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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve been told by 2 mechanics that my engine should be replaced on my 2010 3.5L. I was 600 miles away from hitting 200K :(. I made the mistake of thinking I could reach 250k+ with this engine. 
The suspect is that the head gasket is blown, but a cracked head is also suspected. Apparently there is no way to tell without pulling the head off (which is fairly expensive). Long story short, the coolant was VERY muddy and the shop tested something with the head to confirm that pressure was lost. My main mechanic warned me that replacing the head gasket may lead to bigger problems shortly down the road, as this car has already been burning oil since 75K (about a quart every 5000 miles until recently ).

As I am on a very tight budget, I’m looking to do whatever will give this car a little more longevity without having to pay an amount of money worth more than the car itself. I am on the fence between fixing and driving for another year or so, and fixing and immediately selling. It seems like the 3.5L engines are pretty easy to find with a quick eBay search I found some at around 100K miles for ~$1000

My questions are :
1. what would you guys recommend? Is it worth gambling the lower cost and replace what needs replacing? Or is buying a used 3.5 L much less of a gamble? 
2. are all 3.5 L engines after 1999 going to be compatible? I have seen something about needing to have a ”V” in the eighth place on Vin number. I have also read that the 4.0 L engine is compatible… Is this true? If so which engine would I be better off with for longevity?
3. what mileage, on average, are people getting out of the 3.5 L engine without major repairs?
4. IF I go with the engine replacement route, what is the best way/place for locating quality used engines? Junkyards, craigslist, and eBay are all i know of.

Thanks :) very appreciative of all the help i've gotten on here over the past decade. Got this car new in 2010.
 

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1st my sympathies for your plight. It really sucks & unfortunately you are in a bit of a no-win situation. I wouldn't put $$ into a 200K mile engine, but used engines are always a bit of a crap shoot. A lot of junk yards will warranty it for 30 days or so, but then you are paying twice for labor. Ideally, you'd like to be able to see & hear and engine run (and do compression test etc) but that's not always possible. A search for re manufactured long blocks for your car come up about $4K, more than I expected. If you go the used route, see if your mechanic will source it, so if its a lemon he's on the hook for labor when doing the job again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
1st my sympathies for your plight. It really sucks & unfortunately you are in a bit of a no-win situation. I wouldn't put $$ into a 200K mile engine, but used engines are always a bit of a crap shoot. A lot of junk yards will warranty it for 30 days or so, but then you are paying twice for labor. Ideally, you'd like to be able to see & hear and engine run (and do compression test etc) but that's not always possible. A search for re manufactured long blocks for your car come up about $4K, more than I expected. If you go the used route, see if your mechanic will source it, so if its a lemon he's on the hook for labor when doing the job again.
Thanks for the input. Emphasis on “no win”. I never saw this coming at 200k. I’m at least thankful that I savored every mile of that. My mechanic has yet to get back to me on pricing, fortunately he does have a source of warrantied engines but i imagine they’ll be very high considering. I fear if i replace the engine the transmission won’t be far behind.
 

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1) buying a used one is less of a gamble IMHO, although not without its own dangers (see: 3.5L rocker assemblies).

2) All 3.5L engines should be compatible if a competent mechanic is doing the replacement. I haven’t heard about the VIN “V” issue mentioned, but I haven’t researched it much, so that could be a thing. However, if it is, I suspect it just means external engine components matching up exactly. Those can be swapped between engines if necessary, so I would think all would theoretically work, some requiring more work than others possibly though.

Longevity is a different issue. I would say your mileage is the exception, not the norm. The truth is those 3.5L engines are known to develop problems that keep them from going high mileage, so any replacementyou get could end up having issues to resolve on its own.

3) Not as high as yours I venture to guess. Those engines have design issues which crop up rather frequently unfortunately.

4) car-part.com would be my avenue to start with. I can’t say that would be the best, but I bet it’s as good as any other.

Certain inevitable facts about your situation need to be confronted I’m afraid. Those engines are prone to problems, which when combined with their relatively low power output make them an undesirable power plant for your car. What that boils down to is you should not expect to be able to sell that car, once running, for much money. Anything you put into it now to get it running could be a sunk cost if you go to sell it.

You’re in a bad situation unfortunately, and there aren’t many attractive ways out I’m sorry to say.

Best of luck to you regardless,
Nuke
 

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Yeah, a used junkyard engine is the cheapest bet, and they usually have a minimal warranty as well, just so it doesn't grenade on you day 2. If looking for one yourself, look for a crashed one, not a rusted out worn out looking car. And check the oil caps for sludge first.
BUT, no matter what, it is free to pull apart your existing one. If just a head gasket, slap some on and get back to racking up the miles. A bore scope may be able to tell if it is or not.
 

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And the 3.5 was not a low output motor, for its time. Just that its time has passed, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a perfectly serviceable engine. But they can be more expense to repair, than to just replace with a lower mile used one at this point.
 

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A quart of oil every 5K miles is not sufficient oil consumption to deem the engine worn out. With some automakers a quart every 600 miles (1l per 1000km) is still acceptable oil consumption.

Unless the engine smokes the bulk of the oil it consumes is from the oil vapor from the crankcase.

I'd be tempted to replace the head gasket or the head if the head was cracked. You know the condition of the engine.

However, the concern is the engine having been exposed to coolant in the oil. The anti-freeze compounds can form a glaze on cast iron cylinder walls and this can result in poor ring sealing. If the the cylinders are aluminum and the pistons do not have a coating of iron on them this may not be a concern.

But there is also the concern the oil/coolant "mix" may have resulted in damage to the bearings, lifters, etc.

If you don't want to sink any money in the 200K mile engine look for an engine with fewer miles from a salvage business. Ideally you would want to be able to start the engine and listen to it run -- check the oil level first! -- or at least crank it and do a compression test to have some confidence the engine is not shot.

Some businesses while they won't over a warranty if the engine proves to be junk will take it back on an exchange basis. But you need to ask about the return policy and get this in writing.

Your best choice of an engine is one from a car the same MY and model as your car with the same transmission.
 

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If it were me (and it has been) Id also opt to pull the heads & related top end components, get them checked, surfaced if needed (warpage?) and replace gaskets, fluids (oil too). go from there.
Junk yard engines can be great if your lucky - or be a worse nitemare than what you have now, since now your dealing with unknowns at multiple levels and may not be returnable if you end up with a boat anchor. It can be very hard to tell what is what when the donor motor is out of the car, pressure washed and sitting on the rack awaiting a new home.
"runs good" in the junkyard world is very relative..lol
It will be far easier, cheaper & effective to work with what you now have, do your own wrenching & sourcing most cost effective parts. I suspect a partial/top end build will get you down the road a bit longer..maybe use that time to sort out/build up a drop in repalcement motor. good luck.
 

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If it were me (and it has been) Id also opt to pull the heads & related top end components, get them checked, surfaced if needed (warpage?) and replace gaskets, fluids (oil too). go from there.
Junk yard engines can be great if your lucky - or be a worse nitemare than what you have now, since now your dealing with unknowns at multiple levels and may not be returnable if you end up with a boat anchor. It can be very hard to tell what is what when the donor motor is out of the car, pressure washed and sitting on the rack awaiting a new home.
"runs good" in the junkyard world is very relative..lol
It will be far easier, cheaper & effective to work with what you now have, do your own wrenching & sourcing most cost effective parts. I suspect a partial/top end build will get you down the road a bit longer..maybe use that time to sort out/build up a drop in repalcement motor. good luck.
The only bad part about that is the top end of the engine is all “new” with zero miles and age......and the bottom end is still worn and at 200k miles. Really good chance something might go wrong soon with the bottom end.
 

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As I am on a very tight budget, I’m looking to do whatever will give this car a little more longevity without having to pay an amount of money worth more than the car itself.
The only bad part about that is the top end of the engine is all “new” with zero miles and age......and the bottom end is still worn and at 200k miles. Really good chance something might go wrong soon with the bottom end.
GSBrockman I whole heartedly agree with you.
I was basing my suggestion on his statement quoted above about minimal budget. Top end redo would get the car back on the road at least for minimal out of pocket cost, especially if doing the heavy lifting (tear down / reassembly) himself and using his original heads, etc. The ideal situation would be a complete engine tear rebuild.
I'd still stick with whats in the car now (OEM motor) vs a drop in junk yard donor, hoping & praying its ok inside and not been flooded, ran out of oil or never had it changed, etc...
"dance with the devil you know or the take a chance with the one ya dont"
 

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If it were me (and it has been) Id also opt to pull the heads & related top end components, get them checked, surfaced if needed (warpage?) and replace gaskets, fluids (oil too). go from there.
Junk yard engines can be great if your lucky - or be a worse nitemare than what you have now, since now your dealing with unknowns at multiple levels and may not be returnable if you end up with a boat anchor. It can be very hard to tell what is what when the donor motor is out of the car, pressure washed and sitting on the rack awaiting a new home.
"runs good" in the junkyard world is very relative..lol
It will be far easier, cheaper & effective to work with what you now have, do your own wrenching & sourcing most cost effective parts. I suspect a partial/top end build will get you down the road a bit longer..maybe use that time to sort out/build up a drop in repalcement motor. good luck.
Well, I only suggested an engine out of donor car if the original engine was deemed not rebuildable.

I rebuilt a 318CID engine on the "cheap" years ago when I had no money.

Removed the engine, stripped it down and used a buddy's truck to haul the block, crank, heads, and intake manifold to be hot tanked. (Back then everything was cast iron.)

Can't recall if I had the valves done.

I didn't have the block bored. I checked the bores with a dial bore gauge and they were ok. I borrowed a portable hone from work and 1/2" drill motor to drive it and hand honed the bores just to rough them up a bit so the new rings would seat.

Reused the pistons. The cylinder/piston clearances were on the high side but not out of spec.

Installed new factory main and rod bearings -- the crank/rod journals were not worn and the bearing clearances were ok -- and of course new cam bearings. Got a new factory cam. Installed new cam chain and sprockets. New lifters.

New water pump/T-Stat.

Of course new oil pump.

Think I reused the stock distributor.

Rebuilt the carb.

All the factory hardware was reasonably priced, at least back then. And readily available.

Results were darn good. In fact the engine idled so quietly and smoothly more than once I tried to start the engine while it was running.

Don't remember what it cost. But it was a pretty bare rebuild. Would have liked to rebore the block and used 0.030" over pistons but this would have cost too much money. I did the work over a month or so. My buddy let me use his pickup truck to get back and forth to work. After as a "thank you" I bought and installed a set of oversize and extended mirrors for use for towing a trailer.
 

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Jblack417 I had a 2009 Dodge Challenger SE with 185,000 miles and it was my daily driver. when I went to have the oil changed last it was 2 quarts low so I clearly was burning oil too. Where your at now at 200,000 miles I was at too at 185,000 and was faced with the same exact decision. Dump more money into it, or trade it in. At 98,000 miles I had to have the rocker assemblies replaced already once and I remembered that ticking noise. At 185,000 miles the noise was back and I knew it was going to be this, but my mechanic said the same thing. He'd need it for a few days and figured head gasket, cracked head, something was going on there and said he'd need it for a few days and what else was he going to find he wouldn't know until it was opend up and couldn't even give me a price not to mention the labor then I'd have to pay for a rental. I TOO wanted to keep my Challenger forever but was afraid what if the transmission went next? I'd never recoop anything after that. Not to mention my rear quarter panels were rusting badly now, so it needed body work and I was quoted over $1500 and all 4 of my rims were pitted due to the NJ snow & salty road for the past 11 years (daily driver). Although it broke my heart to trade it in, I ended up getting a new 2019 SXT and everyone is telling me I did the right thing but it still hurts. I totally can relate to your situation. What does it even cost to drop in a new engine with albor? Is it much more to drop in a HEMI if your going to keep it or will a HEMI not be compatible with the transmission and the rest of the car?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks a ton everyone for the replies. Reading through all these has definitely made a big difference in my decision making process. I don’t have time to reply to everyone individually right now, but I can say I got quoted $3400, including labor, for a rebuilt engine at 132k... comes with a 18 month warranty. it’s going to be hard to turn that offer down.
 

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Thanks a ton everyone for the replies. Reading through all these has definitely made a big difference in my decision making process. I don’t have time to reply to everyone individually right now, but I can say I got quoted $3400, including labor, for a rebuilt engine at 132k... comes with a 18 month warranty. it’s going to be hard to turn that offer down.
That sounds like a fair deal especially with the 18 month warranty! Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
1) buying a used one is less of a gamble IMHO, although not without its own dangers (see: 3.5L rocker assemblies).

2) All 3.5L engines should be compatible if a competent mechanic is doing the replacement. I haven’t heard about the VIN “V” issue mentioned, but I haven’t researched it much, so that could be a thing. However, if it is, I suspect it just means external engine components matching up exactly. Those can be swapped between engines if necessary, so I would think all would theoretically work, some requiring more work than others possibly though.

Longevity is a different issue. I would say your mileage is the exception, not the norm. The truth is those 3.5L engines are known to develop problems that keep them from going high mileage, so any replacementyou get could end up having issues to resolve on its own.

3) Not as high as yours I venture to guess. Those engines have design issues which crop up rather frequently unfortunately.

4) car-part.com would be my avenue to start with. I can’t say that would be the best, but I bet it’s as good as any other.

Certain inevitable facts about your situation need to be confronted I’m afraid. Those engines are prone to problems, which when combined with their relatively low power output make them an undesirable power plant for your car. What that boils down to is you should not expect to be able to sell that car, once running, for much money. Anything you put into it now to get it running could be a sunk cost if you go to sell it.

You’re in a bad situation unfortunately, and there aren’t many attractive ways out I’m sorry to say.

Best of luck to you regardless,
Nuke
Thanks for the input. I am realizing that i’d be much happier to spend $3400 on an engine warrantied for 18 months, rather than sell the car for about the same amount of money. There’s not many cars i’d be happy driving for $3400.
 

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Why not upgrade to a 5.7l? I would imagine you could easily find a used motor with a 5 speed NAG transmission for less than $3k.
 

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That sounds like a fair deal especially with the 18 month warranty! Good luck!
Assuming it isn't something like $500 deductible, and every time it fails you are out more money. But if the rest of the car is great, and you like it, eh, up to you on the price being worth keeping it. But you are spending like $7,000 right? $3,500 car value, plus $3,500 to fix it. And yeah, $7K doesn't buy much either. ANd it sure looks like you have a nice looking Challenger that would be hard to replace for what you can get for it as is.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Assuming it isn't something like $500 deductible, and every time it fails you are out more money. But if the rest of the car is great, and you like it, eh, up to you on the price being worth keeping it. But you are spending like $7,000 right? $3,500 car value, plus $3,500 to fix it. And yeah, $7K doesn't buy much either. ANd it sure looks like you have a nice looking Challenger that would be hard to replace for what you can get for it as is.
The latter definitely explains why i’m so tied to this car. I have put a lot of money into the suspension/tires/wheels/electronics that all make it harder to sell. That being said, I doubt the car could bring more than $2500 considering no heat/muddy coolant/cracked paint in a couple spots. Lots of miles and time are finally starting to show. I am definitely toying with the idea of selling and using what i would’ve spent towards a $5-6k import... but it’s totally hit or miss at that price. I just refuse to get a loan for a vehicle right now and don’t really want to dish out much cash for a different used vehicle, when i know i will upgrade in 18-24 months.
 

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The latter definitely explains why i’m so tied to this car. I have put a lot of money into the suspension/tires/wheels/electronics that all make it harder to sell. That being said, I doubt the car could bring more than $2500 considering no heat/muddy coolant/cracked paint in a couple spots. Lots of miles and time are finally starting to show. I am definitely toying with the idea of selling and using what i would’ve spent towards a $5-6k import... but it’s totally hit or miss at that price. I just refuse to get a loan for a vehicle right now and don’t really want to dish out much cash for a different used vehicle, when i know i will upgrade in 18-24 months.
Gotcha, if you haven't committed yet, might as well pull the existing engine apart before it fully comes out, might be a cheaper fix (or easier one). Odds are whatever it is, isn't in the block, get a used engine, pull the heads and swap everything top end with all new gaskets, timing belt...
 
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