While the variations of engine swaps are limitless, the principles of doing a successful engine swap haven’t changed. Engine swapping is nothing new. Automotive enthusiasts have been pushing the limits of technology by adding a powerful engine to a lighter-weight, smaller chassis, thus resulting in a more efficient and effective way of generating higher horsepower for their vehicles.
This more efficient power-to-weight ratio is a result of sandwiching a high-powered engine to a chassis, while at the same time ensuring the other ancillaries, such as the power steering, fuel, and cooling systems, adhere seamlessly to the new beating heart.
If you’re looking to upgrade your vehicle’s engine, you need to check off certain things on your engine swap checklist to ensure that you meet the most basic considerations. Here they are:
1. Do you have the right car?
Not every car has the right build for an engine swap, and not every engine swap will make financial or practical sense. The first question you should be asking yourself is, “Is my car the right kind to swap?” You want a lightweight car, ensuring an engine swap that amplifies the power-to-weight ratio. Lightweight chassis that’s a little older and with fewer airbags would be much better.
Some really good engine swaps include a VAG 1.8T into any FWD or mid-engine RWD, Saab Turbo into Vauxhall, Toyota 1UZ to anything RWD, or Honda K20 into MR2s and Elises. You can also check https://shop.revologycars.com/collections/coyote-engine-motor for more engine swaps. If you aren’t sure if the engine is a good fit, speak to a swap specialist.
2. Which engine is a good pick for your car?
Obviously, we want to go for an engine that’s a lot more powerful than what we have now, right? Otherwise, the swap would be meaningless. Your first item to check is if your desired engine will fit into your vehicle. Before you consult a swap specialist, measure:
- Your engine and the transmission’s dimensions
- Measure the hood clearance and territorial points between the oil pan and the subframe/ground.
- Check your engine rotation, and if you need its accompanying wiring harness, ECU, manifolds, and ancillaries.
It makes practical sense to choose an upgraded engine and transmission from the same manufacturer as your existing engine. This will save you time and money when it comes to wiring and other electronic issues.
3. What kind of engine mounts do you need?
Brackets and mounts are necessary for engine swaps because, how else would you keep your engine and transmissions in place? There are aftermarket parts you can check out, or even do a combo of OEM and aftermarket to source the specific brackets and mounts you need. You’d have to make a list of the number of items you need and where you can source them out affordably.
4. What about axles and drivetrains?
Taking measurements is one of the best ways forward to ensure you get the right fit and the right parts. If you’re going for a front-driven swap, you need to measure the front wheel hubs and the intermediate shaft/transaxle. Knowing the length requirements will help you source out OEM or aftermarket parts suitable for your engine swap. If you’re going for an RWD swap, you’d likely need a custom-length driveshaft fabricated by chopping or extending a car’s original shaft. This is done by using specific joints that are compatible with the new transmission’s yoke.
5. Does your fuel system need to be modified?
Yes, the fuel system for an engine swap needs to be properly modified. Most fuel systems have an in-tank fuel pump, fuel filter, and a fuel rail with injectors. In most cases, the filter and the pump can be repurposed with lines that can make it easy to attach to the new engine’s fuel rail. Also, ensure that you fit in a fuel injection hose that’s compatible with higher pressure with the new engine swap.
6. And your cooling system?
The radiator that came with your original engine would be sufficient in most cases. However, bigger engines often result in limited space to retain the original radiator, which means you’d need to reposition your electronic cooling fan to the radiator’s opposite side to make more room. When you do this, ensure that air is passing through the radiator, and to make this happen, you can reverse the fan’s polarity and direction, so that air is either being pulled or pushed out. In an engine swap, you’d also need to get hoses and heater hoses that fit the new repositioning.
7. What are your A/C and power steering needs?
When an engine swap is done, this also means that the power steering and A/C would need to be changed, too. This is because steering pumps that have mechanical power may interfere with the hood. Also, the A/C compressors and lines wouldn’t fit the new swap. This would mean you need to invest in a combination of parts to connect the car’s components. Certain swaps allow for the A/C compressor to be reused using an aftermarket bracket to fix on the new engine block. If your engine swaps give you this option, take advantage of it.
8. What are your electrical needs?
One of the most important things that could make or break an engine swap is the vehicle’s electrical system. To ensure a successful swap, begin with the selection of the right ECU. Go with whatever ECU that communicates with your engine – that’s your most telling assurance. Depending on your vehicle’s make, you could be dealing with three separate wiring harness, which is the wiring underneath the dash, wiring for the chassis, and wiring for the engine. If you can understand electrical systems and how it connects to your engine, you’ll have the ability to look for the right manuals for your engine and vehicle.
9. What are your suspension and brakes needs?
For this, you need to make upgrades for parts that can support a more powerful engine because the ones that came with your vehicle could only support a less powerful engine. You can make upgrades from as small as greater-performing brake pads to more advanced modifications, such as rear-disc conversion.
10. Can you legally do an engine swap?
The legal implications of an engine swap have to do with the emissions, which depend on the state and local laws. Your new engine must meet the emission standards required in your location. This could mean spending money on sensors and equipment to ensure you meet your state emissions testing requirements.