Shady Mechanic Engine Swap - Chevy Impala SS Forum
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post #1 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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Shady Mechanic Engine Swap

Hey guys. It's been a long time since I've posted on here (a few months?). I haven't posted on here because the mechanic has had my wagon for a couple of months now. Around 4 months? I'm posting on here for some guidance, as a record and just sort of a catch all to get everyone's opinion on the matter. I do all my own work- I just don't have the tools or space anymore to do something as large as an engine swap- so I made the choice to have someone else do it.

Here's the break down. 4 Months ago the tranny went out on the wagon. I made a post on here thinking that it might have been the kick down cable- but ultimately it was the tranny that failed. I found a shop here that would rebuild the tranny for 1200 bucks- this would include a 3 year unlimited mile warranty. I then found a guy who works at a Muffler and A/C shop who was willing to remove and reinstall both the engine and transmission in the car for 400 bucks. He said he could do a 350 swap- all I'd need to do is pay extra for the engine, as well as oil/filters/pumps/etc. He SOLD me on the idea- that he had done a million of them, that he knew exactly what he was doing. So for an extra 1200 bucks on top of the tranny, I could have a 350 in my wagon. I thought this was perfect. So I gave him the go ahead and had the car towed to him.

Now this guy works for the Muffler and A/C shop does his own work there at the shop after hours and on weekends. Basically, he has the full run of the place. The owners know that he works out of there and they're totally fine with it. He wrote on the Muffler and A/C shops invoice everything that he would do- including the price. I paid him completely up front. It took about a month for him to get to my car. I'm assuming that he was working on other cars along with mine. Finally he removes the tranny and sends it up to the shop. The shop had it rebuilt in a week and it took about another few weeks for him to install both the 350 and the newly rebuilt tranny. The 350 he installed was a "low mileage" engine, around 70k he said- so I paid a premium of 640 dollars for it. He gives me a call a few weeks later and said that the engine he got had a rod knock in it- but assured me that the junk yard that he's been dealing with for 10 years had a great reputation and that in the past if there were any issues, they'd come through no questions asked. He spoke very highly of them. Well- I guess they had no other 350's laying around, so he went out of his pocket and bought new bearings, oil pump, filters, etc. and "rebuilt" the bottom end. I'm sure he didn't spec. it out properly and was just hoping to get the engine running good enough for me to take owner ship of it. We're about 3 months into this now. He calls and says the car is ready. I go to pick it up and the rod knock is very faint. I tried to drive the car to the gas station but it had no power whatsoever. I wasn't able to maintain 20 mph. When I floored it the engine would just hesitate to move. Rolling to a stop it'd want to die. I turned the car around, gave him the keys and talked to him about what we were going to do next. He said that the shop had no other motors and that they were looking for one on the hotline.

A few weeks go by and I get fed up with it. At this point I just want the wagon back in one piece and running right. I told him to just forget about it. Throw the 305 back in and I'll come back to pick the car up and be done with it all. As soon as I said that, he messaged me back and said that he'd just found another 350. This one came out of a chevy van that had been rear ended and that the yard dropped the pan just to make sure everything was good. I said ok lets do it. Another week and a half goes by. I finally get tired of waiting and call him up. He said that this motors got a knock in it as well.

I'm fed up at this point. I tell him to throw the 305 back in and that I'd pick it up at the end of the week. The day finally comes when he tells me that he's putting the finishing touches on him, that I can come and pick him up. So I drive all the way out there- and the car drove EXACTLY the same way. No power. Stalled out a few times. Made a whurrling noise underneath at one point- that was new. I took the car back and watched him work on it for 30 minutes. He reset the timing, had his friends come over to try and figure out what was going on. He had no clue. I'm pissed at this point. I ask him- so what's the issue? What do I need to do to get my car back? He said that it "Might" be the distributor, or the timing chain guides. I told him the car drove the exact same way as when it had the other 350 in it. He wanted 300 for a new distributor and a timing chain kit- I told him no. Let's find out what the issue is first. He told me that it might just be the tranny- something that I highly doubted, but sorta hoped it was just to be able to have a solution to it all. It made sense to me since it was driving the same way on two different engines. He said alright- I'll have the car towed tomorrow across the street to a tranny shop to see if it's the tranny or not. Another week goes by.

I asked him how the tranny was- and he said it wasn't the tranny at all, but that he didn't know what is was otherwise. Then he got an idea- 4 months ago while talking to him about doing an engine swap, he pointed over to a chevy truck that he had just done the 350 swap on. It was sitting in a fenced yard and I guess the owner never paid him for the job. He assured me that he KNOWS that that engine is good- because he'd driven it around before. At this point I wasn't really sure what to do since my own 305 engine which I swore was totally fine before he touched it no longer worked. He seem'ed really optimistic about it and thought for sure it'd work- so I told him to go ahead. He's been working out of his own pocket on his own time during these removals and installs- I helped him out the first time he did the swap by handing over 150 bucks to help pay for the new oils/bearings/work etc. But since then he's been going out of his own pocket and eating the labor cost of the whole process. I don't get a sense that he's trying to screw me over- he just had an unfortunate series of events with the same vehicle.

This is where I'm at in the process now. What say you all? I've been asking around about the liability of the shop since they knew he was working out of their garage and he documented the procedure on THEIR invoice. I don't want any extra money- I just want my car back in perfect running order with a newly rebuilt tranny in it. If that means that they have to tow it to another shop and pay them to do it- then so be it.

'92 OCC 305/LO3 @ 243k
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post #2 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 09:52 PM
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Hate to say it, but I'd get your car back NOW finished or not. The longer the process goes on, the less likely it will get completed correctly, or ever.
Guys like this will try to keep asking for more $$$, and stalling, and saying this is bad...blah blah blah

Throwing new bearings in a worn out engine is a band aid, and it'll only last so long (If @ all).
Tossing new bearings to remedy a rod knock is a recipe for failure.
There is zero substitute for doing a crank and bearings correctly.
It's knocking for a reason, and when they're knocking the crank needs work.
This means refinishing the crankshaft @ a machine shop. Then you potentially still have the rest of the worn out engine to deal with.

I would NOT pay another cent, in fact I would start asking for money back, and a LOT of money back, like in a FULL refund. The other issue is you paid up front, NEVER pay up front, and NEVER in cash.
Try to be nice, but stand your ground and be FIRM, no more deals, no more extra $$$.
You agreed to a price for a job, doesn't matter if things happened to him, or he got bad parts, that is NOT your problem.

Hate to say it, but it sounds like you're heading to small claims court in the near future.
Be it bad luck or someone trying to sell you the moon, with only paying for a star, it isn't going to end well.
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post #3 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 10:27 PM
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You should use the computer, or at least the chip from a car with a 350 in it.


There could be a number of issues. Did he use the whole engine, or just the long block? Are the wires that go under the front of the engine serviceable?


What condition is your cat in (if it is clogged, it will run poorly). My car would not go over 45 when the cat was partially clogged.


Check your fuel pressure if you can. You must have 9 PSI minimum. You may need a fuel pressure regulator, if he used the TBI that came with the engine.


I believe that the spark control module (on the relay bracket) is engine size specific (350 with 350), but the engine will run with the unit used with the 305.


Make sure all of the wires are in good condition. If the insulation is cracked/missing, it will affect the running of the engine.


Replacing the bearings will not cure a rod knock. It may silence it for a short time, but it will be back with a vengeance. Usually the rod journal is damaged when a bearing is worn. A knock can be the rod bearing or the wrist pin. If it is just a tick, it can be a lifter. An engine stethoscope can help you find the specific location of the noise.


A swap of the engine and trans is a 2 day job at the most. If a long block is used (your old intake installed), it may take an extra day.


If the timing sets with the connector disconnected, it is not your distributor or timing chain. Timing is "0" with the connector disconnected. If the connector is not disconnected when setting the timing, the timing will be wrong, and the engine will not run properly.


I paid someone $350 "install" a used engine for me. I picked the engine, and got it to him. I still ended up finishing the job myself. I also had to replace the oil pump after the engine was installed. It took 2 months to get the job done with all of the BS, and excuses. If you have an engine and trans to install, you can do it in two days...pull the wiring harness with the engine, and install the harness on the donor engine before installing the engine and trans. If I were getting paid as much as you paid your guy for installing a used engine, I would probably be able to get it done in one day, especially if I had power tools, and a complete shop to work in.


My engine in the 92 came from an RMS with 135K on the clock. It now has about 155K on it. It does not smoke, or leak, and performs like it should. I am going to re-ring the 350 that I installed in my 91, and put it in the 92. I will offer the engine in my 92 for sale after the swap. Complete from TBI to pan, including the exhaust manifolds. I will also sell the trans, but I think it needs a torque converter.


If you can get an engine from a truck, it will have 4 bolt mains, but you need to use your original manifold and distributor (you can get a new distributor on ebay for about $73). A 93 9C1 engine will have a hotter cam, bigger injectors, and you need the computer from the same car.

1991 OCC 461 (.030 over 454) BBC, 3.23 posi, flash to pass, drop spindles & springs, Impala rims, Recaros, MOMO/wood SW w/QR, custom wood shift knob, Pioneer DEH P77DH
1992 OCC now with 5.7 tbi, DEH P77DH
For a parts list, check http://www.impalassforum.com/vBullet...ion-parts.html
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post #4 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-25-2016, 07:25 AM
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CapriceCarl,

It may not sound like a "bright side to things", but in the short space of a few months and several hundreds more than you wished, you've lived (well, still living) many years of acquired pain and experience. And not just about cars. I agree with everyone who says STEP AWAY FROM THAT GUY AND GET THE CAR BACK NOW!

Any more with him and you'll risk starting to feel like you're picking wings off a moth or kicking a puppy. He's likely well-meaning, but one of many you'll come across in life classically, "without a clue", disorganized and inattentive to detail, no planning abilities, no follow-thru. Everything is something or someone else's fault.

Enough preaching. Clear a spot at the end of your driveway, build a tent with a tarp and get a propane heater and get the dam thing straightened out yourself. The money you're out is gone. Call it life experience and amortize it over the next 5 decades of life and it will be a bargain. If you hand the mess to another shop, then it's more head-scratching, money and time without certain outcome. If you can trust the rebuilt tranny then you're already 1/2 good. I can't tell WTH motor no. you're on, 3rd one?, 4th one? Since you don't really know the history of any of them then I would either find a trustworthy running one in a JY for $500 or buy a shop rebuilt one from a co. who does it for a living. Guys above have already mentioned you need to be mindful of compatibility of parts between years and motor types. An FSM and hundred YouTubes and you'll be on the road within a month.

That's the simple part (I didn't say easy) The bigger lesson is watching for conditions early on not to replicate your extremely painful experiences again. You gotta admit it was stacked up against you from the start, a muffler installer?, a month chewed up before even beginning a lousy 2-night swap?, didn't even first check out the motor he installed?.....

\'96SS SOB: SSRI, Herter Tune, Tri-Y II, SLP SS, 3000 Edge, F/HO bars, METCO extendeds and CV MMC, Bilsteins, currently Vredestein Ultrac Sessanta (315/35 rear)
\'96FWB BUW-Butt Ugly White: SS Bars, METCO LCAs, Koni Reds, PowerTrax No-Slip
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post #5 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-25-2016, 01:58 PM
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OP

not going to sugar coat this so no offense but.....at every step of the process you made the wrong decision, went to the wrong shop, let them do the wrong thing and paid way to much for nothing.

Cut your loss, get car back. You may be way to far down the $ road to ever make this a good decision to continue repairing the car. Sell it for salvage or "as is".

Hard way to learn but since you paid for the lesson I would use the experience as an example of what to never do again.
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post #6 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-25-2016, 03:46 PM Thread Starter
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Why would I sell the car? In its worst case- it only needs a new engine. I've got two other cars- so not having the wagon available isn't such a huge loss at this moment. No. The car will sit there until he gets it fixed- whether he and his shop pays for another shop to find and fix the issue or not, it's not my problem. I haven't had to, and won't pay another cent for his efforts, but I may need to help him find avenues to help figure out what the problem may be to try and expedite the cars return. Getting the car back now only means that I have a 4500 lbs paper weight. He's willing to put in the work to try and solve the issue, so I'll let him. He gave me the 640 back for the engine. What else can really go wrong at this point?

As far as I see it- he and his shop are on the hook for the repair. If that means civil court then that's the way it'll go- but because the work was done there at the shop, by their employee and documented and signed on their invoice- I don't see how I could be the liable party.

So long as I get the wagon back in running order- I can go through and correct any erroneous mistakes he may have made along the way in the install. I have faith enough in the SBC that if it'll last past the first 90 days of the warranty- it'll last the next couple of years.

@Black- I just moved into a shared home. I don't have the space nor the property to pitch up a tent and begin tearing into the car. In my new neighborhood the HOA would have a field day with me- and my roommate wouldn't be too pleased with me either.

@fred- I'll go through the check list and make sure everything is good. Thank you for the tips- I greatly appreciate it.

@Baby- The new bearings were just to keep the motor driveable until he could've picked up another 350. He said that he didn't expect the engine to last long- but he was hoping that it'd buy some time for him and the yard to find another one in better condition.


Thanks for all your guys's input. I'll keep this thread updated as we go along. And yes- it's a lesson well learned.

'92 OCC 305/LO3 @ 243k
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post #7 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-25-2016, 03:57 PM Thread Starter
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@fred-

You should use the computer, or at least the chip from a car with a 350 in it.
I will make certain he's using the 350 computer. He said he installed it. We'll see.

There could be a number of issues. Did he use the whole engine, or just the long block? Are the wires that go under the front of the engine serviceable?
He used the whole engine. He said that he relocated the wires around the engine so that they wouldn't get damaged.

What condition is your cat in (if it is clogged, it will run poorly). My car would not go over 45 when the cat was partially clogged.
Car passed smog a year and a half ago. Seems ok. Don't think it's clogged but I'll have him check that.

Check your fuel pressure if you can. You must have 9 PSI minimum. You may need a fuel pressure regulator, if he used the TBI that came with the engine.
I'll have him check it. I had him repair the vent hose to the tank filler neck (if I fulled the car up past the half way point- there would be a small leak). He had to drop the tank to do this- I will have him double check the lines and the fuel pressure to make sure that they weren't compromised.

I believe that the spark control module (on the relay bracket) is engine size specific (350 with 350), but the engine will run with the unit used with the 305.
I'll ask about this as well. The engine would rev up and idle perfectly. It was when you threw it into drive the the load would cause the car to chugg/not have power/die.

Make sure all of the wires are in good condition. If the insulation is cracked/missing, it will affect the running of the engine.
I'll ask him about it.


If the timing sets with the connector disconnected, it is not your distributor or timing chain. Timing is "0" with the connector disconnected. If the connector is not disconnected when setting the timing, the timing will be wrong, and the engine will not run properly.
He set the timing with the connector off. Like I said, it ran perfectly at idle. Would rev up and wouldn't miss a beat.


My engine in the 92 came from an RMS with 135K on the clock. It now has about 155K on it. It does not smoke, or leak, and performs like it should. I am going to re-ring the 350 that I installed in my 91, and put it in the 92. I will offer the engine in my 92 for sale after the swap. Complete from TBI to pan, including the exhaust manifolds. I will also sell the trans, but I think it needs a torque converter.
Always the life saver Fred Thanks.

'92 OCC 305/LO3 @ 243k
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post #8 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-25-2016, 05:38 PM
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HiCapCarl,

I know it sounds like we're ganging up on ya. But, you know you transcribed quite a treatise up there chronologically documenting every step of this guy's procrastination and slapdash knee-jerk incompetence. Now, you're at the same time daring him not to pull a miracle out of the mess, and defending his "good intention" and that every misstep and cock-up is part of some grand strategy masterful plan. lol Best of luck, and hope your approach and end result winds up on top. But the key performance indicators sure aren't there based on your OP. Just a thought, but if you really do have the clout you say with implicating the shop owner into the job, then why not have him graduate this into a 'dayjob' instead of offshift sidework with just this one employee?
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post #9 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-26-2016, 11:01 PM
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If you have problems with a mechanic or shop in CA, file a complaint(IIRC, you can do it online) with the CA Bureau of Auto Repair. They will assign a field rep and he will be in touch with you and the shop. They are pretty quick in responding and get results when you can't get any by yourself. They have assisted me on 2 occasions over the years. Good luck.

Jim B.

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post #10 of 47 (permalink) Old 09-27-2016, 07:22 AM
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Relocating the wires can cause insulation issues, because of the brittleness of the insulation, especially the wires that run under the front of the engine. There are a couple of important wires in that mass. O2 sensor, and evap canister. other wires are the rear window washer pump, steering pressure sensor, alternator control, and temp gauge lead (maybe a couple more). The O2 and evap canister affect the engine.


He could put your old TBI on the 350, with the injectors from the 350, to determine if the fuel pressure regulator is bad, or just swap the regulator. You will need a gasket for the regulator.


While you are at it, try to find the metal fuel lines from a 91-93 Fleetwood (LO3/5), and install them. They have Schrader valve ports on them. The 91-92s have it on the front leg, and the 93 has it on the angled leg. It will make diagnosing the fuel system much easier in the future. You can even put a small gauge on it permanently. I like the 91-92 fuel lines better, because the Schrader valve is in a more accessible place than the 93.

1991 OCC 461 (.030 over 454) BBC, 3.23 posi, flash to pass, drop spindles & springs, Impala rims, Recaros, MOMO/wood SW w/QR, custom wood shift knob, Pioneer DEH P77DH
1992 OCC now with 5.7 tbi, DEH P77DH
For a parts list, check http://www.impalassforum.com/vBullet...ion-parts.html
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