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Old 08-20-2015, 10:31 PM   #1
Unabomber
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Exclamation Built Motor FAQ: Read if you are thinking of buying one!

Editor's Note/Disclaimer This advice is super general in nature. If you already have a built motor, kindly step back and know that this post heavily leans toward the "I'm just going to drop in forged pistons" guy to the "I'm only going to make less than 400 WHP" guy vice the OMGlolwtfBBQ 700HP guys. If you are considering a built motor, this post should prepare your anus and wallet for a realistic idea of parts, cost, and timeline.

What is a built motor? Anytime the motor leaves the car and goes off to a machine shop for forged component installation.

What are the common misconceptions with built motors?

1. It costs $10,000+. In most cases it does not, but what we all concentrate on are the killer builds you see in magazines or online where someone is making 600WHP.
2. All you need is a set of drop in pistons and you can make 400WHP, so a built motor is super cheap. If you take this statement at face value it actually is true*. Now when you consider the 987 supporting parts and services that go along with drop in pistons, the cost gets high very quickly.
*This is a lie.
3. Built motors have increased longevity compared to OEM/JDM options as forged components are better. I'm pretty sure no one will agree to this statement. The theory is sound, but the practical application begs to differ.
4. A built motor means I can drive like a jacktard because now I don't have to worry about breaking a piston. See item 3. If you broke a piston before or are interested in "replacing before breaking", a built motor will only protect you from yourself by so much.
5. A motor swap is a quick process. Though there are exceptions, this is actually a long process that can take up to 3 months depending on how big of a back up there is at your local auto shop/their machine shop.

What are common components required of every built motor? Prices given are approximate for planning purposes, DO NOT get your jimmies rustled over this as these are estimates ONLY! List items are also approximate as Shop A requires/plans for a parts plan of say 14 items and Shop B requires/plans for a parts plan of say 17 items...this can vary slightly.
Motor Oil: 10-15 quarts for break-in. $50
Oil filters: $14
Coolant: $15
Thermostat: $20
Timing belt/water pump kit: $280
Spark Plugs: $45
Bearings: $190
Head studs: $120
Master gasket set: $350
Various exhaust/turbo gaskets: $100
Oil pump: $140
Shop Supplies: $100
Labor: 24 hours @ $80/hour
Machine shop fee: $500

Total Basic Cost: $3844

So no matter what build you do, these items and fees will apply PLUS what you plan on doing and a good used/new block.

Now let's go over mandatory/optional items to add to the above:

Head Refresh $700. This is where you remove the heads and have a professional go through them and clean them up and replace all the valve guides and basically return them to stock. This does NOT include new valves, springs, etc.
New turbo $1400. If at the built stage, you should know that a stock motor making XXXHP on YYY turbo will make exactly the same HP unless you upsize the motor or the turbo, so a new turbo is a common build addition.
New injectors for new turbo $400. If new turbo, the odds of new injectors to support it are very high.
Clutch $700. And if upsizing the motor and/or adding a new turbo, you will need a new clutch to handle the new found torque.
Tune $500. All these new parts/power adders will require a tune unless you are one of the rare 100% built for longevity only people.

Total Optional Cost: $3700

So what are my build options?

1. Forged Components.
2. Hybrid. This is for the 2.0L crowd to go to 2.5L while keeping the 2.0L heads. The options for this are 2.5L case halves + 2.5L crank/rods and one of these options: 2.5L pistons + head milling on 2.0L heads, 2.5L pistons + thicker head gaskets, or special JE FSR Hybrid pistons designed for this built type.
3. Stroker. This is another method to increase displacement. In a nutshell, you get special pistons, rods, and/or crank to increase the displacement a bit. There is such an animal as destroked, but that's super rare.

So which build option should I choose? Hell if I know, research them all and talk to your builder.

So I know the basic costs, now what about the advanced costs? Once again, this is a topic for research or a long conversation with your builder. The broad brush generalization is that the more the money spent, the more power handing capability and/or potential performance increases you may see. As a simple example, you may find pistons from XXX Pistons for $600 rated for 400WHP. They also sell 600WHP rated pistons for $800. They also sell 800WHP rated pistons for $1000. And in addition to these three levels of pistons, XXX Pistons or an aftermarket company can offering 1-5 types of coatings on the piston skirts or domes. Now do this math on every single part of your motor. Now imagine how Part A will affect Part B and what role that will play on your car's goals and use? The amount of questions can be stunning with the more complicated builds, but luckily for you....this post is about the basic builds. Now if you are bored and want to see how insane builds can get, visit this website which shows pricing and examples of full retard builds.

Ok, so now that we've 100% established that I'm looking for a "simple" build, which components should I buy? Aside from this WHOLE POST being a point of contention with many builders, this section will be the roughest and the cause of the most internet hate. So, having said that, let's preface this section by saying: Always default to your builder's advice. Always. If the internet tells you that you want CP pistons and Eagle rods for your build and your builder says you only need JE Pistons and OEM rods.....you are now a JE Piston/OEM rod guy. Now that the preface is said and my attorneys are happy, here's the default, general guide:

1. Sub 400WHP: Get you some forged pistons and call it a day.
2. 400-500WHP: Get you some forged pistons and rods and call it a day.
3. 500WHP is the magical number when going full retard occurs...cams, headwork, valve work, sleeves, and the other super high ticket items start to make common sense since cost/benefit makes them more appealing at this stage.

So what are my built components prices? Forged pistons are $600 and rods are $400. Obviously, there are lines and options that make these prices soar, but those are mainly for the 500WHP+ folk unless your builder recommends them.

So what are my total costs?

400WHP guy: $8144
500WHP guy: $8544

Good Gookamongus! Is there any way to nickel and dime this? There's basically two methods if you aren't Johnny Paycheck:

1. Visa/MC/loan. The advantage is it will get you the built motor the quickest, but likely will have a longer payoff period. And if something happens, you are holding the bag for the repayment.
2. Nickle and Dime method. The advantage is you can calmly buy parts generally at a reduced cost and by paying as you go, the payoff period tends to be quicker at the expensive of a longer period between conception to build. Start by finding a place that will accept customer parts. Not all shops will do this and you have to be 10000% legit and honest. When the shop says, "Order JE part #448566-2a and Gates part #44590-1 or 1a", you have to be militant in getting those parts. Armed with the right part numbers, you can then hit the NASIOC for sale forum, Facebook Subaru sites, eBay, craigslist, amazon, car-part.com and other sources to find items for a lot less than the average bird as you have time on your side. You can then place all the required items in a big box and when the box is full, take it to your builder and say, "Merry Christmas" and your only further struggle will be the labor costs.

Any gotchas with buying a built motor online? Its always better to buy from a local trusted Subaru shop, but if you must buy online as you live in Muncie, IN or some other Subaru black hole, always call a few vendors and take their recommendations as sometimes their customization ideas can save you from buying an overbuilt off the shelf unit that is listed on their website. That sweet Stage 1 block on the website is pretty, but its likely padded by $1000 worth of stuff you don't need so la carte are the words du jour with built motors on websites and NOT "add to basket and checkout".

Not a gotcha per se, but be super careful with pricing and restrictions. Some vendors price their builds with or without case halves, blocks, or other parts, so be 100% sure you are comparing apples to apples if trying to decide between Vendor A's $5000 built new OEM motor and Vendor B's $3500 built used/new customer supplied motor.

Any other gotchas? As with any major expenditure, allow for say a $500 cushion in your budget at the backend. As the car is on the lift for fitting or on the dyno for tuning shortly thereafter, stuff happens. Coil packs fail, CV boots leak, sensors that worked great coming off the old motor go south on the new one....AKA stuff happens.
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Last edited by Unabomber; 08-20-2015 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:31 PM   #2
Unabomber
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This will likely be modified some as it's not 100% at this stage. If ya'll have any input, please holler and I'll take your suggestions to task. If you noticed I used French twice in one sentence, its because I'm a cunning linguist.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:51 PM   #3
Dave D.
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Outstanding. And don't forget the many like myself that eventually had to upgrade to a 6MT. That's a few more nickels.
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Old 08-20-2015, 10:52 PM   #4
Dave D.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unabomber View Post
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This will likely be modified some as it's not 100% at this stage. If ya'll have any input, please holler and I'll take your suggestions to task. If you noticed I used French twice in one sentence, its because I'm a cunning linguist.
Better than an analytical linguist.
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Old 08-21-2015, 08:31 AM   #5
CarteeOBS
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Good stuff in here. I'm about to start pulling my motor and rebuilding the short block myself. I hope to be way under your total build costs but it's good to see all of this on one page.
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Old 08-21-2015, 11:21 PM   #6
svltrack
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unabomber View Post
Now if you are bored and want to see how insane builds can get, visit this website which shows pricing and examples of full retard builds..
holy wack unlyrical lyrics andre
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Old 08-23-2015, 12:02 PM   #7
aiserock
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Thanks for the information! That website you posted a link for... wow!

Last edited by aiserock; 08-23-2015 at 12:14 PM.
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Old 08-23-2015, 05:18 PM   #8
pooster.online
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Is it typical to see <100k miles out of a properly built motor with forged pistons? I've heard hearsay that the larger PTW clearances required from 2618 alloy typically cause more wear. Would 4032 be an acceptable compromise?
How viable would a built motor be on a DD?

Thanks for creating your last few FAQs, they've definitely been in the areas I've been looking into, owning a Subaru past its mid-life!
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Old 09-03-2015, 02:47 PM   #9
86Dreams
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Reads like a novel, these guides are an invaluable resources.

Ive read this article a couple of times, idk what nasioc will think of it but figured Id post it up.

http://www.superstreetonline.com/how...s-engine-tech/

Last edited by 86Dreams; 09-04-2015 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:17 PM   #10
Sieran
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After spinning a rod bearing (well, nearly 3) this post hits all too close to home.

After talking to the mechanic who did my tear-down and rebuild and going over all the parts involved, the price just keeps going up and up. While it is open you might as well replace the things (with better) that are common to break or could be compromised already.

One AVCS gear won't come off in one piece? Well, there is another couple hundred there added to the price and you won't even know that until it happens.

I hear from so many people at CnC or local meets "Man, I am just going to drop in some forged pistons, 1200cc injectors and a big ass turbo and i'll be set!". Hell, I even hear that sitting in the Cobb tuning lobby when I am getting minor things done...
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Old 09-03-2015, 07:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Dreams View Post
Reads like a novel, ...
Yeah, I like fiction, too.
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Old 09-06-2015, 12:27 PM   #12
wrrrx
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Nice post, UA!
Perusing a common VW forum, I get kinda pissed off when I read post after post about the EJ engines being made of "glass".
I blew my motor 8-9 years ago, (totally my fault!) had it rebuilt and it's been bulletproof since, thru innumerable track days and AutoX's.
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Old 09-07-2015, 06:26 PM   #13
Daniel Dudley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sieran View Post
After spinning a rod bearing (well, nearly 3) this post hits all too close to home.

After talking to the mechanic who did my tear-down and rebuild and going over all the parts involved, the price just keeps going up and up. While it is open you might as well replace the things (with better) that are common to break or could be compromised already.

One AVCS gear won't come off in one piece? Well, there is another couple hundred there added to the price and you won't even know that until it happens.

I hear from so many people at CnC or local meets "Man, I am just going to drop in some forged pistons, 1200cc injectors and a big ass turbo and i'll be set!". Hell, I even hear that sitting in the Cobb tuning lobby when I am getting minor things done...


As a general rule of thumb, It is ALWAYS easier to rebuild your engine while it is still running. If you are doing donuts in the parking lot, and you start to get a knock, Shut it Down. If you KNOW you want to go for big horsepower, and your car has high miles, but is running OK, Build it up NOW.

It is always cheaper and easier to build from an unblown engine. OTOH, a new stock short block is a real steal of a deal.
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