Noob here looking for help deciding wether to purchase a new crate motor or do an engine re-fresh

Giant Rock

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I've got a 1990 Suburban with 220k miles. The engine is certainly tired and recently started shutting off. I've looked into fixing this which I may still do, but at this point since my goal for this rig is to have it be completely trust worthy going long distances where ever I want, I've began to think about putting some serious money into the truck.

With that in mind I've ordered all new suspension from Off Road designs and now I'm thinking about the motor. Does anyone have a ballpark figure of cost for purchasing and installing a new crate motor? If so, is there a specific one you would recommend? Or would it be better to have the existing motor overhauled?

Again, I'm way out of my element here and don't know anyone savvy in this stuff, so any help would be much appreciated. I'm not trying to be lazy either, I've done research but still don't have a handle on all this might entail.

Here she is in the sand:

View media item 9540
 

John Nes

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First off, welcome! Once you pinpoint why it’s shutting off, you’ll have a better idea about what your cost to fix that particular issue will be. At the shop I’m at, engine swaps run about 1600$ In labor plus consumables (oil, coolant, etc). Some folks just want a no frills, basic ass sbc 350, like the surefire crates from like AutoZone, which retail about 1800-1900.

reckon your cost will also depend on if you’re doing all the work or using a mechanic.
Also kinda curious if the truck was sittin for a while before you got it? If so you could just be shaking some stuff loose after waking it back up...seeing how it’s a 1990, if it still has its original TBI engine, you might wanna start troubleshooting by checking the O2 sensor, or pull some
plugs to see if it’s running rich. I’ve dealt with similar issues on early fuel injection engines, where it would run great while in open loop, but fall flat, stumble, shut off, when it goes to closed loop.
When ya say “shutting off”, how quickly does it do that after it fires up?
 

Midnightmoon

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I think that the answer to this question really depends on your area. Where I am here in western PA, machine shops are few and far between. The two that are still operating in my area have become all but cost prohibitive when compared to a basic crate engine. I'm not saying that they don't do good work. But, it isn't worth the cost and turnaround time in most cases for a basic rebuild.

If you have a good machine shop that can do the work for a reasonable cost, then a rebuild will do you just fine. But, if you are in a situation like I am, the crate makes more sense.
 

John Nes

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@Midnightmoon our shop tells folks the same thing, more cost efficient to just get a new motor then to try n save an old sbc.
 

John Nes

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Giant Rock

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First off, welcome! Once you pinpoint why it’s shutting off, you’ll have a better idea about what your cost to fix that particular issue will be. At the shop I’m at, engine swaps run about 1600$ In labor plus consumables (oil, coolant, etc). Some folks just want a no frills, basic ass sbc 350, like the surefire crates from like AutoZone, which retail about 1800-1900.

reckon your cost will also depend on if you’re doing all the work or using a mechanic.
Also kinda curious if the truck was sittin for a while before you got it? If so you could just be shaking some stuff loose after waking it back up...seeing how it’s a 1990, if it still has its original TBI engine, you might wanna start troubleshooting by checking the O2 sensor, or pull some
plugs to see if it’s running rich. I’ve dealt with similar issues on early fuel injection engines, where it would run great while in open loop, but fall flat, stumble, shut off, when it goes to closed loop.
When ya say “shutting off”, how quickly does it do that after it fires up?

Hey thanks so much for the reply. $1600 for engine swap isn't so bad, though I do live in California so I might be smart to double that. Even so not that crazy and the thought of having a brand spankin' new engine is pretty tempting.

Regarding why it was stalling. I had been driving the burb for about 10 months with no issues, just weekend trips but still definitely using it. Then all of a sudden it died on me a few times when just barely cruising, low rpms. Then it would start back up. My research (good chance I researched wrong) back then pointed me in the direction of a bad ICM (ignition control module) and I purchased a new one but haven't had the time to install yet. So that may very well fix it. But I still just can't help but feel like it's an old ass engine and am tempted to go all new. Maybe that's dumb though and I'm open to hearing that it may be.
 

Giant Rock

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I think that the answer to this question really depends on your area. Where I am here in western PA, machine shops are few and far between. The two that are still operating in my area have become all but cost prohibitive when compared to a basic crate engine. I'm not saying that they don't do good work. But, it isn't worth the cost and turnaround time in most cases for a basic rebuild.

If you have a good machine shop that can do the work for a reasonable cost, then a rebuild will do you just fine. But, if you are in a situation like I am, the crate makes more sense.
Good point thanks, I will call some local shops and see what's up.
 

Giant Rock

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Use the 350 for a boat anchor and "Big Block that Bitch"!!!:smoke2:
Tell me more about "Big Blocking that Bitch"! I'm such a noob I have an idea what you mean but not exactly. Sounds up my alley though! How much would it cost?
 

Grit dog

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First figure out what’s wrong with it, unless you just want to dump 5 grand into it for new everything.
And have to decide how much power you want. And what you’re doing with the transmission if it’s old or you go bigger power.
 

John Nes

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Hey thanks so much for the reply. $1600 for engine swap isn't so bad, though I do live in California so I might be smart to double that. Even so not that crazy and the thought of having a brand spankin' new engine is pretty tempting.

Regarding why it was stalling. I had been driving the burb for about 10 months with no issues, just weekend trips but still definitely using it. Then all of a sudden it died on me a few times when just barely cruising, low rpms. Then it would start back up. My research (good chance I researched wrong) back then pointed me in the direction of a bad ICM (ignition control module) and I purchased a new one but haven't had the time to install yet. So that may very well fix it. But I still just can't help but feel like it's an old ass engine and am tempted to go all new. Maybe that's dumb though and I'm open to hearing that it may be.
Yeah that’s just for the labor. Some folks bring in a built n blueprinted expensive motor to put in. Some just wanna throw something affordable, reliable, close to stock in there. So depending on what engine ya go with, def set aside some stacks.


So, as ironic as this sounds, forums are usually trash for trying figure out an issue on your truck, based off someone else’s experience. Most of the time, You’ll have 13 different replies, with 13 different “fixes”, it’ll get off topic, or the OP never comes back and says what the issue was and/or how it was fixed lol.

I say this cuz I tried to diagnose an issue I was having, by searching “engine stutters dies” or some **** like that. I’d find a thread that kinda sounded like mine, so I’d go out n swap out the ICM, no change. Read more, swap out the EGR, no change. Test the IAC, replace the PCV, nothing, zip, nada. It sucks to just throw parts at something in hopes of it working out, waste of time and money. If you had said “I hear a messed up low-end knocking” “I see smoke billowing out of everywhere” or “my coolant looks like a peanut butter smoothie”, then yeah, you’re ******, and should prob get a new engine.

if it’s somethin simple, and the trucks been maintained, there’s no reason you can’t get a **** ton of more miles outta your truck.

If you do decide to use forums as your mechanic and start throwin parts at ****, I’d suggest start with the cheapest options first.
 

Grit dog

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^What he said. Doesn’t sound like your engine, as in the internals, are trash. And if that is good, 90% of what will leave you sitting broke down will be fuel, ignition or accessories. Or ****** hoses that are 30 years old.

agree, it can be challenging to diagnose, but start simple, describe what’s going on. Start with checking for spark and fuel.
First step is figure out what’s wrong before short term fix, which comes before long term improvements.
 

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