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Customer Discussions > Automotive forum

Best and Worst Engines!

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Showing 1-25 of 212 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 17, 2012, 6:44:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 17, 2012, 7:04:49 PM PDT
Turbo6 says:
OK, we've all read the articles on "the 10 worst engines ever made". The same bunch seem to come up all the time. The Olds 5.7 Diesel, Chevy Vega 140ci, Caddy V8-6-4, Triumph Stag V8, PRV V6, Chrysler 2.2, etc.

So instead of beating a dead horse I thought it would be fun to get a list of the best/worst engines made since 2000. You'd think that a "modern" car would have an engine free of inherent major design defects, but being close to the auto repair industry, this is sadly not true from my observations.

So here's my list in no particular order:


Jeep 4.0L inline six. The history of this all cast iron engine dates back to the sixties, but they were modernized with fuel injection and electronic controls and sold in Wranglers, Cherokees, and Grand Cherokees until 2004. These engines are famous for being tolerant to neglect and abuse without stopping. They are like Harley-Davidson motorcycles - old technology, modernized for today. Sadly, the old design could not meet emissions and was finally retired in 2004. Known for its silky smoothness (inline sizes are inherently balanced) and low end torque - the 4.0 was perfect for Jeeps. The 4.0's are favored by people who actually take their Jeeps offroad.

Audi/VW 1.8T inline 4.- This engine, despite its small size, has been factory tuned to push out over 220hp with a torque curve like a V6. (earlier versions were 150hp) The low pressure turbo provides boost just off of idle speeds for virtually no lag. That combined with the long stroke design and high (at the time) compression, provide torque that provides snappy acceleration in everyday driving without having to wring it out. 30 mpg fuel economy doesn't hurt, either! Some may dispute this engine as being a "best" because of engine sludge issues. But the sludge problem was similar to Toyotas, where customer neglect was the cause in most cases. Most newer engines are just not as tolerant to neglect as the old school engines like the above 4.0 six. But then again, the 4.0 six does not provide more than 100hp per liter like this smooth running Audi does!

Buick 3800 V6. - The origins of this engine date back to the sixties, when Buick lopped 2 cylinders off their V8 to produce a V6. The resulting odd firing engine shook, rattled and rolled. They sold the design and tooling to Jeep in the sixties, and bought it back in the seventies. They then modified the crankshaft for an even firing order, which helped smooth it out. (this generation was the basis for the rip snortin' Grand National turbo V6) Then GM added balance shafts in the 90's to really help NVH. Versions of the 3800 have been supercharged with no long term reliability issues. This engine was smooth, powerful and offered near 30 mpg economy in GM's large sedan's. Tolerant to neglect, the 3800 will happily run with a crankcase full of sludge. There are literally millions of these things still on the road today. Production stopped in 2004.

Chrysler 3.3/3.8 V6. - This Chrysler designed engine started out in the early nineties as the replacement for the Mitsubishi sourced 3.0 V6 they were using in their minivans. Its pushrod design turned out to be very reliable and the torque curve was perfect for moving their minivans and large sedans. While nothing special as far as performace goes, millions of them serve quietly and reliably every day hauling families around. They are also fairly tolerant to neglect, as I've seen many with gobs of sludge under the valve covers with perfect oil pressure still running smooth. The 3.3 was built until 2010 and the 3.8 departed in 2011.


Ford 2.0 CVH - This gem has its roots from the eighties and was finally put out to pasture in 2004. It was last used in the Ford Focus, and it spoiled what was otherwise a competent little car. CVH was an acronym for "Compound Vortex Hemispherical" head, but most people would agree that "Considerable Vibration and Harshness" would fit the bill better. While the later CVH engines didn't suffer from the blown head gaskets, snapped timing belts and bent valves of the earlier versions, its general lack of power and tractor like characteristics should have relegated it to history about 10 years earlier than it did.

Ford 3.8 V6 - Can you say blown head gasket? I knew you could! This loser of an engine will keep eating head gaskets as long as you keep putting them in. Back in the eighties, Ford engineers must have bought a Buick V6 and copied it. Both the Buick and Ford V6's were pretty much par for the course at the time. Not particularly powerful, but got better fuel economy than a V8. Both have had their performance versions, where Buick used turbos and superchargers and Ford used supercharging for the T-Bird Super Coupe. Difference is that Buick continually developed and refined their V6 with balance shafts. Ford pretty much left the design alone and got left behind. Many Ford 3.8's have bit the dust because of a leaking head gasket letting coolant into the oil, destroying the lubricating properties of the oil. By the time the coolant warning light turns on, some damage to the bearings has already been done. It was finally shelved in 2004. (although its big brother the craptastic 4.2 V6 soldiered on until 2008)

Chrysler 2.0/2.4 - Another head gasket nightmare. Except this one doesn't make chocolate shakes with your motor oil and coolant. This one "marks its territory" wherever it goes. Pull in to the service station to fill the oil and check the gas. Ever wonder why you don't see many Neon's, Stratus, and Cirrus on the road anymore? These underachieving nightmares are why. They were replaced with a new engine family in 2005.

Subaru EJ25 2.5L four - I know people are going to get upset at this one, but once again this one suffers from head gasket issues. But to add insult to injury, Subaru has prescribed a cooling system sealer be added to the coolant to stop them from peeing coolant on your driveway. They will put this goop in your radiator everytime you bring your subie to the dealer whether you like it or not. Eventually, it'll clog up your radiator an heater core - but your head gaskets are just fine. Also - go to youtube and search for "subaru rod", watch the videos and turn up the volume!

GM 3100/3400 V6 - These are the updated versions of the ubiquitous GM 60 degree 3.1 V6, which has a decent reputation. But GM chose to cheap out on the lower intake manifold gasket. (or it was the Dex-Cool coolant that ate the gaskets) In any case, coolant would leak into the oil slowly and if you kept topping off the coolant reservoir, you'd eventually cook your bearings from the lack of lubrication. If caught early and you had the gasket replaced, you could have future problems if the mechanic overtorqued the rocker arm bolts, causing the threads to pull from the pot metal head and taking out a cylinder - one at a time. There are still plenty of these things clanking along only because they put this engine in just about everything they made for over a decade. It was retired from use in 2005.

Posted on Jul 17, 2012, 8:10:27 PM PDT
baron samedy says:
you left out Honda VTec as one of the best engines as well as the old air cooled Porches...and for the worst the early Lotus esprit engines (tho i still love em anyways) and Izuzu engines

Posted on Jul 17, 2012, 8:21:21 PM PDT
Turbo6 says:
I'm trying to concentrate on engines produced from 2000 on, to keep the discussion current and so we don't re-hash old arguments for or against an engine.

As far as VTEC goes, lots of Honda engines use VTEC and other manufacturers have their own variable cam timing systems. VTEC was innovative back in the nineties, but it is common technology nowadays.

If you've got a list, post them and post why you think they are the best or the worst!

Posted on Jul 17, 2012, 8:45:34 PM PDT
GG says:
What would make this interesting list more useful would be suggestions on how to prevent any engines in the craptastic category from falling victim to the inherit design flaws, if possible.

Posted on Jul 18, 2012, 4:47:56 PM PDT
Lissa says:
Inline 6 BMW engines, they last forever if you don't overheat them. Mine is pushing 300k and I would drive it across the country tomorrow if need be.

Posted on Jul 18, 2012, 9:22:21 PM PDT
Alkus says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jul 18, 2012, 10:08:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 18, 2012, 10:09:07 PM PDT
Gordhelmutt says:
Hahaha nice post for discussion! I've noticed that around year 2000 alot of engines have had poor designs. Knowing that emissions standards became more strict and competition amongst car manufacturers got heated, thats when all these poor designs started becoming a norm. One other thing that i've noticed is the more an engined is squished in the engine compartment, the more problems they have...! I'm not sure if its because they have many more parts inside them (which is why they would be bigger) that are prone to failure or all the heat inside the engine compartment causing engine parts to fail sooner, either way its crappy! Hahaha!

Posted on Jul 19, 2012, 6:20:45 PM PDT
what about the death of cadillac caused by the worst engine ever the " NORTHSTAR"

Posted on Jul 23, 2012, 9:40:01 AM PDT
Justbeme says:
The 3800 lived on till 2008 when production ceased and the last 3800 shipped in 2009 model year.

NA 3800's had more problems with lower intake gaskets, supercharged were better, but still ultimately fell victim. Crappy gaskets, not Dexcool is the culprit. Change your coolant every 2 years no matter what you have in there....

Solid engine? Lexus 1UZ-FE died in 2000, then replaced by the 3UZ-FE. No real problems at all.

Nominee for another worst engine, GM 3.6L. Timing chains going too slack by 50k miles and in FWD a sludge monster....

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 12:44:18 PM PDT
Carl G says:
After General Motors finally perfected the 3800 with the third series, they stopped making them. The Chrysler/Dodge slant six was a good engine as was GM's 235 & 250 inline six-cylinder and their small block V8's.

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 2:03:11 PM PDT
Justbeme says:
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Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 2:41:54 PM PDT
Vicious says:
No real experience with the older models, but lots of forums claiming the 2.0 tdi in the Jetta (or other Mexico assembled VW) prior to 2007 was a terrible engine. WORST

The German assembled 2.0 TDI is a great engine with out all the "soft metal" issues plaguing the Mexico built engine. I own the 2011 GOLF TDI and love the engine, 43-45 mpg on biodiesel blend of about 13% average. I have 17k mi and no complaints about the engine.
Craftsmanship of the Cloth seats are a different story, :-|

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 3:09:29 PM PDT
C. Matthew says:
My aunt bought a 1996 Caravan with a 3.3L V6 used. The fact that the engine survived my aunt's torture for nearly a decade is testament to the strength of this engine. Knowing nothing about cars, she drove without coolant and with either old or low oil. The only reason its not on the road now is because the transmission seized up (fluid leak).

I owned a 96 Grand AM with the 3100. Only 50k miles, but many coolant issues. Eventually it got a head gasket leak and that was the end of that.

I currently have a 95 525i. Best engine I've ever dealt with. Smooth, powerful, and not much maintenance required.

Posted on Jul 26, 2012, 8:59:10 AM PDT
chrysler 2.7 liter is one of the worst engines. water pumps go and blow up your engine

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2012, 9:58:16 AM PDT
Carl G says:
Is/was/that a usual occurrence or a one time issue?

Posted on Jul 26, 2012, 11:33:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 26, 2012, 11:45:07 AM PDT
Garrett M says:
How bout the Toyota 22R? My Dads had 612,000 miles before some kid in a Chevy rear ended him. The Chevy 5.7 is also a bullet proof design. The Dodge 318, 360 and 488 V10 which I own are also good designs. The Cadillac 4.9 non northstar is rock solid.. Just don't let a 4.9 over heat, as its cast iron block and aluminum heads expand at different rates. The Honda 2.2 non vtec ( 90-94 ) was a also a good motor.

Worst engines? The Subaru 2.5 head gasket blower. The Chrysler 2.7 was a turd and ofter made a milkshake of its oil. The Cadillac 4.6 Northstar was a HG blower. Cost a small fortune to fix, as the engine cradle has to be dropped to repair engine. 98-00 were the worst years! The new 6.0 Powerstoke diesel's are also a nightmare around in these parts. Everyone I know with a 6.0 swear they will get a Durmax or Cummings next time. Ford needs to start having International Harvester build their motors again. Remember the 7.3 workhorses that never needed messing with?

Posted on Jul 27, 2012, 12:26:10 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 27, 2012, 5:25:08 AM PDT]

Posted on Jul 28, 2012, 3:08:39 PM PDT
Volvo red-block 2.3 engines. This design dated from the Sixties and is stout enough to carry a turbo for hundreds of thousands of miles. Run forever with basic maintenance

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012, 12:09:13 AM PDT
Carl G says:
What kind of a engine is it and what is its application?

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 3:26:19 AM PDT
In my opinion the Gm 350Ci motor is the Best, the 350 has the largest aftermarket and OEM parts. Gm's 350 is most likely the cheapest to buy parts for and also cheapest to make good/hi-performace power. The 350 is easy to acquire because there were literally millions of them out there because they were put in everything from cars to industrial applications. They have strong webbing in the mains and lifter valley and they will last for a very long time with just simple maintenance.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 2:19:08 PM PDT
Carl G says:
All Chevy V8s, from the big blocks to today's LS7 and LS9, evolved from the 265/283 small block family. Of the three engines in this family, two of them, the 265 and the 283, have gone down in automotive history. The first of this family was the 265, introduced in 1955. The 283, famous for being one of the first engines to make 1 hp per cubic inch, is also famous for being the evolutionary stepping stone that would later give rise to small blocks and to the "W" blocks, ultimately culminating in the Chevy big blocks. The last of this family was the 307, which was a stroked 283 with a medium journal.


Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 2:55:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 29, 2012, 2:55:38 PM PDT
Carl G says:
General Motors said its next-generation small-block engines will feature direct fuel injection. There are rumors a new "base" displacement for the Gen V small-block V8 will be 5.5 liters and there might be something special going on with the valvetrain. It's long been speculated that GM might have an engineering surprise up its sleeve to improve the relatively narrow degree of variable valve timing available from the small-block's single-cam, pushrod valvetrain - one feature that many argue holds back the engine's development potential.


Posted on Jul 29, 2012, 8:43:07 PM PDT
bluestang65 says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012, 9:20:41 PM PDT
Carl G says:
Well, thank goodness I cited the source of my posting. Apparently someone doesn't know what they are talking about.

"I'm sorry to mention this in the wake of someone who actually thinks the LSx engines are an evolution of the small block."

Posted on Jul 30, 2012, 6:55:05 AM PDT
bluestang65 says:
The term evolution would apply to LT series engines which shared the architecture with the old 1950s design. The LSx engines, as I mentioned are a blank slate design. Interchangeability of parts is completely isolated to the bellhousing with no backwards compatibility. Many press releases used the same terminology undoubtedly to sell the concept to the die-hard koolaid drinkers who believed there are two good engines in the history of mankind...the SBC and the BBC.

Could we get back to the original discussion? Your post about the good ole days of GM small blocks was off topic and I should not have even taken that bait. Sorry.
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