Best Used Engines That Won’t Let You Down, and Swaps That Prove It

What would you do with a couple used engines from the local junkyard? Take them down to the shop and make something crazy? Some people have the balls to do it, and a few even have the time, money, and resources. And unless you have the dime to spend on a crate motor, building used engines is the way to go. But which ones can you actually count on?

What to Look for in Used Engines

Most resellers can provide at least some idea of mileage, service history, and overall condition, but whether you’re digging through eBay and Craigslist ads or picking up a parts car in town, there are some things you need to know about used engines before you take the plunge.

Some engines just aren’t worth it. There’s a reason everyone does an LS swap – it’s trusted. Even if you do a total rebuild at great expense, some used engines have inherent weaknesses or parts are hard to come by.

The rest of the car is important. Inspect bearings, bushings, and overall cosmetics to get an idea of whether the previous owners took care of things. Check for oil weeps and coolant residue on the block and heads and for signs that someone’s been in the engine bay before.

Don’t gamble – do a reseal. Plan on spending weekend and a few hundred dollars to pull the engine, take it apart, and have a look at what’s inside. You get peace of mind from having fresh gaskets, belts, and timing, and you can check out the internals.

Some of these used engines are more common than others, but the only real limitations are your wallet and your imagination. Without further ado let’s dive in to some of the best used engines available, broken down by country of origin.

Used Engines for Patriots

tahoe ls2 used engines


Okay, we all know the LS is the king of used engines, but it’s an unspoken rule that if you mention engine swaps you have to mention the LS – so let’s get it over with. Now the stuff of internet memery, the LS swap began as the most economical way to get a light and reliable V8 into a small space.

That’s why builders of the 240sx, FD RX7, and all kinds of custom applications have used engines from the LS family – they’re all durable, well-built, and cheap to modify.

The 2008-2009 Tahoe, Yukon, Escalade, Silverado, and Sierra used engines of the LFA variety which can be converted to an LS2 with minimal effort – swap the cam, lifters, and a few covers and you have an LS2 for the price of a wrecked ten-year-old soccer chauffeur.

LS2 Camaro used engines

LS2 ’68 Camaro “Evade”

This beast of a Camaro proves used engines can perform better than new ones. Its owner wanted something he could drive every day and on long trips, so had a full-custom LS2 built to 500 horsepower and 430 torques. And damn, does it look mean.

Evade has been judged to within 1% of perfection at numerous shows, including 995 out of 1000 points at the 20thAnnual Eckler’s Winter Nationals. Not a bad feather in the cap of used engines.

GMC 2500HD LQ4 Used Engines

6.0 LQ4 V8

Early 2000s Chevrolet and GMC HD trucks are famous for playing the National Anthem out their tailpipes. Often found in a distressed shade of white with dents and rust everywhere, most come with at least $5 of recyclable beer cans in the bed. What you might not know is these workhorses can tow over 10,000 pounds – that’s because they all used engines that last forever.

The 6-liter LQ4 V8 was designed to haul heavy stuff for thousands of miles. Something else it hauls is ass, since it has over 300 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque bone stock. Find one in early 2000s Yukons, Suburbans, 2500 and 3500 trucks, Express vans, even the Hummer H2. We’ll personally thank you if you kill an H2 for its engine.

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