight ratio. They can, however, be very cost effective and an easier fit, notably the Chevrolet 3.4L. The cast-iron-block Ford 302 (5.0L) V8 in particular results in spectacular power to weight ratios for straight-line acceleration. With aluminum heads, intake, and water pump fitted, the Ford 302 only adds about 40 pounds (18 kg) to the front of an MGB, and is substantially more powerful and lighter weight than an MGC or Triumph TR6 iron-block six-cylinder engine. An aluminum 302 performance block is available that weighs 60 lb (27 kg) less than the common iron version, as is displacements of 331 and 347 ci, but they are significantly more expensive. The Nissan SR20DET is an all-aluminum fuel-injected DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder. This compact engine, along with the very compact Mazda "13B" rotary engine, have both been transplanted into too many different cars to list.

Common engine swaps

Note: These are the most common examples and are not an exhaustive list, just a representative cross section.

Engine Common swaps Notes
Small block Chevrolet Hot Rods, Pontiac Fiero, S-10, Large sports cars such as the Austin-Healey, kit cars, light aircraft (later engines from the LS1 onward) The most commonly swapped engine ever.
Ford Windsor engine Commonly swapped into Hot Rods, Ford Mustangs and other pony cars, kit cars
Ford Modular engine Commonly swapped into Hot Rods, Ford Mustangs and other pony cars, kit cars
Subaru EJ engine VW Type 1, VW Type 2, VW Type 3 Light aircraft, kit cars, dune buggies, Trikes. Adaptors available off the shelf
Fiat twin cam engine Morris Minor (until 1990's), Hot Rods, kit cars. Now supplanted by the lighter Rover K series in Morris Minors
Rover V8 Hot Rods, kit cars, British Sports cars, light aircraft Weighs less than most four cylinder engines
Rover K-series engine Hot Rods based on the Morris Minor, Sprite, MG Midget, Caterham 7's and other kit cars, Austin Mini (1959-2001) Needs Ford Type 9 transmission for rear wheel drive conversions
Honda B engine Honda Civic, Austin Mini (1959-2001), mid engined kit cars Not suitable for inline RWD layouts, because engine turns counter clockwise (Chevy Corvair flat six turns the same way).
Ford Zetec Hot Rods including most older Fords, such as the Ford Cortina, Ford Escort, Ford Anglia and also Kit cars Needs Ford type 9 transmission in RWD layout, which bolt straight up.
Porsche flat 6 engine VW type 1, VW Type 2, VW Type 3, light aircraft, trikes Needs sheet metal in engine bay removed and can be tail heavy.
Ford Cologne engine Hot Rods, Saab 96, kit cars, other RWD Fords. Makes Saab nose heavy
GM Duramax Diesel Pick ups, Rolls Royce Saloons (Often done for torque and economy) Can use TH-400 automatic transmission
Suzuki G engine MG Midget, Sprite, Austin Mini, Morris Minor, light aircraft Needs Suzuki Swift transaxle in the Austin Mini, but bolts up to Suzuki truck/jeep five-speed for RWD cars (Transfer box is separate).
Mazda Wankel engine VW Type 1, VW Type 3, MG Midget, Sprite, light aircraft, Lotus 7 style kit cars, hot rods Very light and compact, suiting a wide number of small RWD cars.
Chevrolet Corvair engine VW Type 1, VW Type 2, Karmann Ghia, light aircraft, dune buggies Not suitable for inline RWD layouts, because engine turns counter clockwise, like Honda.

California Emission Laws In Regards To Engine Swap.

The Referees reportedly are VERY astute.

1. The engine must be from the same year or newer vehicle. For example, if the car is a 1999 Civic, the engine must be from a 1999 or newer car. You can use JDM engine but they are known to fail the emission part of the test due to high levels of NOX. Any engine swap (unless it is the identical engine as was supplied by the factory) will require a referee visit. So, putting a 5.0L Ford V8 from another Mustang into a V6 Mustang will still require a visit to the BAR referee.

2. The engine can be larger than the original, but it cannot be from a heavy-duty vehicle, unless the vehicle was equipped with one from the factory. The engine must be from the same family of vehicles, ie cars to cars, trucks to trucks etc. The family cut off for car's family is 1 ton trucks. Thus, a 3/4 ton truck engine can be installed into a Yugo etc. You cannot install a Yugo engine into a Ford F350 truck. CA smog testing requirements end at 1974 and older, so if you have a 1975 car, you need to smog test it. There is no longer a rolling 30 year exemption....it is frozen at 1974. All the above engine change information technically applies to vehicles from 1900 to 1974 also.......however....not having to smog test them biennially

3. The engine and chassis must have all of their original emissions components in place and functioning properly. The engine must be from the same year or newer and have ALL the emissions equipment which was originally supplied with the donor engine from the factory. If the donor engine is computer controlled (OBDI or OBDII), the diagnostic port and SES light must be installed and operate properly. This means that if the donor vehicle had fuel tank with pressure sensor and vapor solenoid etc, etc, then the fuel tank from the donor needs to be installed also. The PCM cannot be reprogrammed to delete DTC, and the PCM cannot be throwing DTC (SES light illuminated). However, mixing and matching emissions parts from different vehicles is generally not allowed. As such it's up to the referee to decide what needs to be there. A quick way to see what you need there is to look at the sticker under the hood. It will list all the emissions equipment that came on the car. You can use a JDM engines as long as it passes US emission standard or California emission depending on the state you register it in. JDM in general put out more NOX than the US counterpart.

4. A federally certified engine cannot be used in a vehicle that was originally equipped with a California certified engine.

Keep mind that you have to pass two parts; the inspection and certification.

Inspection with the referee determines if the technically required parts are there and the installation will function as originally intended. This allows configuration differences as long as what needs to be there is there somewhere and functions.

Passing the referee, then you have to go to a testing station show them the referee's paperwork, then pass the certification test.

The basic intent of the California engine change laws is that when you do an engine swap, the new engine/transmission cannot pollute more than the original engine/transmission. This means the newly installed engine must be the same year (or newer) as the vehicle, and all emissions controls on the newly installed engine must be installed and functional. Also, you can't put a heavy-duty truck engine (over 6000 lb GVW) into an S-10 Truck because heavy-duty truck engines have less stringent emissions limits than light duty trucks.

To get your engine swap approved, you must go to a Referee Station. The Referee Inspection is less than $40, and it is a benefit for people who do smog-legal engine changes because the engine change can be approved on a visual inspection, current smog laws, and common sense.

The Referee Station will visually inspect the vehicle and engine/transmission for all the proper smog equipment, and inspect the engine to be sure it is the same year (or newer) as the vehicle. If all is there, they will put an "Engine Identification"tag in the door jamb. The "Engine Identification"tag is not mentioned on any registration papers or ownership papers. It is only on the vehicle.

If your vehicle does not pass the visual inspection, and you feel it should, you can have the Referee Inspector call the engineering office for a ruling. If the engineering office fails your vehicle and you think it should pass, you can always run it through the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for a full Federal Test Procedure (FTD), but that can cost you several thousand dollars, and your vehicle may still fail. Remember, the Referee Inspection program is a benefit for people who do engine swaps.

The California smog laws on engine swaps (or engine changes) are consistent with common sense, safety, and emissions reduction.

The EPA recognizes California smog laws as being applicable across the nation. That is, if it is legal in California, then according to the EPA, it is legal in all other states. While some states do not yet necessarily agree with this, it is likely that most states will come around to the California way. Other states with pollution problems will likely be adopting the California smog laws because there has been a tremendous amount of time and money invested in making the California smog laws reasonable, consistent, and effective for pollution reduction. It is far cheaper for other state governments to adopt the California laws rather than come up with their own laws. When the smog laws are consistent across the nation, there will be far less confusion for all involved.

THE INSPECTION PROCEDURE
Let's assume you have done a California smog-legal engine change to your vehicle. You have installed an engine that is the same year (or newer) as your vehicle, with all of the required smog equipment and controls for both the engine and transmission. The chassis has the correct emissions controls: Catalytic converter, charcoal canister, and fuel filler restrictor (if required). Your next step is to visit a "referee station."

The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) can get you the phone number required to make an appointment with the referee station. When you call to make the appointment, the person on the phone will ask you why you need to go to the referee station. Your answer will be, "Engine change."If you say, "Engine swap"or "V8 conversion," the person on the phone may not know what you are talking about, so please, just say "engine change."

Next, the person will ask for your name, address, and the vehicle's license number. You will then get an appointment date, which can range anywhere from the very next day, to five weeks away. Some areas have appointments on Saturdays if that is more convenient for you. Within a few days, you will receive a postcard in the mail confirming your appointment date, and it will tell you to bring the vehicle's registration papers and any other smog-related paperwork that you may have.

When you arrive at the referee station, be polite, be honest, and be patient. The inspectors rarely see engine swaps. They usually see stock vehicles that have failed the smog inspection. The inspectors are a lot like police officers—they are highly trained, and the public only sees them when there is a problem. Remember, it is their job to make sure your vehicle is smog legal. For all they know, you could be an undercover inspector, so don't expect the inspector to let anything slide, because his job may be at stake.

The inspectors have a general training in smog inspection, and will not necessarily be an expert on the type of engine in your car. They see Volkswagens, Fords, Chryslers, Datsuns, Toyotas, Mercedes, and Chevrolets — just about everything ever built, so they cannot be expected to be an expert on every vehicle's smog equipment.

The inspection takes anywhere from 30 minutes to over one hour, depending on the inspector and the type of "engine change."Some inspectors will want to be left alone with your vehicle, others may ask for your assistance in locating devices such as the charcoal canister, vehicle speed sensor, or the wiring for the lock-up torque converter. The inspector will check ignition timing and EGR operation.

If your vehicle passes the visual inspection, a sticker will be placed in the door jamb or engine compartment.

If your vehicle does not pass the visual inspection, you will be given a form explaining what your vehicle will need to pass the inspection. You will need to correct the problem(s) listed on the form and make another appointment with the referee station.

After the visual inspection, the vehicle will be given the tailpipe (or sniffer) test. The tailpipe test is quite lenient. If your vehicle cannot pass the tailpipe test, something is wrong, or your engine has been modified a lot. Generally, a vehicle's tail pipe emissions will be about 1/3 of the allowable standards if it is running decently.

If your vehicle passes the visual inspection and the tail pipe test, you will get the smog inspection certificate ($7 fee) so that you can register your vehicle. The certificate has no indication of the "engine change,"and is the same type of certificate that "normal" vehicles receive for passing the inspection.

The sticker in the door jamb (below) allows the car to be subsequently tested at any smog inspection station. It gives the following information on what smog equipment the vehicle requires.

This door jamb sticker allows the car to be subsequently tested at any smog inspection station.

Explanation of Sticker Contents:


VIN No. Serial number of the vehicle TAC Thermostatic Air Cleaner
YR. Year of the engine (not the vehicle)
AIS Air Injection System
SIZE Engine size
EVP Evaporative Controls (charcoal canister)
MFG Manufacturer of the engine
FR Fuel Filler Restrictor (unleaded gas)
F/C Federal/California smog requirements
OC Oxidizing Catalytic Converter
M/A Manual/Automatic transmission
TWC Three-Way Catalytic Converter SITE Where the car was inspected
EGR Exhaust Gas Recirculation
B/A Before/After. If the engine was installed before March of 1984, it may not need any smog controls SPK Spark (distributor) controls
COM Computer NOX NOx Emission Controls
C/I Carburetor/Injection
PCV Positive Crankcase Ventilation OTH Other smog controls

BUY THE BOOK For the best information on smog laws in California, go to your local Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) office, and purchase the Smog Check Inspection Manual. To find one near you, look in the phone book in the "State Government Offices" section, under "Automotive Repair Bureau". This book is filled with valuable information, and it has important phone numbers should you have any questions about your swap. Cost of the book is less than $20.

To Make a Referee Appointment

Referee Facilities are state–contracted facilities that provide specialized inspection services. They perform a number of important functions for consumers, including: certification of vehicles issued Limited Parts Exemptions; inspection of grey market vehicles, specially–constructed vehicles, and vehicles with engine changes, verification of certain disputes between a station and consumer; issuance of Smog Check repair cost waivers and hardship extensions; and assistance in the resolution of other Smog Check issues. he Referee will charge a fee for the Smog Check inspections and services performed. 1–800–622–7733.

See also

References and further reading

Most SMOG referee located in community colleges. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/reg/reg4048.htm http://www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/reg/reg1000.htm

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