Two Tricks For Making An Engine Swap Easier

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As a junky old VW owner, I have about the easiest time of anybody in the car world when it comes to dropping an engine. There are four bolts to undo, a handful of wires and lines to unplug and the whole thing can come out. The rest of you have a tougher time, but it can be made easier.

Formula Drift pros Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck are top-level drivers in fully-built race cars, but all their years practicing and competing in grungy Nissans has made them experts when it comes to keeping a budget build going. As such, I take their advice seriously.

The two of them are in the midst of un-fucking Drift Idiot’s basic S14 Nissan 240SX for this current season of Drift Garage. That’s meant pulling the car’s old, broken motor to replace it with a new one.


They have some fairly basic good advice, like spending time to figure out exactly where to lift the engine from so it doesn’t drop when you have it on your engine hoist. (Again, this is not a problem for old VW owners like me. We keep the engine in place and hoist up the rest of the car around it.) But Forsberg also advises to drop the car’s transmission first before pulling the engine. This is good if you don’t have a ton of room in your garage, and it makes the job of moving the engine in and out of the car less complicated.


To make the job of dropping the trans easier, Tuerck advises to leave the topmost mounts for the transmission unbolted. This goes against every instinct I have in car repair. (Do it by the book always do it by the book there are no shortcuts only longcuts.) But I do trust Tuerck and he explains that leaving the hard-to-reach bolts out of the equation makes it that much easier to drop your transmission, particularly if you’re at the track. The consequence is that you will have to more often check your trans mount bolts to see if they’re coming loose, but that’s easier routine maintenance than trying to bust your knuckles getting through to the ultra-challenging bolts in the deepest recesses of your the engine bay.

Again that’s:

  • Drop the transmission before hoisting the engine
  • Leave the difficult topmost transmission mounts unbolted

Every car is different in how all of this stuff lines up, but you can take these as philosophical points for your own build. Divvy up your steps and things get more manageable. Assemble your car in a way that makes sense for you, not only how the factory thought it through. And with that, I have to remind myself that dropping an engine isn’t too hard. I still have one engine-out repair to do on my VW and dammit I’m lazy.