10 Tips for Inspecting a Used Engine at a Scrap Yard

When searching for a used engine at a scrap yard in Gauteng or elsewhere, it’s essential to thoroughly inspect the engine before making a purchase. Here are ten tips to help you make an informed decision and avoid potential pitfalls.

Key Takeaway Explanation
Check for “Running” Status Verify if the vehicle was marked as “running” before arriving at the scrap yard, but still inspect the engine closely.
Look for Water Damage or Neglect Avoid engines with standing water in cylinder or spark plug wells, as it indicates severe issues.
Assess Collision Damage Engines from collision vehicles may still be operational, but check for broken parts or housings.
Inspect for Missing Parts Move on if the engine has missing components, as it may not be complete or functional.
Check Crankshaft Rotation Ensure the crankshaft can be turned by hand, indicating the engine is not seized.

1. Check If The Vehicle Has Been Marked As “Running”

When visiting a scrap yard, you’ll see some vehicles are marked to indicate that the engine was running at one time. However, it’s advisable to do a close inspection of the engine, since a lot of things can happen once a vehicle reaches a salvage yard.

2. Check For Water Damage or Neglect

If you see standing water in cylinder wells or spark plug wells, it’s not worth looking any further!

3. Check The Collision Damage

The first thing I recommend you look for is vehicles that have been in a collision. You can reasonably assume that the engine and gearbox were running perfectly at the time of the collision. Therefore, there is a pretty good chance that the engine and gearbox are still operational.

4. Check for broken engine parts or housings

If you are inspecting an engine or gearbox that has been in a collision, look closely at the aluminum housings and look for broken parts, either on the cylinder head or where the engine and transmission mount to the body.

5. Inspect the engine block or oil pan for damage

If you see holes or pieces sticking out the side, it’s definitely not the engine for you!

6. Check if the engine has any missing parts!

If you see that there seems to be missing parts, then MOVE ON! This engine is not worth looking at!

7. Does the Crankshaft Spin?

Another check you can do is to see if you can spin the crankshaft by hand. If you can’t spin the crankshaft by hand, it means the engine cannot move and may be seized.

8. Check the dipstick

Look for discoloration or signs of contamination on the dipstick. This could indicate a problem with the engine or gearbox.

9. Remove & Check The Oil Cap

If you remove an oil cap and you see a crusty build-up, that’s an engine to be avoided.

10. Remove and check the spark plugs

Take the spark plugs out of the engine and have a look at them. If you see abnormalities on the spark plugs, that’s an engine to be avoided. If the plugs have a little bit of residue on them, it’s probably burning oil or something. This is not the engine for you!

These tips will help make the process much easier when buying used car engines for sale. If you’re looking for specific engines, such as Toyota engines or VW engines, be sure to check out our extensive inventory at Engine Finder. We connect you with trusted suppliers and engine importers across South Africa to help you find the perfect engine for your needs.

Remember, a thorough inspection is crucial when purchasing a used engine from a scrap yard. By following these tips and being cautious, you can avoid costly mistakes and ensure you’re getting a quality engine that will keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.

craig sandeman rotated

Drawing from extensive expertise in the used car parts industry, Craig Sandeman has established himself as a trusted authority in automotive repair. He possesses a deep knowledge of the challenges encountered by individuals seeking reliable car parts, making him a highly sought-after expert in this field.


Potential issues, causes, and solutions have been identified in the above article based on the experiences of car owners and repairers, as well as web materials such as forum blogs and technical support bulletins. This data is supplied exclusively for the purpose of reference. Only appropriately qualified persons should perform repairs and/or changes on your vehicles.

While it’s important to keep in mind, it’s also important to note that the amount of times anything is mentioned here should not be seen as a sign of its reliability or frequency. Various owners, driving in different ways, and caring for their vehicles in distinct ways will cause two identical vehicles to perform differently.

As previously said, this material is supplied primarily for reference reasons; nonetheless, we hope that by doing so, we will be able to supply you with essential knowledge that will allow you to make informed decisions whenever you encounter any of the aforementioned setbacks.

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