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reasonable cost to repair or replace B21A1 engine?

 
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Old 07-24-2016, 07:57 PM
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reasonable cost to repair or replace B21A1 engine?

I've got a 1990 Prelude Si with a B21A1 engine (which, as everyone here knows, is a B20A5 with the bore increased via thinning of the cylinder walls, which in turn required strengthening with FRM cylinder liners, which are abrasive and thus create excessive ring wear).

The car has 245K miles. For the past several years I've had to put in a quart of oil with every fill-up, which is tolerable since I only drive ~3K miles/year. I have white smoke (one tech said it was bluish-white) that billows out when I accelerate, which all the emissions guys say is due to excessive ring wear. In the past it's been intermittent, but it's now sufficiently consistent that it's not going to be able to pass CA emissions without some fundamental repairs.

One shop is looking into repairing it, while the other suggested installing a relatively low-mileage Japanese JDM engine. [He said there's some regulation in Japan that you have to get rid of your car after it's reached 100K km = 62K miles, but from what I've read this is a myth -- the real reason for lower mileage is Shaken, but even with that I'd be surprised if he'll be able to find a 26-year-old engine whose mileage is low enough that it won't smoke.] In either case, I'll need a written guarantee that it won't smoke enough to fail emissions when they're done.

I'm waiting for quotes from both. In the meantime, what would be reasonable pricing, and is there anything else I might consider? I also looked into buying a rebuild, but I was told that would be $3K+$1K labor! BTW, I'm in LA, and while I can drive away from the expensive sections, I'm still going to be paying more than I would in, say, rural Tennessee.

Before proceeding I will have them first replace the PCV, and then if that doesn't work do dry and wet compression tests, to confirm it's the rings.

One other option that I've read of is that there are shops over the Mexican border that rebuild engines for very little (~$1K), even including hotel accommodations in the package (it takes a couple of days). But I would need a very reliable recommendation of where to go, which I don't currently have.

Finally, the reason I'm considering this is that I won't be able to get a nice replacement car (nice enough that I'd like it) for another two years, and I figure even if I have to put ~$2K into it I'd end up with something much nicer (I like my Prelude) than the typical crap used car I'd be able to get for $3K ($2K + the $1K CA will give me to retire it to get older more polluting cars off the road -- even if it passes emission it will still emit more than a newer car).
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Old 07-27-2016, 11:51 AM
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Re: reasonable cost to repair or replace B21A1 engine?

Try some STP oil treatment. It's loaded with zinc and may be able to get the rings to seal well enough to slow down all that smoking.

Dump it into your oil a few hours (of engine runtime) before you change your oil, then add a few ounces to your new oil.

It helped a bunch in one I had which had 225k miles.
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Old 07-27-2016, 09:48 PM
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Re: reasonable cost to repair or replace B21A1 engine?

There's a few big things to consider here. You're on the right track though, get a compression test and leakdown test done first as this will tell you if it's the rings or valves. Replacing the PCV valve is a cheap and easy fix and a broken one can certainly cause big smoking issues. If the leakdown test still shows compression loss then it could be the valves need adjusting and/or the valve stem seals need replacing.

If the leakdown test shows leaking when dry but less when wet then it would certainly be the rings, but this isn't the end of the story. What weight oil do you currently run? Do you use Synthetic, semi-synthetic or mineral oil? Simply playing with the type and thickness might get some extra life out of the motor. If these measures don't get you passing emissions then replacing the motor might be a better idea than rebuilding as I suspect it would be much much cheaper.

Driving to Mexico to get a rebuild seems like a really bad idea to me, kind of like flying to Thailand to save $1000 on a boob job. Sure it's cheaper but are you really getting a quality product?

Have you considered simply buying another 3rd gen? IDK what prices are like in your area but I could pick up a 2.1L one locally for around the same cost as you've been quoted to rebuild but with less than 125k miles on it, hardly seems worth paying someone that much to fix what you have. You'd still be stuck with a chassis with many miles on it, other things aside from the motor will start to fail.
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Old 07-29-2016, 06:15 PM
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Re: reasonable cost to repair or replace B21A1 engine?

I recently switched to 20W-50 non-synthetic along with a bottle of stop leak.

Part of the reason I want to keep mine is that I used to own a pro audio business, and a have a custom high-end sound system (KEF/MB Quart/Nakamichi/Alpine/Eclipse/) installed in the car. Nevertheless, I checked carguru, autotrader, autolist, edmunds, and cars.com, and the only 3rd gen I found in/around Los Angeles (where I live) was a 91 2.0 Si manual with 55K and an asking price of $6200 -- not sure how much he'd be willing to come down, and not sure if I want to switch to a stick. Craigslist, by contrast, had 9 cars listed. Most didn't specify mileage, and among the others the only one in decent condition had177K -- not as clean as mine, and it's also a manual, but it's $1300.

Just spoke to one of the shops -- he's heard back from three of his four trusted sources for JDM engines, and none have either a B21A1 or a B20A5. Car-part.com has several engines listed, all for ~$400-550, but he recommended against my having him install one of those because (a) they are of uncertain provenance; and (b) he can't warranty the labor if the engine turns out to be a dud.

Last edited by theorist; 07-31-2016 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-29-2016, 06:15 PM
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