(first posted 9/7/2015. We don’t normally rerun QOTD posts, but the 372 comments in this one make for some fine reading)
The article the other day on the gen2 Seville, with all of its feeble engines, made me think: Just what were the 10 worst car engines ever? Well, who better than you all to answer that. And if a something even vaguely resembling a consensus develops,we’ll make an official CC List in a post. But I’m not holding my breath… Maybe I’ll just pick what I think is the best list and re-post it.
Just so that we keep it a bit real, let’s have a cut-off; only engines that appeared after 1965. Many of us here might not be familiar with the travails of the Copper-Cooled 1923 Chevy. But many of us will remember the hypereutectic alloys and other delights of a somewhat more recent Chevy.
The headline is “What Were The Ten Worst Car Engines Ever?”
Then later, you limit submissions to post-1965.
Maybe you should change the headlines to “What were the 10 worst engines of eggsalad’s lifetime?” 🙂
Before I noticed your username, I was going to say that I should probably never eat egg salad at your house.
Never turn your back on eggsalad–the mayonnaise will turn on you.
The Ten Worst Engines Ever…since 1965….sold in the US…in mass production….and only engines I’m familiar with.
I would think the Vega engine would be bad enough to make any other entry pale in comparison.
Though the last Pontiac i owned with its piston slapping Dexcool leaking 3.4 V-6 certainly deserves honorable mention.
That’s why I don’t like the 1965 cutoff. The Copper Cooled Chevy made the Vega engine look like a Slant 6 in comparison. And there were a lot of other really bad engines pre-WWII.
C’mon, let’s see who really has a knowledge of automotive history.
1923 Chevy had the copper cooled engine. Briefly. Very briefly. About as short as Ford’s 1942 Liquimatic transmission.
The Crosley CoBRA gives the Copper Cooled Chevy a run for its money.
Funny you mention leaking Dexcool . . . . I had a 3.4 V-6 2000 Chevy Venture that, for the last 20,000 miles I had it, constantly would ooze Dexcool . . . enough to where I always kept a jug in the back . . . . .
A new updated intake manifold gasket fixes any leaks these engines have. Most engine noises are due to owner neglect over a period of time where the antifreeze enters the valve train and eats up the lifters or worse the cam. Some of these engines also had under sized pistons from the factory like is happening today with BMW and VW engines to get those higher fuel economy numbers and they rattled until warmed up but we don’t see or hear many doing that these days.
The 3.0 liter Triumph Stag V8. A lower price gentleman’s express with a V8, a wood dash, a removable top, and Italian styling. It should have set the world on fire. Too bad it overheated and warped the cylinder head and timing chains only lasted 25k. Only 6000 were sold in the USA in the early seventies, so there is very little expertise here, although British specialists have come to grips with them.
The Stag engine would be my personal choice for #1 on the list. It checks all the boxes for disaster:
Bad design, bad materials, bad quality parts, and bad assembly.
Wasn’t it entirely the child of corporate politics too? BL had plenty of Rover V8s available but the board was stacked with people from the Standard-Triumph side who didn’t want anything but a “Triumph” engine in Triumph’s halo car.
The rationale for continuing the Triumph V-8 rather than standardizing on the Rover is a complicated subject — even among ex-BL factory people, it comes down to whom you ask. I think it mainly came down to (a) Rover didn’t have infinite V-8 production capacity and they’d had fairly ambitious plans for using the 3.5 in their own products and (b) the Triumph V-8 had been well along in development when Standard-Triumph bought Rover (which was pre-BLMC) and so they didn’t want to just write it off even aside from the relative capacity issue.
Since the Rover SD1 was in the wings spelling the end of the larger 2000/2500 sedans, the 3.0 had no future and should not have been bothered with. It also of course should have worked properly from the get go since it was in development a while and used features from the other Triumph engines.
That said, with the tradition of the tiny 1.6 liter sixes, a tiny V8 could have been a great rep builder to get an independent Triumph a foothold in the world market for higher end sport coupes and sports sedans.
The SD1 wasn’t on the table yet at that point. Standard-Triumph had been working on the V-8 and slant four since 1963–64, bought Rover in 1967, and merged with BMC/BMH a year later. Immediately after the merger with Rover, I don’t think anyone had yet given much serious thought to what would replace the 2-liter sedans, which were relatively new and selling extremely well. I assume someone said, “Well, it would make sense to consolidate these two lines in some way when we get around to it,” but I don’t think it had gotten much further than that and the sedans were not anywhere close to the top of the priority list.
Also, the idea that the Rover/Buick engine was the better engine was not yet obvious; Rover at that point had just recently gotten it into production after a fairly troublesome period of trying to adapt it for local production and supplier facilities. The Triumph V-8 was a more modern design that was intended to share tooling with the new four (which Saab got before Triumph’s own cars), so the Triumph engine had a number of on-paper advantages.
Since the Triumph V-8 was originally supposed to be 2.5 liters, not 3.0, I think the original plan was that it would go into the 2000 sedan and Stag, leaving the 3.5-liter Rover engine (and its bigger derivatives) for the P6B, the P8, and the P6BS sports car, which Rover had really wanted to build and sell as an Alvis. Obviously, that all presupposed the Triumph V-8 not being a rolling disaster, but such is the power of hindsight.
Ed Turners 2.5 V8 was still about somewhere they could have resurected that and put Triumph stamped rocker covers on it nobody would have known or cared
And don’t forget bad reason for it existing: Because Triumph did not want to ask Rover for use of its Rover all aluminum V8 even though Rover and Triumph were owned by British Leyland.
I don’t think it was “lower priced” It was designed to compete with the Mercedes SL. The major problem with the engine was not the design, but the materials of the time. A timing chain could not be made that long using the materials of those times, likewise the head gasket material was not good enough. Today’s those problems have been resolved and retrofitted motors are fine. Interestingly, loping four cylinders off the engine, made a great motor for the Dolomite, and Saab used it for 30+ years.
Higher than a TR6, lower than an E-type, way, way lower than an SL.
Correction – Triumph engines in SAAB = Disaster.
1973 on had 2-ltre redesigned made by SAAB.
This is correct, it took extensive re-engineering by SAAB to make it an excellent and long lived engine. I’ve had 6 cars with that superb powerplant, some with one of the best turbo engines ever made.
Just reading that drivel about the Vega engine made me throw up a little. They forgot to mention that it sounded like a thrashing machine and wore out about as fast as bubble gum.
Other engine stinkers on my list include the HT4100 Cadillac (had one), the early rotary Mazda engines in the RX2, 3 and 4, although when they weren’t broken they were very awesome, the V6 Volvo engine, aka the PRV, a joint venture of Peugeot, Renault and Volvo. These engines depreciated lots of otherwise nice Volvos. They also used the PRV engine on the DeLorean.
Saab 2-strokes were so bad that Bob Sinclair always carried a spare in the trunk when he was making sales call on the dealers. If they saw the replacement engine, he’d say he was delivering it to the next dealer on his route. Really, it was just there so he was confident he’d get home. Because lubrication was delivered by the gas-oil mix only, the engines would burn up if you coasted in gear or tried to use engine braking. That’s why they had the failure-prone freewheel transmissions, but that’s another conversation topic.
The PRV I can only assume is the result of corporate incompetence. A 2.9 L 6 cylinder engine that puts out 135 horsepower and is ridiculously unreliable. The funny thing is Volvo already had better engines – the 2.3L redblock engines were incredibly reliable and only put out slightly less power (114 hp) and the turbocharged versions put out more power and were still just as reliable. That engine also was part of what killed the Delorean.
The early PRVs were definitely rotten. A multitude of problems, including a propensity for clogged oil passages, with predictable results. However, the second-series PRVs, which debuted in 1985 and were used in the Volvo 760/780, Peugeot 505, Renault 25 Turbo, and Eagle Premier (among others) was a completely different animal. Heavily re-engineered, changed to even-fire and electronically controlled, the later PRVs were smooth and reliable. And in the turbo Renault version, rather exciting even..
The later PRVs were indeed much better. My cousin had a Volvo 780 with 190k miles on it when sold, it still ran quietly and used little oil. Frequent oil changes and proper attention to maintenance were the key.
The Ford 3.8L V6 with the head gasket problem.
The Ford Tempo 2.3 – a 1960 Falcon six with two cylinders removed – debuted in 1983 while Honda and Toyota were bringing out advanced OHC engines.
I would also include the GM Iron Duke and the 1.8 OHV used in the Cavalier.
The Ford Tempo 2.3 – a 1960 Falcon six with two cylinders removed – debuted in 1983 while Honda and Toyota were bringing out advanced OHC engines.
To my mind that was a great example of getting added life out of an already epic design.
I drove more than a few Tempos with that engine, it was actually quite good for what it was (albeit some people just have an automatic hate for pushrod I4s).
I’ve often thought a Ford HSC I4 would be a nice choice as a swap for an older Jeep.
Mine didn’t make it to 100,000 miles. It didn’t burn a *lot* of oil nor did it leak a lot but between the two it got through a quart every 150-200 miles. I used to buy cheap Kmart Motorvator oil by the case for it.
I’ve had scores of Tempaz’ and none of them burn oil, even the one with 230,000 miles. Some of them will, however, leak oil from the valve cover. Luckily it’s easy-peasy to put a good gasket on there. I’ve had far more issues with small block Chevy valve cover leaks than Tempazes.
I had an ’89 Topaz that had 264k on it when I sold it. Tough (but slow) little tank.
A swap into a Jeep would be splendid, and make far more sense than the ubiquitous V8 or V6 swaps.
Somebody mentioned- and I think it’s true- that Ford’s choice to develop the HSC had a lot to do with plant capacity and tooling. They already had an OHC 2.3 for many years- why even mess with an OHV 2.3 unless it was for logistical reasons? As for fitting the OHC into the Tempaz, it’s been done by hobbyists so I don’t think fitment is necessarily the reason Ford didn’t do it.
I thought it was a shame Ford didn’t get more use out of that unit. It would have been great in a stripper Ranger with a 5 Speed Manual, almost an ideal base engine in a cheap compact truck.
>>To my mind that was a great example of getting added life out of an already epic design.<<
The Falcon engine was mediocre at best. "Epic" in no way.
Aussie Ford fanbois would beg to differ.
+1 on the 3.8 V6, as I experienced that head-gasket problem on the one I owned.
I’d like to add the 1.4 L mill in the Renault Alliance, which began self-destructing at 75k miles as if meant to do so.
Niether of those are anywhere near the top 10. The HSC was very durable and the 3.8 head gasket thing is way over blown, There are a lot of Honda and Subaru engines that are guaranteed to blow the head gasket rather than might like some years of the 3.8.
as a former Tempo owner – I found the 2.3 very reliable although slow
The emissions carb could be fiddly but in my experience the EFI system is virtually trouble-free.
If it’s going through oil, first place to look is the valve cover. Never had an oil burner but if so, first thing I’d look at is the PCV valve.
I guess the Thin Film Ignition Module has some notoriety as a troublesome piece; I did have one fail on me but in all fairness the car was pretty old by then. Supposedly the “grease” on it is crucial for cooling and when I pulled the failed module out there was no grease. :/
I’ve also heard the harmonic balancer fails a lot and yet I’ve yet to have one go bad.
Nothing wrong with the Iron Duke, for what it was. Sure it used ancient, stone aged tech but that’s why it was pretty reliable also. It may be far from cutting edge, but they last. Even though they sound like a box of rocks and anything powered with one moves about as fast.
The Iron Duke was a great engine! I’ve had several and each one went well over 100,000 with no problems. The only one that ever actually broke was in a 1984 Firebird with 125,000+ miles, it put a rod through the block after cleaning the sludge out of the pans, left over by years of infrequent Pennzoil oil changes. Lesson learned!
Rover K series springs to mind. The thing is, a bit like the Mazda rotary, they’re nice, but unreliable.
Even a Metro with a K series was fun to drive, and Lotus and Caterham (among others) chose it for their cars too, but to say they had head gasket issues is an understatement.
Coventry Climax engine in the Hillman Imp? A colleague had one as his first car – “They shoulda put the engine in that thing with a zip”.
Sorry, the Imp engine was a direct descendent of the Coventry Climax racing engines. The problems associated with these engines were not the engines per se but the mechanics who did not understand the use of a torque wrench on every nut and bolt. Add to that not using inhibitor in the cooling system by careless owners they would fail. They were too far ahead of their time.
I have a 1967 version that has covered 180,000 miles, with one re-bore at 100,000 with no trouble. There is another i1964 in the garage that has done 114,000 miles on the original bore.
Funny that a neighbour had an Imp from new it never let her down it was maintained by the local dealer our across the street neighbour who later told me they were quite different to the other engines Rootes used and required different care, he knew, likely other dealers or their staff ignored the service bulletins.
Olds 5.7 diesel. For forehead-smacking reasons.
Uncle bought a Cutlass during the second gas crisis in the very early 80s. He said it was the worst car he ever had by far.
The Olds diesel went beyond just being bad, it turned America away from diesels and led to the formation of consumer lemon laws. In true GM fashion it was only offered in their higher end offerings.
The sad thing about the Oldsmodiesel is that people loved them. Popular Mechanics did an owners’ survey when the cars had been out about a year and the people that responded gave the diesel the highest ratings of any American car ever. Then they all turned back into pumpkins.
Your owners report is at the end of the first years production when most of the engines were probably less than 6 months old. The problems took a while to begin.
Here is another Popular Mechanic’s article on the Diesel:
Check out the orange peel in that black paint accompanying the article.
I think I told this story before, but as he was picking up the car,he noticed a small dent. Went over to the mechanic and the mechanic said that he wasn’t buying a mercedes. After taking delivery of it, he noticed the rearwindows only went down about a quarter of the way. Went to the dealer and they said that was a design feature and their was nothing they could do about it.
He was very unhappy. Being a young doctor at the time he called GM headquarters and got through to the then CEO secretary. He asked if he could speak to, we think it was Roger Smith, and she asked what is was in reference to. He said their golf game. She put him through. CEO was laughing and apologized he was dissatisfied but said their was nothing he could do.
He bought a Rover a few years later, which has its own long story.
I knew the Olds 5.7L diesel was coming, and frankly surprised that I had to read this far into the comments to get to it. Our ’78 Delta-88 is still chugging along, BTW. Had a no-start problem earlier this year, but my brother traced it down to a bad ground connection on the injection pump.
My dad had a Chevy company car with the 5.7. The local Chevy dealer was useless with it, but a GMC dealer got it going very well and kept it that way. After they got it working we all agreed it was a great car.
We met a man at a convention in Dallas who had a big 5.7 Olds which has a large auxiliary fuel tank in the trunk that he proudly showed us. He said he had filled up in Phoenix and wasn’t planning to buy more fuel until he got back. In retrospect I have my doubts about that claim.
Anyway, GM: Spoiling the ship for a hapworth of tar.
My Dad had a diesel Olds, an 84 Ciera (yeah, different engine-the V6 diesel) His also had the aux. tank in the trunk, up against the back seat. He could fill both tanks, and go 2 weeks straight without a refill. 40-50mpg. He put well over 100K on that car before it broke. The only place in our little town with diesel, the attendant put gasoline in it, and the cost of replacing the fuel system wrote off the car. But when the Olds diesels ran right, they got great MPG.
Jeez, it’s hard to come up with a list that isn’t predominantly GM. Which is a shame as I really think we’re tired of heaping (though much deserved) scorn upon the “Mark of Excellence”. I do know that most of the disasters made their debut far in advance of Dexcool.
I know I will be the only one here, but it will get me off the GM bashing ride for the moment. At #2 on my list close behind the Vega 2300 is the Honda CVCC I4. Glamor girl of the automotive media, in reality this was a fragile, underdeveloped, uneven running unit, coupled with technology that quickly that turned out to be a dead end street. Just because it was smooth through the rev band and had no catalytic converter doesn’t mean it was a profound engineering achievement.
RE : the Honda CVCC four cylinder engine :
I think it was a good engine that died early because of American’s two stupid driving habits : lugging the engine mercilessly and never changing the oil .
When these cars were new they they died like flies @ 30 ~ 40 thousand miles , I’d buy them for peanuts and replace the sludge filled engines and tune ’em up and re sell them at a serious profit , the folks who took care of them and never lugged the engine , easily got 100,000 miles out of them and loved them .
Nate, I came of age with VW Beetles. Change the oil and adjust the valves every 3K miles, tune every 12K miles, and the things would last forever. I got 2 Hondas in the late ’70s, and maintained them the same way. I had a friend with a new ’78 Accord whose ownership experience mirrored mine. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I’d buy a new Honda with no hesitation now, but the early cars left so much to be desired for me. Respectfully, I’m glad they’ve worked for you.
At some point they must have gotten their act together, because I knew lots of Accord CVCC owners that were still daily driving them in the ’90s with big mileages and no engine rebuilds. Beetle engines, on the other hand, were cheap to rebuild and getting 100K between rebuilds was unheard of.
After 1979, the CVCC may have gotten better with the cylinder head gaskets, but they still had auxiliary valve seal problems which led to increased oil consumption. OTOH, most people I knew with beetles moved on before big mileage, but I did know 2 cars that I serviced that made 180K and 200K before rebuilds – the latter one a fuel injected car that I had bought new originally.
Cheap VW parts, now that would have been handy given the short engine life most of them had. VW parts were very expensive here and I found them expensive in Aussie too 2k for a rebuilt VW flat four engine unfitted is starting price in OZ when I was around them, sorry but that more than a rebuilt 302 V8 cost.
…..because at 50000 to 60000 miles the exhaust valve of the 3rd cylinder broke.
The age limit prevents the VW flat four being listed but they were far from durable often lasting less than 50k in hilly country the intensive maintenance schedule and lack of VW dealer specialists to do said maintenance put lots of them to death. YMMV.
In Nebraska, USA, used VW Beetle parts cost more than brand new Ford or Chevy parts for certain engines. I know cuz I had an old Beetle once upon a time. It was infuriating since I bought the car to save money and it was nothing more than a 4 wheeled motorcycle to me. In hindsight I should’ve bought a plymouth valiant or AMC Hornet instead…same purchase price used with a tenth the breakdowns, half the cost per breakdown, and last 3 times as long.
“You guys can argue the VW thing for days, but one thing is for sure: you either love or hate them. Circa 1963, were I to buy a new car here in Canada, it most certainly would not be a VW product, since they rusted to dust even faster than the American stuff. The heater boxes were the first thing to rot making them freezing in eastern Canada winters. Were I to buy a new car in 1963 it would certainly have been a Valiant wagon, 225 and Torqueflite.”
Cannuckistan is RIGHT!
Were I to buy a used vehicle in 1980, it would certainly be a used Valiant 2door 225 or a used AMC Hornet 2door with large inline six motor.
4speed manual if possible, and a limited slip rear end.
>>coupled with technology that quickly that turned out to be a dead end street.<<
Beetle owners changed their agricultural engines w/ regularity. The virtue of VW's truly dead-end air-cooled design was the ease & cheapness of the process. Like the fenders.
When VW tried to put similar junk in the "luxury" 411, it almost sunk the company. The 4 series was VW’s last air-cooled design. That 1930’s tech had seen its day, altho Porsche pigheadedly keep them around until the later 1990’s..
Nate, my cousin who worked in the service dept of a Honda dealership in 1974 said exactly the same thing. Just putting gas in them and hitting the freeways of LA, typical US driving style was putting a lot of these out of commission early at the time.
Had you been around in the glory dayze of Air Cooled VW’s you’d know that the original single port engines from the 1950’s through 1970 routinely made 150,000 miles before failure .
Then the slap-dash hap hazard rebuilding using the cheapest parts possible and leaving out critical pieces of cooling tin and rubber seals , pretty much guaranteed short engine life no matter how they were driven .
FWIW , when I had my VW Shop I bought all the wrecked / junked VW’s I could afford and for many years made a nice side line or patching grenaded 1600 engines and selling them as ‘ used take – out ‘ with no warranty , I dressed them with all the proper tin and so forth , not ever one ever came back to me broken so it *is* possible to have a long life VW Air cooled engine , even is a Van/Bus/Kombi/Camoer/whatever you call it .
I’m probably too young but Ive had experience with most VWs We were the Cuba of the south pacific meaning cars were kept going here decades after they were junked elsewhere so early VWs are qwuite familiar to me.
VW specialist engine reconditioners in Aussie offer 60,000kms warranty on engines fitted to Beetles 30k for vans durable they are NOT.
Suitcase engines are better I’ll grant you but still not very long lasting and at 2K a throw are why most of us gave up on VWs as travel weapons. High cost of parts and a reluctance of garages to touch them doesnt help in OZ either but they are expensive to buy expensive to repair.
You could both be right. The 1200 was last sold new in 1965 and I never had one that lasted. Never bought one new. The 1300, 1500, and 1600 seemed to last pretty good. So long as I replaced a 1200 with one of them it did well.
You guys can argue the VW thing for days, but one thing is for sure: you either love or hate them. Circa 1963, were I to buy a new car here in Canada, it most certainly would not be a VW product, since they rusted to dust even faster than the American stuff. The heater boxes were the first thing to rot making them freezing in eastern Canada winters. Were I to buy a new car in 1963 it would certainly have been a Valiant wagon, 225 and Torqueflite.
I don’t know what is so bad about the Honda CVCC, my family’s 77 Accord had rust problems long before any engine issues. We did have the good sense to maintain it properly and had a clue how to drive stick.
Where do I start? They had head gasket problems which Honda attempted to fix with a recall in 1978, but it failed in my ’79 after 30K miles. The cylinder head also cracked about that time as well. There was also a problem with oil consumption due to oil leaking into the combustion chamber from the auxiliary valves in the head. The cooling fan switch was usually failing by 25K miles, which didn’t help head gasket and cylinder head service life. The carburetor had numerous tiny orifices in it which sometimes would clog no matter how fresh your gas filter was. Finally, I haven’t heard about the sludge issues mentioned above, but if you have a combustion chamber which has an excessive amount of oil and coolant introduced into it,well? I have always operated a manual transmission car assertively, I’ve never been accused of lugging any car. Why would a Honda be the only car with sludge issues?
The DOHC four cylinder engine used in Facel Vega Sports Cars….. so bad the factory replaced them with Volvo engines ! .
i just found one of these rare if worthless engines in a box .
I was thinking about this engine when I read the question. They were made by the same company that made the optional 4-speed for the 1960 Chrysler 300F. I don’t think it is worthless at all. If you have a rebuildable core, you should put it on ebay and see if anyone trying to create a second(I think one still works) running original bites.
Nate, you found an original Facelia engine?? Even if it’s shot, it’s probably worth quite a bit of money. They were only built in the hundreds and very few have survived (most being replaced with Volvo engines). I’d scoop that up immediately if I were you!
Good pick for this topic too, that engine single-handedly put Facel-Vega out of business… although technically that was <1965.
Oddly enough yes I did .
I was talking to an old car nut buddy and he mentioned that he’d found one in the local PennySaver rag for $150 and , not believing it possible , drove over to have a looksee and there it was .
I told him some museum or concourse restoration person would give $eriou$ ca$h for it but he likes to know he has it salted away….
There’s much more super rare stuff floating ’round out there than most realize ~ they truck is finding it and getting it into the right hands .
Iron duke was reliable.
Escort first generation.
Above are least durable. And the winner is general motors.
Least powerful I’m familiar with
Carburated 3.8 Buick
Nix on a 3.8 Litre carb’d Buick V-6. Had a ’78 Skylark with the V-6. Ran great at 212K . . . . leaked oil . . . didn’t burn any. Of course, for the years I had it, I took exceptional care of it . . .
I nominate the following.
Holden Starfire 4
VK Commodore “Black Motor”
JB Camira 1.6
JD Camira 1.8 TBI
VN Commodore 3.8
Seconded that original Buick V6 was rough and awful in the VN it improved immensely in the VP and others.
What must anyone trading up from a VL have thought? Going from that lovely smooth Nissan RB30 in the VL to – this?
VK Black motor basic design was getting long in the tooth at the time but I wouldn’t call it a bad motor, let alone one of the worst.
Owned a VN for years, idle quality was a little less smooth than later versions but hardly noticable when you’re driving it every day. The radiator overflow/recovery system on the series 1 and 2 VNs was the worst, having two plastic header tanks and no radiator cap was a pretty dumb idea, as well as having the thermostat under the inlet manifold.
I agree with the Starfire, reeked of GM penny pinching.
Ford 3.8 V6 for sure, plagiarized(allegedly) off of what was one of the best V6s, the Buick V6, yet was an utter pile, that despite it’s admirable use of aluminum for the era(basically everything minus the block), proved to be completely unreliable for well over a decade until it was finally fixed with extensive casting revisions and gasket choice, by which point Ford had all but replaced it with the much more modern Duratech V6 in most applications. It stuck around in the Mustang until 2004 of course, but there’s a reason V6 Mustangs had a long lasting stigma attached to them, that engine in the 96-04s was it.
What about the Supercharged version used in the Thunderbird SuperCoupe you ask? Well Ford may very well have accomplished it’s E24 influence by making it as troublseome and costly in the true spirit of high end European cars of that period. Head gaskets are just as troublesome, harmonic balancers commonly fail, the DIS ignition system loves to fail at the worst of times, with little sign of it’s impending death, the belt drive is so cumbersome and convoluted that it and the blower assembly add so much weight to the nose it may as well just be the V8 it’s boost tries to emulate. Not to mention every service requires either physical gymnastics to get around the IC tubes, if not their removal, something as brainless as changing spark plugs is a pain on that engine.
Also GM’s LT1 V8 of the 90s. Opti-spark… Need I say more?
“…let’s have a cut-off of engines that appeared after 1965.” This says we are talking about the older engines.
Seems the Intrepid engine that sludges up- the 2.7?- should be on the list. There sure are a lot of Intrepids in otherwise great shape these days that can be had dirt cheap if one is willing to swap in a different engine.
I’m on the fence regarding the Northstar series as I have no personal experience with them. It does seem that when they run, they run well but when they fail it is catastrophic and expensive to repair/replace?
Ironic how a company named “General MOTORS” easily dominates a “worst engine” list.
Regarding the Northstar, I think your assumption as a hit or miss is accurate. I know someone who bought an early-2000s DeVille, and had issues with it, though it was close to 150,000 miles by then, and who knows the previous owner’s maintenance habits.
My great uncle and aunt on the other hand, have owned several Northstar-equipped Cadillacs and have had no issues. Granted they don’t put significant mileage on their cars, but each one of them has owned their current Cadillacs for over 10 years now without issue. I actually recently had a car conversation with great uncle, who oddly enough had a lot of praise for his Northstar’s power, efficiency, and reliability. I had to bite my tongue and not bring up the fact that they’re notorious for engine failure.
I have not been able to find statistics on what percentage of engines fail by say 100,000 miles. I know that too many do.
The case of the missing semi-colon has been solved. 🙂
I would say the Iron Duke, is one of them, but there are always exceptions to the rule.
My friend’s mom owned an 82 Camaro that had the Iron Duke 4 cyl.
That car had 370,000 and at the time, was still going strong, with only oil changes at every 3,000 miles. This was back in 1996, so I dunno what ever happened to the Camaro after that.
Something can be reliable and horrible, especially given how many ratty old J-bodies are still around.
The Iron Duke is a great example of GM at its ‘best’ – making something mediocre that lasts longer and runs cheaper than you sometimes wish it would.
Back in the 90s I knew more than a few people running beaters (mainly J-Cars and S10s) powered by the old Iron Duke.
The J-Cars never used the Iron Duke 2.5L 4 cylinder engine. The North American versions had 1.8L, 2.0L and 2.2L engines. None were related to the 2.5L.
Since it’s not on here yet, I’ll add the Cadillac V8-6-4
8-6-4 itself was fine, it was the stupid computer that couldn’t keep up with the program! Once you disabled the deactivation it was a fine (albeit inefficient) V8 engine. Actually the best engine out of all that ended up in those Eldorados and Sevilles. 🙂
It was a good engine once you deactivated the not yet ready for prime time displacement-on-demand.
I think you all mean the 368 V8 was fine, the 8-6-4 was not at all fine; once the wiring was snipped it was not the 8-6-4 anymore.
I think we simply define “engine” differently. Is it the block? Is it the block+heads+moving parts? Is it the block,etc+computer/electronic gizmos? I land more with the options A and B. So for me 368 and 8-6-4 are the same engine, especially since snipping the added wiring on one turns it into the other. 🙂
In fact, my definition is probably even closer to A, since a Ford 302 for me is a 302, whether it’s carbs or electronic fuel injection, speed density or MAF. 🙂
As others have said, at least if you unplug the computer it reverted to being a reliable Caddy big block V8. In addition to the system not responding fast enough to load changes to be seamless, it should never have had the V6 mode. A V8 with 6 cylinders firing in inherently unbalanced. Modern cylinder deactivation strategies only switch between 4-cyl and 8-cyl modes. Another problem was that they used the technology on a big block that went into heavy cars, so that the engine only ever dropped down to 4-cyl mode when idling or going downhill.
1974 Audi 100ls, 1.9, hands down. Rear main seal @500mi, oiled the clutch, repaired under warranty. Then it started to use oil and water @1500mi.. No indication of over heating, but the engine had warped it’s head and blown the head gasket. Under warranty, so back to the dealer again. When I checked on the progress of the repairs a few days later, in the bays on either side of mine, were two other brand new 100ls’, hoods up, heads off. They looked so cute together. Happened twice! Many other problems, and the start of a poor reputation for Audi. I kept buying Audis though (fool). My 2010 A4 2.0t needed pistons @25kmi, oil consumption issues. My son’s 2007 2.0t needed the of the cams replaced @35kmi. as well as the air/oil seperater, and throttle positioner. Audi does have a current recall in place for the 2.0t.. No more Audis!
My 1971 Fiat 850 racer model (900cc), as a well earned reputation would tell you, was worn out @40k mi., smoked and sounded like a coffee can full of rocks. Truely a disposible car.
Crosley’s COBRA [COpper BRAzed] 4 cyl. Block built up from sheet metal. OHC 44 cubic inches. Known for overheating and leaking. Mid 40s era.
Post 65: Vega 2300, Chrysler 2.7 V6, Quad 4, 3.8 Ford V-6
Iron Duke was crude, agricultural, powerless and noisy, but not on the same level of mechanical disaster as a Vega or 2.7 powered Mopar.
Iron Duke was crude, agricultural, powerless and noisy, but not on the same level of mechanical disaster as a Vega or 2.7 powered Mopar.
Iron Dukes had a great rep for durability. Wasn’t bad for what it was.
Three have been in the family. One still going strong in my brother’s hands. One run into the ground by my other brother and one in my 84 Citation II that I traded off. And wish I hadn’t….
That wasn’t a diss, though! I call those aspects of the Iron Duke “character” !
Neither the Iron Duke nor the Ford 2.3L HSC were by any reasonable measure bad engines. A lot of people like to hate on pushrod I4s but before compact cars hit the +3500 lbs gross weight and the expectation was for breathable exhaust fumes they were decent choices for daily use.
early 2.8 Liter V6 GM
Aluminum 2.3 Liter 4 GM
255ci Ford V8
Chevrolet 267ci V8
4.6 Liter V8 Ford
Hmm; we sold our 1985 Cherokee with the GM 2.8 V6 after 170k miles and 15 years, and it was still running fine. It did need an expensive carb replacement, but that’s the only issue we had. Luck?
Was that a Rochester varijet we had those biodegradable carbs on blue and black Holden 6s, heat warps internal passages making them untuneable and I was quoted $1000 for a replacement, a Holley was $350 but the car sucked too much fuel, I went to a single throat stromberg and had no more problems.
Given your taste Paul. I am surprised you didn’t get in your Cherokee the Renault TD that you could have had then. I for one am not surprised you got 170k out of the 2.8, but perhaps you could have gone even more economical miles with a turbo diesel.
Aside from leaking Dexcool (after 120K) on the 3.4 2000 Chevy Venture V-6, I’d always had good luck and reliability with the other 60 degree Chevy V-6’s although, in fairness, mine were ’88 and later. I have heard the early 2.8’s had some issues . . . . mostly carb related.
Luck. The 2.8 Cherokee i had was on it’s third crank.
My daily driver is a 2002 F150 with 410,000 miles and has a 4.6.
Not to mention the police cars, taxis, town cars, and others that are still being used daily.
Here I thought I was doing good at 228k. What have you done to it? Anything major?
4.6 liter Ford? On what basis?
These have powered thousands of units that see heavy duty, 24 hour use and have done so without drama. The mileage these engines can acquire is phenomenal.
Your others? Yeah, I can see where you are coming from.
probably the ones with the cracking plastic coolant crossover.
That’s not a mechanical issue and those intakes were only used for a finite period of time.
This is similar to the intake gasket disaster with some GM Vortec V6 and V8’s. Dexcool may have incorrectly gotten the blame for this problem in some cases, but it was a bad part design. Yes, this is not a mechanical issue, but the result in many cases was a completely destroyed engine due to coolant in the oil. Is the Ford 4.6 issue similar in that the cracked coolant crossover causing coolant in the oil?
No, the crossover failure is external, as coolant crosses between the heads via a passage at the front of the intake manifold, the thermostat is also located in the manifold. When the plastic fails coolant simply starts leaking out, only real side effect it can cause is rough running as coolant can begin to puddle in the nearby spark plug wells.
Many people like to hate on the 4.6L Mod V8 over its efficiency (~230 HP out of a 4.6L) overlooking the fact that its understressed nature is why it’s so popular in fleet usage.
It’s much like the engine it in effect replaced in that use, the 390 FE, another inefficient, last-forever mill. Or the engine I’ve run in my last two vehicles, the AMC/Chrysler 4.0L I6, 200 HP out of a 4.0L cast iron block/head engine.
There are also the DOHC versions which make, depending on application, between 255 and 320 HP. And have similar durability, as long as you don’t overheat them.
Not to mention the architecture served as the basis for the current 5.0L. The 4.6 had very good bones, the 2V just wasn’t designed with intent of high performance like the 4V and later 3Vs were. Remember, when it was introduced in 1991 it matched the power of the 5.0 H.O. and it was lighter, stronger and more efficient than it to boot (stock vs. stock).
I also have to defend the Chevy 267. I have one in a ’79 Malibu, which served various members of our family for 174,000 miles over 22 years without a rebuild. (We did put either 2 or 3 rebuilt carbs on it in that time, the Rochester Dual-Jet did kind of suck.) Maybe ours was an aberration, but they weren’t all bad.
If you’re making the argument that 125 HP out of a V8 is pathetic…remember the era. And that’s more power than the concurrent Olds 262 V8 made.
The 267 is a Small block Chevy engine. Why this engine is included on a worst engine list is beyond me. It shares it’s pluses and minus with any other small block for reliability. Sure it didn’t make much power but what did in the 1979-1982 era? It also wasn’t the worst for HP. It made between 115-125 horses depending on year. For reference Chrysler’s much bigger 318 2BBL made but 120 horses for 1980, AMC had a 304 for it’s last two years making but 125 ponies, Old’s 260 made 110 HP for 1975-78, 105 for 1979/80 and only 100 for 1981/82.
Also note that Chevy made another small V8 for the 1975 model year. The 4.3 liter 262 V8 with but 110 HP. Suddenly the old 267 doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Uhh.. 4.6 Ford? Really? If you’re going with the later 3 valve, ok I could get on that train due to the problems with the cam phasers and shooting out spark plugs.
Earlier ones – specifically the 2 valve, well, I’d have to disagree. My weekend/toy pickup has it’s original 2V 4.6 and at 228k miles still runs great, returns great mileage (14 in town in a supercab 4×4 F-150) and doesn’t leak a thing. Sure it burns a quart every 2,000 miles, but I’ll let that go.
And it’s not just mine.. my Mom has had a 2001 Mustang GT since new, and that car is ~220k of in-town miles. No problems to speak of aside from now burning a bit of oil. Dad has a ’99 F-150 that he’s had since new as well, and with ~120k now the motor is still rock solid.
Neon 2.0 first generation: near 100% head gasket failure rate. Escort/Focus 2.0 SPI that is bound to drop a valve seat at some point in it’s life.
Supposedly the head gasket problem was fixed by 1998. But by then the damage was done.
multi-layer steel head gaskets have been a godsend. My dad had a Dodge Spirit R/T which ate timing belts and head gaskets like clockwork. When he finally went to sell it, it needed a head gasket. the only one I could find reasonably quickly was an MLS gasket from Cometic. I figure that will last longer than the car.
I had a 1990-something Ford Escort wagon–which I really liked–with that engine. It swallowed a valve seat.
Think about this: A valve seat!
I’d never even heard of such a thing until the guy at the machine shop says to me, “Oh, yeah, we see this a lot. We could press you in a new seat, but it probably won’t last. Buy our rebuilt head.”
Imagine my annoyance.
The early NSU Wankel engines from the Ro 80 would be high on my list. Far more serious issues occurred with those than Mazda’s rotary from the same era.
Subaru EJ25, particularly 1998-early 2003. Smooth and (with scheduled maintenance) utterly reliable when the head gaskets aren’t leaking. Best AND worst wrapped up in one engine.
Absolutely. So much to love and hate about these engines. A few in my network of friends and family are well north or 400 000 kms, and one passed 500 000 recently. My own n/a EJ25 from 2003 is now at 247 000, and I love how well built, smooth,and well packaged these motors are. Easiest timing best Ive ever done, thanks to the longitudinal engine. Belts, water pump, and sensors are all a cinch as well. And I love how unique it is, especially with how homogenized the automotive industry is becoming.
My excitement was tempered, however, when I got the dreaded dead spots in my heater last december. I flushed my coolant and replaced the thermostat, praying my head gaskets were okay. But I should have known better, the car had been drilling oil since I bought it a year previous. A month later, the car began overheating – but there was no oil in the coolant or vice versa. Luckily, it was just combustion gasses in the coolant. I didnt ruin any bearing or overheat it bad enough to warp the head. So, having to move in just eight days, with no money to take it to a shop, I removed the cylinder heads in an unheated garage with no power, with the motor still in the car – in between packing all my possessions of course. It was incredibly stressfull. I should have taken the motor out completely, but there was no room, no hoist, no money and no time. I have no idea how I managed to get those heads off and on with so little room between the framerails, without scratching the block mating surface. But I did, and I put on 3 ply MLS felpro gaskets, and had the heads machined flat for good measure. It has been ROCK SOLID ever since, but I am still peeved.
A flaw on a new product is easily excused, it happens to the best. Take Hondas auto transmission on their J series v6s, which for a while, were basically made out of porcelain and tissue paper. Instead, what boggles my mind, is that this was a known problem for about a DECADE and seemingly nothing was done. How does such a significant problem in such a widely utilised (seriously, Subaru put this pancake in everything) motor go unadressed for so long? It really is infuriating, especially when you hear stories of dealers servicing blown gaskets and warped heads with Whiz Wheels rather than machining them flat.
I love my Legacy wagon, and have no regrets about buying it. But it is truly baffling how the problem was allowed to persist for so long. A favorite, and a least favorite, motor of mine.
This is why I won’t consider a Subaru now. No matter how much the buff mags love the WRX, I refuse to buy a car with an unaddressed issue like the head gaskets.
Sadly this is one of the reasons why we got rid of our Subaru Forester as it approached 150,000 miles. The head gasket was fine but we were waiting for the other shoe to drop afraid that it would only be a matter of time because of the history of that engine.
Other than that, we liked the car very much.
This is why I won’t consider a Subaru now. No matter how much the buff mags love the WRX
Stock or even modestly modded turbo 2.5s never had the problems that the NA cars did. They used a different (the aforementioned multi-layer steel) gasket design. The current crop of FA and FB engines have a different head design and have also done away with that other Subie Achilles’ heel, the timing belt.
At the time I bought my 2003 Outback, I went for the H6 version (then a 3.0 liter) for the extra grunt, knowing I’d be paying a penalty (a small one) in fuel economy, but now feel really lucky/vindicated in having done so. *That* engine is rock-solid–mine’s gone 158K miles with no problems at all. It’s also baffling how one company could sell such a good engine on one hand and let its real bread-and-butter engine languish with such a flaw on the other. (But then we see GM, and say, “oh, that’s how”.)
I will consider another Subaru, but I’m wary of the H4.
Yes, I have a friend with one and we are both a big fan of that motor. Sadly, it was only available with an auto.
Its only really the n/a 2.5 liter motors from the mid nineties up to the early 2000s. Turbo models had no real problems with head gaskets.
Cjiguy has kind of beat me to the punch with his choice of the NSU Wankel but I am going to do a dance step and propose the Madza B13 rotary engine from the early 70’s.
Sure the NSU was bad, and it was first, but I am going to argue that the B13 was worser. It failed to produce more torque, power, better gas mileage, reduced maintenance cost, or improved reliability compared to convential reciprocating engines.
“The … problem concerned the rotary’s reliability and maintenance costs. Despite their mechanical simplicity, the Mazda rotaries were not necessarily any cheaper to maintain than a four-cylinder reciprocating engine; oil consumption was inherently high and early engines had two ignition systems to maintain as well as a prodigious appetite for spark plugs. Both J.D. Power & Associates and Consumer Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) reported problems with seal failures in federalized 10A and 12A engines. In sharp contrast to NSU’s experience, Mazda’s apex and corner seals turned out to be surprisingly robust in service — several automotive magazines did teardowns of high-mileage Mazda rotaries and found little wear in those areas — but the same was not necessarily true of the oil seals or the gaskets mating the rotor housings to the side plates. On early engines, those seals were rubber O-rings, which took a beating from the rotary’s considerable waste heat, limiting their lifespan.
I agree with most of what you say Lokki. While the Mazda rotaries had their faults, they did typically live past 30,000 miles or so before needing to be rebuilt, a very undesirable trait common among the first couple years of NSU Ro 80 production.
Dad bought my Mother a 2 year old ’82 Mazda RX7 with 18K on it. She put another 70K on if before unwillingly giving it up.
I changed the oil & filter every 3K (Dad didn’t trust quickie oil change shops, so of course his eldest son didn’t also!), new antifreeze every 12 months. It ran flawlessly and was reliable from purchasing date to selling date.
The 13B as used in 1982 was quite a bit different than the 12A and 13B from the early or mid-70s. There were extensive changes to the combustion chamber design, porting, ignition, and seals.
I thought the 12A was used on RX-7’s until the debut of the GSL-SE (1985?) which used the 13B and which was then used for the second generation (from 1986) as well?
@Jim: In the U.S. market, yes, although the 13B was still available during that period in various non-U.S. Mazdas (I think including the RX-7, which had some engine options we didn’t get, but I don’t have the presence of mind to look it up right now). The 12A got most of the same changes; in fact, Mazda originally tried to call the later 12A the 12B to reflect that, but it didn’t stick and I think they eventually decided it was just confusing people.
Don’t forget the Olds 260 Diesel from 1979. It had the same problems as its big brother the 350 Diesel, but with even less power (which is saying something).
Or the Diesel V6 which was also available on the Olds Ciera.
I think the Olds diesel V6 was better, but too late for the rep. Assuming that to be true, a diesel Ciera would have made a great rep car.
My dad had one. Bought it off a traveling salesman, too… Great car, it pulled our camper with ease, for 100K miles. I really wish I had a scanner to post pics of it now…
The V6 diesel had a revised headbolt layout which made it less prone to head gasket failure.
You could get it with a five speed, in a aeroback Cutlass. Rare one year only freaky threefer. Rare American Eugenemobile.
That car needs a write up her on CC.com!
And I’m sure it was available in brown too. We’re getting very close to that brown diesel manual wagon…
Someone mentioned the Olds 260 above, so let’s clarify that this includes both the diesel and gasoline versions – the gas 260 was also a gutless piece of crap.
Volkswagen 1600 twinport flat four, Every single one made in Germany has an inbuilt fault and will crack behind the flywheel, seen it happen to multitudes of them and been told the same thing by numerous VW engine rebuild specialists, The 1600 engine casings from Brazil do not feature this fault and can be fitted its not cheap but it is the only cure welding,stitching, glueing, all will fail.
Cummins 5.9 blocks cast in Brazil had a similar issue. A thin spot in the water jacket would invariably crack and cause a coolant leak. These were installed in 1999-2001 Dodge pickups. Known as the “Cummins 53 block” because affected blocks had the number 53 cast into them.
In no particular order:
1) Ford 3.8L V6 – Crap engine in (mostly) crap vehicle.
2) GM Northstar DOHC V8 – Expensive and unreliable and no excuse because plenty of other manufacturers had successfully made similar units.
3) GM Quad Four – Same story as Northstar.
My guess is that this is going to turn into ‘Engine configurations I don’t like’. Threads like these often do.
How many of these engines made the Ward’s 10 best engines for (year) list?
The list starts with 1995.
OK, this is a biased list, but is a pretty embarrassing indictment for a company with “Motors” as part of its name.
Cadillac: the fact that the flagship division of General MOTORS turned out some of the worst engines in history is unforgivable. The blunders cost them virtually all of their credibility in the prestige market, and more or less knocked them out of producing unique engines. Even the “reborn” Cadillacs the U.S. press gushes about today run Chevy engines.
4100 V8: painfully underpowered and woefully unreliable at the same time.
V8-6-4: for a brand that fought back against those “furriners” in the late ’70s by touting the durability and easy serviceability of its V8s, this trouble-prone one-year-wonder was a real black eye.
Northstar V8: if you need to claw your way back to respectability in one of the most demanding car segments, you can’t produce anything that is hit or miss. Saying that some German V8s are just as bad for reliability is ridiculous when you have Lexus staring you in the face.
Oldsmobile: GM’s “guinea pig” division, known for occasionally trying new things, but starting from a baseline of reliable performance, blew that to smithereens with these duds:
350 Diesel: its early popularity, driven by Oldsmobile’s sterling reputation at the time, did immeasurable harm when buyers discovered that they were the actual guinea pigs being used for a horrible experiment.
260 Diesel: If the 350 wasn’t slow enough, decrease the bore but keep the problems.
Quad 4: you’d think being nearly last to the market with a 16V engine would give you time to study and produce the best, but instead Olds gave us an engine that sounded like a blender filled with bolts.
Turbo Torture: we can thank Buick and Pontiac for tarnishing Turbo power in the U.S. with their early efforts.
Buick 3.8 Turbo: Pitched as offering V8 performance with V6 economy, it actually delivered the opposite and was trouble prone/high maintenance to boot. Granted Buick refined it into something much better in later iterations. But then again, why exactly was Buick–the staid, respectable division of GM–producing Turbos in the first place?
Pontiac 4.9 Turbo: a subpar V8 with an underdeveloped Turbo was never going to be a good marriage. Really sad for the performance division of General Motors.
Chevy: the “Heartbeat of America” division turned out some remarkably bad hearts.
Vega 140: one of the best gifts the Japanese car makers ever received. This aluminum embarrassment led generations of small car buyers to abandon Chevrolet forever.
1.8 Liter OHV: how could you launch the import-conquering J-car with such an anemic, dated engine? While this slug was dreadful in a Chevrolet, it was unbearably pathetic in a Cadillac (though of course Caddy would never again be embarrassed to use engines from Chevy).
I know there are plenty of other bad engines from plenty of other companies, but I still think General Motors deserves the ultimate raspberry for the sheer magnitude of miserable engines they turned out.
”But then again, why exactly was Buick–the staid, respectable division of GM–producing Turbos in the first place?’
Because Buick had the 231 V6…a very appropriate engine for turbocharging…simple to build, relatively reliable and an engine GM was heavily invested in. No other division had such an engine. The Chevy straight 6 was being phased out, the 2.8 60 degree V6 was not as well suited and Olds, Pontiac and Cadillac had no V6 engine….Buick did a great job with the 231/ 3.8 engine, refining it, increasing durability and power….Although underpowered when “reintroduced” in 1975, the same could be said of virtually every American engine
I bought a new ’78 Buick Turbo Regal (3.8L turbocharged), owned it for 3 years and my experience was so miserable that it was the last GM car I purchased.
The 4.9 Turbo V8 was a head scratcher to me. On paper, the power was there to replace the Pontiac 400 in the flagship Trans Am. It also should have addressed the weight problem of the TA as the 301 was a light engine. When tested though, the performance was not even close to the end of the line 400 V8. Knocking/detonation were always blamed but my guess is that Pontiac had not gotten it together properly, but with the 400 gone, it had to get out there anyway.
The 301 was essentially the same as the 400, just with a shorter deck, the weight of the turbocharger and piping likely zapped all of the weight savings there may have been between the two
I understand the two engines have the same roots. Hadn’t the 301 had it’s iron block bored so thin as to need steel reinforcement to retain strength? I don’t think this was a feature? of all Pontiac V8s, but came out of the iron duke design.
Some, not all. The 301 was not just a short-deck 350/400; they went through the entire engine in some detail to see what they could afford to trim. Consequently, it was a bunch lighter than the 350/400 — 136 pounds lighter was the official claim. The 301T blocks put back a little of that (5-6 lb) in thicker internal webs and cylinder walls and the turbo hardware probably added something like 50 lb on top of that.
Pontiac 301 – Take a look @ the crankshaft, observe where weight removed.
The 301 was a last ditch effort to keep the Trans Am all Pontiac, I believe. I think there was some customer feedback about getting a 403 Olds in a T/A (this was the same time period when people were suing GM over Chevy engines in Olds Delta 88s), plus it was a way to look high-tech in the face of stiff competition.
On paper, it should have worked. Obviously, turbos, carburetors and emissions controls were not a good mix, as other manufacturers found out, too.
Proper engine tune is vital with these 301T engines. So is 93 or higher octane fuel and removal of heat sources to the intake setup. My 1981 turbo TA wasn’t all that quick when I first bought it but after dialing the carb in with a rebuild, a complete tune up and all new vacuum lines, proper base timing, proper and checked boost (about 9 PSI) and elimination of some heat sources such as the EGR and coolant lines to the intake plenum this turbo 4.9 pulls quite a bit better and 0-60 times have dropped down into the high 6 second range which by 1981 standards was unheard of!
If you want a fairly modern engine, the Peugeot 1.4 and 1.6 hdi diesels are pretty awful. Fitted to everything from minis to fiestas to volvo c30s and mazda3s. Brilliant while they are running but you are always on a count down to turbo failure.
The 122 Cavalier engine comes to mind for just being noisy, underpowered, and just unpleasant to drive. Makes me think the people who designed it just didn’t care.
An enlarged version of the original 1.8/2.0. Never minded the 2.2 in my 99 Cavalier. I liked the yester-tech configuration of it. Easy to service, inexpensive to repair, fuel efficient. The Cavalier never pretended to be something it wasn’t, unlike the Cimarron. Pretty honest offering, another thing I appreciated about it and why I bought one.
I’ve got a 2.0 in my 98 Cabrio – Makes about the same power as the 2.2 Cav, but, it just seems to have way more usable power…right from off idle to redline, it seems to be “eager” – just pulls, without getting winded after 3000 RPM.
That simplicity and old tech character of the 2.2 in the later Cavys has been one of the things I came to appreciate the most on those little beasts. But, Good Grief, those things are slow…
Two words that will make most car guys “of a certain age” groan and reflexively cross themselves: “Renault Dauphine”.
I have been thinking that all along, but it’s pre-’65. You could add to that whatever engine it was in my parent’s Hillman Husky (Huskie?) There could be, however, a whole category of engines that were fine for their home markets, but utterly out of place in the US.
LOL. AMC Renault Alliance engine was no prize, for the younger set.
I don’t think the “younger set” even knows AMC existed.
Also: pleased to have you back “home” after your sabbatical. Paul.
1. any air cooled engine
2. any two stroke engine
3. any gasoline engine converted to diesel
4. any diesel without a turbo
5. early gasoline engines with a turbo
6. early engines with counter-ballancers
7. variable displacement engines
8. early cast iron engines newly converted to aluminum heads
9. nearly all V6 engines made from chopping 2cylinders off a V8
10. anything that is not an AMC/Jeep 4.0 inline six or a Ford 240/300six
1. All aircooled Porsche engines were bad?
4. Plenty of Mercedes (non-turbo) Diesels still going strong after many hundreds of thousands of miles in Africa and other places. Same for VW, Peugeot, Renault, and many more non-US makes.
5. Not sure if they’d be junk or could be considered pioneers to buyers at the leading edge of tech – Porsche 930 Turbo, Saab 99 Turbo, BMW 2002 turbo all post 1965. They certainly weren’t sold as economy cars.
7. Honda V6 (2005-current), Chrysler 5.7l V8 (current), plenty of other examples working extremely well over hundreds of thousands of miles. Modern engine management is a wonderful thing, it’s only been around for over twenty years now…
10. Don’t forget the crap fiber gear on the Ford 300 six…
First off, my list was meant to be semi-humorous
but yes, air cooled engines are a joke for daily drivers in the middle of the USA…ALL OF THEM even the superior Porsche variations. No air cooled engine can cut it if it is expected to impress in 20degrees F below zero with a wind chill factor dropping that another 20 degrees…and 6 months later operate in 100 degreeF with a heat index adding another 10 degrees.
The comment about diesels without turbos was warranted due to their pathetic performance, not durability.
By the way…Just because an engine is known to last a quarter million miles does not make it a good engine. The maintenance costs along the way to make it to that bragging point often are so ridiculously high on European cars that the quarter mil mile mark is only bragged by the dimmest of owners. Contrast that with the ford 300six fiber gear which has such a cheap and easy fix I don’t see how it can be considered note worthy.
Nah. Air-cooleds work well at either temperature extreme. The hard part is keeping the rodents from building nests in the cylinder and head fins thus compromising cooling in those spots!
Air cooled engines need top end work frequently in hot climates and do not provide heat to humans in cold climates.
Hell, take several +1s
Just finished putting in a new valve cover on my Jeep 4.0 I-6 today.
So many years of straight 4s and sixes, I love them.
9. nearly all V6 engines made from chopping 2cylinders off a V8
You did mean except for the 262 cid (4.3 L)?
Actually what I had in mind was the later versions of the Buick Fireball V6 which evolved into the Buick 231, then into the Buick 3.8L. It was used in Jeeps at one time. I mostly remember it as an option in early 80s Chevy Malibus. They tended to outperform mild tuned 305 V8s if I remember correctly. And I think the Malibus that were equipped with the 3.8L came with Buick style rims. Also, the Buick Grand National used a turbo version of it.
The Buick 3.8 was only used in the Malibu in ’78 and ’79 nationwide; thereafter I think it may have been used in California cars but I’m not certain. The 3.8 available in the 1980 to ’83 Malibu (as well as the Monte Carlo and B-bodies) was a new engine, the Chevy 229. Basically 3/4 of a 305, but with few of that engine’s virtues intact. The Buick engine was the better of the two, but in NA format, I highly doubt it would outrun a 305.
The wheels you’re referring to are the Chevy styled steel wheels, also available on the Monte Carlo, El Camino, and early 3rd-gen Camaros.. They’re similar to the Buick wheels (and to the Olds Rally IIs). I don’t think they specified any engine in particular though, they were just an option.
I have no reason to believe the accuracy of your post but lets say it is perfect:
Then I am talking about a 1980 california Malibu with a Buick 3.8 V6 with olds ralley wheels(which looked like the buick wheels)
and yes, it would outrun a plain chevy 305.
It would be a cold day in hell or a totally whipped 305 before a gutless Buick 231 outran it. Looking at equivalent numbers between the two as an example-
1980 Buick 231 2BBL V6 made 110 Hp and 190 torque
1980 Chevy 305 4BBL V8 made 155 HP and 240 torque
I have driven and owned more 231 Buick V6 carbed engines than I care to remember. The quickest one was a 1981 Cutlass 4 door with optional 2.73 rear gears ( the std gears were 2.41 across the board) that managed a whopping 0-60 in 13 seconds flat on a perfect 70 degree day.
Any 1978-87 305 4BBL V8 equipped G-body like the Malibu did the same run in 9.5-10 seconds, Even with crappy 2.29 rear peg leg gears!
So pretty much anything not an AMC or Ford pickup based straight six is inferior? Just want to make sure.
Yes, Ford’s 300 straight six was such an efficient powerhouse. I fondly remember the one in my father’s 1984 F-150…..yes, it was a dandy at 10 to 12 mpg and acceleration that could be measured with a calendar, creating a serious pucker factor when I was foolish enough to attempt passing anyone, even with no load. Be still my heart!
Yes, I’m being cheeky, also.
Try an EFI 300. It’s even worse!
I have a hard time doing 65-70 in my 1995 F150 unloaded. 75-80 on the Interstate? Not gonna happen….
Fix it then.
It’s been in the shop four times. In my mind, the 300 is the most overrate truck engine from the period. It’s good for that guy who only drives 55MPH, but for me, give me an SBC any day. Much better engine….
When shopping for a new basic pickup in 1993, I test drove an F-150 2WD with the EFI 4.9 six and automatic. Gearing was stock, probably 3.55, but I dont remember. It was a DOG, even on level ground with no load in the back.
The next test drive was a Chevy with the 4.3 TBI six and automatic with 3.08 gears. It was a world of difference. The Chevy had a 20hp advantage, so that couldnt be the whole reason. The torque curves were different with the Chevy a higher peak at a lower rpm.
I have tried a few EFI 300’s. They came from the same kennel as the ’80s era engines.
There is little doubt in my mind the 300 was a good engine at some point in time, but I have yet to encounter any of them.
The Ford 300 had different transmission options that affected their mileage greatly. The stump pulling, low geared 4 speed would give you 10-12 mpg but the 4 speed overdrive that I had would do 18mpg easy.
The four speed was gone by 1995 (The year of my truck). It has the 5 speed Mazda and 3.31 gearing.
What I’m talking about are the EFI 300s. The carbureted ones were a completely different animal. The advantage on the carb’d 300s was the low end torque. Ford changed the camshaft on the EFI ones, reducing the low end torque. They took away the only advantage of the 300, really.
They also used a nylon timing gear, which is prone to failure. Mine stripped 15 teeth, stranding me in a snowstorm. Between the nylon gear and the lack of torque, the later 300s in my mind were junk.
I’ve never driven a 4.3L Chevy, but I’ve driven a TBI 305 couple to an automatic and 2.76 gearing (Not what you want for power). The 1987 Chevrolet will run circles around the Ford, will easily out-tow or out-pull it, and will return about 4-5 MPG more.
I also drove a 1992 Dakota with a 3.9L V6 (6/8ths of a 318). That truck had the 5 speed and 4×4 (Other two were RWD). The Dakota would run circles around the Ford, too. It would also out tow and out haul the F150, albeit by a smaller amount than the Chevrolet could do. It’s easy to see why:
The Ford 300 I6 only offered 145hp at 3400RPM and 265 foot-pounds of torque at 2000 RPM.
The 3.9L in the Dakota offered 180HP (At 4800RPM) and 225 foot-pounds of torque (At 3200 RPM) in a package that was an enitre litre smaller.
Even the TBI 4.3L V6 was pushing 160HP (At 4000 RPM) and 235 foot-pounds of torque (At 2400 RPM).
The last 300s were simply outclassed by pretty much anything else. Are they the worst engine out there? Far from it, but they do deserve a “Dishonorable Mention”.
The 10-12 mpg one my father owned (and I drove it many miles in late ’80s and early ’90s) had the four-speed with granny low but was not geared low in the rear axle.
In its defense, it was smoother and sounded a lot less thrashy than the later EFI versions I experienced.
The carbureted ones were much better from my understanding. My grandfather had an early 80s one (Not sure on the exact year), but I remember that it would pull.
My EFI 300 just seems too wheezy. I’d own a carb’d 300, but I doubt that I’ll have another EFI one.
FWIW, there’s a bit of a cottage industry in using Big Sixes for drag racing. Heated up, they put out in the same ballpark as a similar-sized V8, and the word is that when they break, it’s almost never the bottom end.
The 302 in my experience was even worse in a truck, unless you wanted to wind the guts out of it. Mileage was as bad, and lost all the usable low end power.
I had a 1978 F-100 with the 300 six and figured out how to get the most out of that engine with not much effort.
Late 70’s 300’s had 8.9:1 compression, as opposed to the more common 7.9:1 compression. Even so, they suffered from the pollution controls of the era. On top of that, Ford replaced the big bore Carter YF 1-bbl with the smaller bore Carter YFA. EGR ruined the part throttle response, as well.
In a nutshell, and over time, I found the perfect set up for any 300-six daily driver. After I was done, that 300 had plenty of power, easily revved to its red line of 4000 RPM, and only suffered a small decrease in mpg. Ford claims the engine for my ’78 F-100 put out 117 hp. My mods made it feel like 140 hp and had very snappy throttle response. I had *NO* problems on the highway and even drove up Mt. Washington without struggling.
Here’s what I did:
1). Dumped the Carter YFA and put in a YF model. All of those carbs had sloppy linkage from the throttle shaft to the metering rod. I made my own linkage with thicker copper wire and drilled out the connection holes to fit. With zero slop, the carb worked much better. On top of the float bowl, there is a hole right above the adjusting screw for the metering rod. Carefully remove the press-fit cap and use a small #1 phillips screwdriver to raise up the rod a bit. That fixes the lean condition and it runs better. The power was seamless and felt like fuel injection! I polished the lower part of the metering rod with Nev-R Dull polish. That might be overkill but, I like to think it helped!
2.) Got rid of the EGR but kept the carb to manifold spacer.
3). The primary advance spring in the distributor is a bit too fast on the initial advance because of the EGR. I put in a slightly stiffer primary spring and slowed up the initial advance just a bit. The vacuum advance can be adjusted with an allen wrench. Adjust until it feels right.
4.) Get the special exhaust manifold for the 300 Heavy Duty engine. I got lucky and got mine from a junkyard. Flows much better than what ordinary 300’s have. Forget headers on street engines. You NEED that heat for the intake manifold! Don’t waste your time and money with a Clifford aluminum intake. The stock cast iron intake works fine for daily driving.
5.) Last thing I did was put in an Isky cam for everyday street driving, along with the usual lifters, rockers, etc. I intended to get the heads ported, polished, and a valve job done (compression was still good) but, other expenses took priority and I never got around to it.
I think if I got the heads done, I would have achieved 150 hp at the rear wheels with only 1 bbl and it would have easily outperformed the EFI version. I still can’t get over how snappy it was and how it loved being revved to the 4K redline. Sold the truck 20 years ago and wonder if it’s still on the road….
3. any gasoline engine converted to diesel
So the VW 4-cylinder diesels are bad then?
4. any diesel without a turbo
5. early gasoline engines with a turbo
Agreed, every diesel engine should come with a turbo, and every turbo should come with a diesel engine.
Define “car”. If we can be more liberal, I’ll nominate the Allis-Chalmers “Big AL” semi- truck engines, which were prone to crankshaft failures by the number one cylinder.
Then, there’s the GMC Toroflow. And the Oldsmobile diesels.
And, of course, the V8-6-4 Cadillac.
And, the Chevrolet Vega engine.
And, the Saab two-stroke engine.
And, the Pontiac 4-Cylinder that was half of a V8.
And the Chevrolet 3100 (Worst of the head gasket problems in the family IIRC)
And the 1.9 SEFI in the Ford Escort (We owned one- that thing ate timing belts and had some head issues)
Not the worst, but some “Honorable Mentions”
The EFI version of the Ford 300 is in my mind, a gutless pig. Even my TBI 305 can run circles around it, and the 305 isn’t even close to the 350.
The Audi 2.7T can be a nightmare, but that’s due to the turbochargers. The same block was used on the Audi 2.8, and that is a very reliable engine.
The 305 had the benefit of better fuel economy too in my opinion.
Agreed. My 1987 Chevrolet with the 305 gets about 4-5 MPG more on the highway (Though the Chevrolet has “economy gearing”). The 300 really struggles to go above 70 MPH, but the old Chevrolet with the 305 will happily do 75 on the Interstate without much of a problem unless I hit headwinds.
The 1978-early 80’s GM diesels were tops.
Now, those Chrysler 3.7s in the Sebrings were notorious for head gasket failure and overheating. Even after fixing it, my friend fixed twice more till
Talk about a couple of boat anchors.
Anything made by Renault in the 1977-88 run, is pretty much useless crap… Think about it, do you see ANY driving around today?
The 1.6 offered in the 18i and the Fuego was particularly poor. To offer a 69hp pushrod 4 in a sporty coupe is just not enough. Even the turbo was under a 100hp. It did not have it’s power down low either so to get the most out of it you had to rev it, as if that won’t make it throw a rod.
In the Car and driver comparison test of 82 compacts, where of course they were full time ragging on the J car, they said the 18i engine lacked the refinement to even be included in the comparo.
My parents bought a new’86 Alliance, despite the fact that the Encore they test-drove broke down on the test drive. It had tons of problems. Most of them were electrical, but they finally got rid of it after the timing belt broke and took out the engine.
So you could probably put “any interference engine” on the list.
“Anything made by Renault in the 1977-88 run, is pretty much useless crap… Think about it, do you see ANY driving around today?”
Please don’t burst my bubble and say that applies to the R5 Turbo II.
Sarcasmo and others are only referring to the tired, emission choked, pushrod engines Renault was peddling in USA.
I’ll offer an asterisk to the Renault mention. Most of it was crap, but the engine of the Eagle Premier–the final, 3.0L variant of the much-maligned “PRV” V6–was actually a rather good motor. Typically, they got it right at the very end.
Surprised no one has mentioned the Ford 6.0 power stroke. I have one, and love it, although mine is a ’06. I understand the early years were a bit of trouble 🙂
Yes, this one should be on the list. FICM failures, injector failures, oil standpipe cracking. and when the HPOP and head gaskets fail, the easiest way to fix them starts by lifting the cab off of the frame.
Just removing and reinstalling the cab is 35 hours of shop labour.
+1 This engine would be on my list. My brother has some experience with these, and it’s all bad and expensive.
I wondered when this one would come up. I have never heard anything good about them, especially from my farmer brother in law who has been a huge Ford PowerStroke fan (the 7.3 version).
One of the guys I work with has one. In the two years he’s had it, it’s been in the shop nearly every month. If it isn’t the engine, then there’s issues with the front suspension. Luckily, one of his brothers is a mechanic and the owner is not averse to turning his own wrenches…
I don’t think that 8-6-4 failed so much as it did not run smoothly. The system that shut down the cylinders needed a lot of maintenance to keep it working. Disabling the variable displacement gave you back the 1980 V8.
With modern engine management it probably could have been significantly better. The technology just wasn’t there at the time. Maybe it was just a bit ahead of its time. Modern versions (Honda, Chrysler, etc) work extremely well.
The Chevrolet 8-6-4 used in the Current Holden Commodore works fine and delivers excellent economy.
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have a 6-cylinder mode.
And it would not be using solenoids in the valve covers to do the cylinder deactivation either.
Bryce didn’t claim that it did, but he called it an “8-6-4” when it’s really an “8-4”. 🙂
Sorry you VW folks, but I used to drive a 40 hp transporter back in the mid 80’s. Terrible doesn’t even begin to describe it. Worthless fussy maintenance intensive motor in a horrible box. That vehicle made me swear off air cooled VW for life. My Vega with the aluminum motor has been far more reliable. And better brakes, more power, better ventilation… I think that I will drive the Vega to work tomorrow.
An early ’60’s VW Transporter isn’t setting a terribly high bar to exceed in regards to power, brakes, heating…Ventilation, though? Open the front vent windows and there aren’t many vehicles that can get more air flowing directly onto the driver besides maybe a Wrangler with the windshield folded down.
The Olds 350 D wasn’t so bad after ’81 but the damage was done. Same with the Toro Flow, the later ones were governed a bit slower and held up better. The Detroit 8.2 was a real crapper. We had one in a school bus, UGH. Same with the 1160 Cat. I mean come on, two piston rings on a diesel engine? Oil burning nightmare with eye bleed white smoke on startup from the low compression. I wasn’t sorry to see either of those go.
A little before ’65, the Rambler aluminum six (1961-1964) was pretty awful. Most were replaced by cast-iron engines under warranty.
In the early 1960s there was also an aluminum version of Chrysler’s slant-six used in the Valiant. Not sure how those worked out.
“In the early 1960s there was also an aluminum version of Chrysler’s slant-six used in the Valiant. Not sure how those worked out.”
I remember an aluminum case transmission used on the Valiant with the /6 and the Hyperpack. But don’t remember an aluminum /6.
The slant-six engine was intended to be aluminum from the start, the cast-iron version was developed in tandem “just in case.” Nearly 50,000 of the aluminum-engine version were built.
The aluminum slant-6 had cast iron cylinder liners, so they didn’t suffer from premature wear as the later Vega engines did.
Another, more recent, engine for which there were both cast iron and aluminum versions was the Chrysler V10. Aluminum used in the Viper, and cast iron in the Dodge pickups. If I recall correctly, the truck version was discontinued when the 5.7L Hemi was introduced. Never heard anything particularly bad about either engine, except for high fuel consumption.
If you’re talking about engines with aluminum and iron-block versions, the most numerous is probably the Ford modular 4.6 V8. The 16-valve versions were iron block, the 32 valve versions were aluminum block (except for the 2003-04 Mustang Cobra, which was iron), and the 24-valve versions used both depending on application.
I vaguely remember an interview with one of the slant-six engineers where he stated that the 170cid engine was engineered perfectly with no issues from the start, but there were some early problems with the larger 225cid version (piston ring sealing, maybe?).
While GM deservedly gets the lion’s share of the poor engine vitriol (ironic when one considers they also produced one of the all-time great engines in the small-block V8), I’m rather surprised no one has nominated the Pinto 2300 four. While everyone remembers the Pinto exploding gas tank issues, the engine, while not in the same league as the Vega, was no prize, either.
The problem, IIRC, was something known as ‘piston scuff’. I believe the culprit was a poorly designed piston which, under certain conditions, would actually ‘scuff’ the sides of the cylinder walls. It was one of those deals where, although there was no official recall, Ford would quietly repair affected 2300 engines under warranty (there was even a piston scuff kit with a Ford part number).
It was that same Pinto 2.3 that, when turbo charged and inter-cooled, became the SVO Mustang engine, the fastest Mustang you could buy in its day. I’d love an SVO variant to swap into my 64′ Comet.
The problem was that Ford decided the engine didn’t need an oil squirt hole to spray the cylinder wall; it could get by on splash & oil mist stirred up by the crank. They forgot to test that wonderful discovery in cold weather, though, when thickened oil didn’t splash so well.
I’ll nominate the Mitsubishi 6G72 (3.0 liter) V6 in SOHC form. haven’t seen a single one which wasn’t puffing blue smoke by 60,000 miles.
I’ll be “That Guy”. We owned a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker with that engine. The car died at 268k miles (Yes, you read that right- over a quarter of a million miles), and it wasn’t the engine that failed. It was the second Ultradrive that let us down.
That engine didn’t burn or leak anything. It was owned by a family friend who purchased it with 5k miles in 1990, eventually giving it to us around 240k.
I can think of many worse engines than the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6.
I’ve just become the owner of my parent’s old ’98 Voyager, which also has the Mitsubishi 3.0. It’s got 132k and runs fine. It’s about to become my swap meet/ auction pickup workhorse, once I find a place to stash the back seats.
+1. I’ve personally seen the 3.0 Mitsu hold up well in Dynastys and a Le Baron convertible.
One quirk I came across on two of them was a failed O-ring on the coolant tube that runs through the “valley”. Easy fix, once you’ve seen it.
We had a ’96 Caravan with that engine and the engine was fine. We got rid of it at 160k miles because we didn’t want to replace the transmission for the second time.
The later 3.5 is good. Ours has made 350,000km and is just starting to use oil.
You know, it’s funny… when those engines were new, I was convinced they were the biggest piles of shit for the exact same reason (a blue cloud seemed to follow every minivan in the early ’90s).
But over the years, they seem to have held up surprisingly well. What happened? Was it only the early Mitsu V6s that were oil burners? Was there an easy fix applied to them?
I don’t know what technical changes they might have made, but the second-gen Magna (first Diamante, ’91-’96) with the 3.0 is almost extinct here in its homeland – and yes, usually followed by a cloud of oil smoke when you do see one. The third-gen Magna (second Diamante, ’96-’05) had the 3.5 from ’99, and there seem to be a lot of them around still – our mechanic reckons he’s seen them with 450,000-500,000km and still going strong, so our ’00 has a lot of life in it yet.
In my family we had a Plymouth (Sundance) Duster with the 3.0, a minivan with the 3.0 and a Mitsubishi Montero with the 3.0. All of them made it over 150K with very minimal problems (Well, the Montero had lots of problems, but not with the engine…) All the cars trailed oil smoke. My understanding was the Valve Guide Seals got old and shrank, allowing a bit of oil into the cylinders, hence the oil smoke. None of the cars burned more oil than the GM stuff we were also driving at the time, either. You could replace the valve guide seals, or just put another quart of oil in every 1000 or so miles.
I don’t know if the criteria for a ‘bad’ engine is poor internal engine design, or if bad engine management also qualifies. If it’s the latter, then the ’81-’83 Chrysler Imperial’s computer controlled engine surely qualifies. The 318 V8 was the same tried-and-true Chrysler small-block engine that had been around since 1967 with no issues, but the EEC in the Imperial was designed so poorly (it’s said that electromagnetic emissions from overhead powerlines would shut the engine down) that the vast majority of Imperials were converted over to a conventional carburetor under warranty.
Yes, each car supposedly cost Chrysler $10K in warranty claims. The swap to carb from efi was horrendously expensive, and included replacing the instrument cluster and fuel tank.
They could have bought an FI and engine management system off the shelf, but noooooo, not Detroit of those days, where Not Invented Here was the rule of all the Big 3. Not anymore!
A series engine in the Austin America. mighta been OK with a standard trans- the minis survived witht the shared engine/transmission oil system, but the Americas were largely sold with Automatic transmissions. very few survived to the end of warranty period without a rebuild. and BL left the US market tail between legs. the austinamericausa.com site discusses how to resurrect these and advocates for oil changes every 1 thousand miles.
The A series was okish in RWD settings though early 803 engines like a set of bearing shells every 10,000 miles to make em last, nothing had great longevity in that BMC east west setup.
That 803 (shudder!) nearly qualifies as a Ten Worst, but later/larger versions lasted fairly well. The 1100 that replaced my aunt’s A30 made it to about 70,000 miles.
I must vigorously disagree. The A-series was one of the great inline 4s of the post-war era. Torquey and economical, robust and capable of high-performance applications. The problem with the America was the auto tranny. This very website had a nicely one history of the car a few years back: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/turkey-week-kickoff-1968-1972-austin-america-yankee-doodle-disaster/. It had much praise for the A-series.
I agree with you, but tried to specify the engine with the auto trans as the turkey… and because of the shared sump, you could not really unbolt it to drop in a manual. they took a good engine and made an unreliable drivetrain with that decision. then packaged it onto a car with a buncha quirky or beta-test level systems. quickly killed off any love for the prototype of this now-standard layout car till the rabbit came to our shores.
I concur. BL: making the Old GM look like Toyota.
lars makes the point below that he’s being specific about the auto version. Which just highlights for me how much I agree with you about the A series engine in its “purer” form.
The manual box will take endless abuse and substantial power without modification, and the engine itself can make a helluva lotta power when tuned right. I spend a lot of time at http://www.turbominis.co.uk/forums/index.php?p=vf&fid=12 and those guys can wring monstrous power out of those little motors.
in the PM owners report on the 60 plymouth owners report the brand new slant six were causing owners terrible problems! very strange that it became the most respected six
The report did note that 1960 was first year of production for the Slant Six. No doubt the engine had a few teething problems, but Chrysler did correct them, to its credit.
I think the 170 slant-six was okay. It was the larger 225 engine that had some early issues, but they were corrected relatively quickly.
From what I understand, at both the beginning and end of it’s production history the slant six had some issues with cracking exhaust manifolds, in the beginning with not enough reinforcement/ribs, and at the end due to modifications to accommodate an O2 sensor, I had to replace one of the latter and it was difficult to find an uncracked one.
Interesting question. Most modern engines are pretty good. Might just depend on how much maintenance is valued in good engine design, which opens up a whole lot of other issues, e.g.- oil change requirements, ease and cost of timing belt, spark plug, and water pump replacements, valve adjustments, etc. But here are a few that make my list:
1. Vega 2300 four (would have to be on any such list)
2. Triumph Stag V8. The Triumph TR-7 four cylinder cousin to this engine should be mentioned as well (although I had one, a later model, and it never caused me any trouble).
3. Hyundai 1.4 four, 1986-1994 (IIRC, overcoming this engine’s poor reputation was one of the reasons Hyundai came up with a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty)
4. Cadillac V-8,6,4 (actually a nice try, but an idea in search of the right technology to make it work)
5. GM Olds 350 V8 diesel (again, nice try)
6. Toyota 3.0 V6 and 2.3 four (’97-’02). If sludge-prone is a main criteria, then the ’97-’02 Toyota 3.0 V6 and 2.3 four have to be considered (class action lawsuit for millions).
7. Trabant 2 cylinder, 2 stroke (other than emissions, not sure how bad or unreliable it really was, so maybe just for fun and variety… might not make the after 1965 requirement in any case).
Engine in first gen imported here (US) Hyundai Excel. Saw several with broken cast crankshafts when I moonlighted at my friends used car lot turning wrenches.
Were they Mitsubishi built or just Mitsubishi designed?
Hyundai built them. In 1995, I taught English to a group of Hyundai engineers. They had a terrible opinion of their early efforts, and only a slight respect for their then current products. Now they are as good as anything. They had good attitudes and darned well knew how to work!
Neat bit of info!
Since I can’t cite the copper-cooled Chevy, I’ll have to nominate the only other vehicle I know where the manufacturer had to buy back the entire production run because of engine issues – the Nissan 2.4 liter Z24i in the ’87/88 Nissan Van, due to the engine’s tendency to catch fire.
The unlamented Vega engine deserves every bit of criticism aimed at it. Perhaps the worst engine GM has produced in the past 50 years–and that is really saying something. I would argue it’s the worst American engine of the past half century.
I’d add the Triumph Stag V8. Although it is gifted with a sublime sound, it was absolute and utter rubbish. And given that BL had the Buick/Rover V8, it was entirely unnecessary. At least they didn’t waste much money on development: just welded two Triumph slant four engines together. Brilliant!
1. Early Porsche Boxster engine: I believe this engine had engine casting porosity issues. Also, the Intermediate Shaft was a potential failure costing thousands upon thousands of dollars to repair.
2. GM 350 Diesel. Enough said on this subject
3. GM Vega Engine. Ditto. Had it been sleeved with iron cylinder liners, the issues with the Vega would have been directed at it’s shoddy build materials, not the fact that the aluminum liners allowed oil blow by like a Texas Oil Rig.
4. GM Atlas Engine: As found on the Colorado and GMC Canyon. Many cases of valve seat inserts working their way loose on the cylinder head, requiring outright replacement of the head. The problem is when or if this condition crops up on a vehicle out of it’s warranty. This problem has been extensively documented by owners and mechanics on the on-line Colorado-Canyon Forums……
5. VW/Audi 2.0 Turbo Motor-I seem to recall this one too had a lot of owner complaints of the car suddenly seizing up, due to internal sludge build up in the oiling system. The problem here is a VW or Audi support network that did everything in not owning up to the issues, specifically, requiring owners to show proof of all oil changes in order to receive relief from the corporation. Again, many, many dissatisfied owners venting their frustrations out on the net regards to this engine.
6. GM CrossFire 350 V8- As found on the 82 and 84 Corvette or Camaro. Like the 2.3 Ford Turbo 4 or the Cadillac V8-6-4 engine, it all comes down to Detroit’s computer control systems are not sophisticated enough to handle an ever changing engine dynamic when driving down the road. The Cross Fire engine caused Chevrolet to go to the Tuned Port engine, with more sophisticated engine controls in the 85 Corvette while I believe the Camaro after 83 went back to the tried and true carburetor for their V8 engines.
7. My 1984 Ford Bronco II’s 2.8 V6. Let’s combine Fords sophisticated EEC-IV engine control system with a carburated fuel delivery system. Let’s make the TFI ignition system so touchy in high humidity conditions, that frequent stall outs and rough running become the norm every time it rains out. So to alleviated PO’d owners, Ford engineered a distributor cap with a plastic hooded vent, to vent out those vapors and ozone created by the high energy ignition. Or something like that. I failed to mention an EGR valve and top mounted EGR sensor that failed every 6 months or so. Keeping the old solid lifters in this engine was just icing on the cake…..valve clearance maintenance; on a low performance Ford motor! All of these problems went away for 86, I believe, when Ford installed a tuned port EFI system on the V6. Still did not alleviate the issues this engine had with bad head gaskets, that helped warp the cylinder heads…….
8. Any Interference engine featuring a rubber timing belt. And the water pump driven by said belt. So if the pump failed, it required replacement of the pump and the belt. If the belt failed, it usually required outright replacement of the entire engine. All to save money on a steel timing chain. And a little extra noise with said steel chain.
The Audi 2.8 is one of the engines on your list. I would rather prefer a chain, but there are worse options out there….
Timing belts are quite reliable yes they have a service life often ignored and the replacement of the waterpump with a quality OEM product at belt change time is recommended, shortcutting regular servicing might save a few peniies in the short term but in the long run is false economy,
Chains stretch and wear out tensioners and are quite expensive to replace when they wear out and they DO.
Eh. Interference engines ~should~ be designed with some common sense in mind. Like: most customers are going to be late with the scheduled PREEMPTIVE (which apparently is a complicated concept lost on most customers) timing belt change. Like, waaay late.
So give em a chain and be done with it. That way the thing might actually outlast the first couple owners.
When I had my Dynasty’s 3.0 Mitsu apart (fixing the aforementioned coolant tube O-ring) I also replaced the timing belt. As a lark, I gave it a good tug and it broke right in my bare hands! That isn’t a testament to my gorilla strength; it’s a testament to how bad that belt was. I don’t understand how it didn’t break when the engine was running.
A dealer will probably replace the belt at the scheduled time, but the corner garage mechanic probably won’t.
I found this out when I had to get my OHC Cortina towed – the mechanic knew exactly what was wrong when I described the symptoms. So why hadn’t he replaced it when he had the car in the shop the previous month? Couldn’t seem to get a straight answer there! But at least it broke only 100 yards from home.
“3. GM Vega Engine. Ditto. Had it been sleeved with iron cylinder liners, the issues with the Vega would have been directed at it’s shoddy build materials, not the fact that the aluminum liners allowed oil blow by like a Texas Oil Rig.”
the Vega’s engine problems were really due to the under-spec’ed cooling system making the engine very prone to overheating. once it overheated, the open-deck block warped causing distortion of the cylinders. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes use sleeveless aluminum blocks to this day; their “alusil” design is very, very similar to the GM 2300.
Correct, plus valve guide seals that didn’t.
I put nearly 100K on a sleeved engine I had cobbled together with a GT head, single-barrel Rochester carb and headers (and the larger radiator). Other than the inherent NHV, it was very reliable and would chirp first and second gear (and that with the tall economy gearing). Folks who rode with me would often comment on how fast my Vega was compared to others they rode in (likely automatics, which were dogs). It would also return nearly 30mpg on the highway.
No contest on the 2300 being a horrible engine out of the box, but with the major issues addressed, it worked well for me as a hoon-crazy high school / college kid.
Ed, there were shops in the 70s as reported by MT that were making a nice income putting sleeves in the Vega 2300. Worst engine ever and probably the ugliest as well. Looked like something one would use in an industrial park to make Little Lisa Slurry.
Agree about it being ugly! Although it *was* easy to adjust the valve lash, since that curved stamped cover came off pretty easy after removing the air cleaner. The only thing was that the tappets were adjusted with a beveled screw – each 360° turn of the screw gave .003″ more (or less) clearance, so you never really could adjust them dead on.
It was also easy to get to the starter, which was handy, because the relay would stick if hot and not work. I (and many others, I suspect) had a momentary switch under the dash to bypass the relay when it hung up. Sort of an anti-theft device!
The water pump, on the other hand, required removal of the timing belt, and had slotted mounting holes for adjusting the belt tension. Which meant you were trying to slide the water pump over to get belt tension, all the while trying to tighten the bolts without goobering up the gasket. In the winter, outside in the snow. Fun times!
BMW had a lot of teething problems with sleeveless aluminum blocks in the early ’90’s. We still got iron blocks in North America, while the home market customers were the beta testers.
Indeed, one of those ‘what if’ scenarios is if GM had installed a proper cooling system in the first place (i.e., larger radiator), would the engine problems have been so bad, or even exist at all? Sleeving the engine seems like a half-assed way to address the problem when the real culprit was the Vega’s undersized cooling system.
That wouldn’t have made it a very pleasant engine, though. The 2300, the Iron Duke, and the Quad 4 are all object lessons in why big inline fours need balance shafts.
Ate Up With Motor’s piece on the Vega is one worth revisiting. A combination of low budget cooling systems, a revolutionary aluminum/silicon cylinder bore and mating an aluminum block and cast iron cylinder head all conspired to make it a lemon to those who suffered engine maladies.
I had an 84 Corvette. Nothing was wrong with the digital throttle body fuel injection. Engine output was only 200 horsepower though. My 86 Corvette with tuned port injection did have much better performance.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the flat six in the Corvair, unless is it disqualified because it was developed before 1965. In addition to being a notorious oil leaker/burner, the Corvair engine was especially prone to throwing its fan belt off as the belt would age and stretch. Without the belt, no fan to blow air across the cylinders and it would overheat. I’m sure that the Corvairs remaining in service have had the oil leakage problems addressed and that their owners make sure to monitor the tension on the fan belt. Given that the Corvair was marketed (at least in the beginning) as low cost transportation, GM was asking for trouble when it released this car on a public noted for ignoring routine maintenance until it was too late.
Briefly considered it, but it’s too old. Besides, as an owner of a ’66 I can say from experience it is far from being Top Ten Worst material although it does have it’s quirks.
Worst quirk is oil leaks: one time I tallied up all the potential places oil could leak from a flat 164 and I forget the exact number but IIRC it was close to 50! Well there are 12 individual push rod tubes with a “seal” on each end making 24 possible leaks right there. In yet another example of an idea that was doomed by inadequate tech or materials at the time, today’s Viton seals do a wonderful job of sealing those tubes. (Even though VW had similar tubes for years.) As far as I can tell, those tubes were the main culprits. Put Viton seals on them and the rest of the engine stays nice and oil tight.
Another quirk from failure to keep all sealed up was the heater system; any oil or exhaust leaks from the engine became immediately apparent if the heat was turned on. Hey- maybe GM did that on purpose to force owners to keep those leaks in check!
Much criticism is leveled at the Corvair’s twisty fan belt but really- I’ve owned my ’66 since 1984 and it’s only thrown a belt once, and I wasn’t surprised because I saw that the belt was failing but I’m the sort that has to extract the last mile out of things before I replace ’em. So I had another belt onboard, put it on at roadside, and went on my merry way. One ought to know right away to suspect the belt when the “ALT” light comes on. I’ve not seen any unusual appetite for fan belts from my Corvair.
The very earliest cars had a tendency to throw their belts, which was mitigated to a large extent by the deeper pulleys (a running change on 1960 models). Not so much the oil leaks…
I’ve read that the switch to the magnesium fan also helped keep the belt happy as it was lighter than the steel fan and didn’t load the belt as much on rapid accel/decel.
Belt throwing was a problem in 60. Not common after that.
As it happens the two Corvairs that I was most familiar with BITD were both 1960 models. One belonged to a neighbor who had purchased it new to commute back and forth to work. He was pretty good about changing the oil and performing other maintenance and it was still in pretty good shape when it was traded away, ca 1967. I can remember a conversation between him and my father in which he stated that he always carried a spare fan belt because the Corvair was prone to throw off the belt.
The other ’60 Corvair belonged to a good friend in high school. This car was your basic two hundred dollar beater that was purchased in the fall of 1968 to drive to high school. It was obvious that Hal was going to be the final owner of this car and it was treated accordingly. Oil burning/leakage was a major issue; at that time you could buy used motor oil for something like 18 cents a quart so SOP was to carry 5 or 6 quarts at all times. A couple of weeks after graduation Hal went out one morning to go to work and the motor in the Corvair was seized up solidly. It had run fine (at least as fine as it could) the night before; apparently if was low enough on oil that the heat in the block wouldn’t dissipate well enough once it was shut off. Needless to say the Corvair went off to the scrappers.
The belt throwing was quickly fixed in early 1960. Few of the newer Corvairs ever had that problem.
1600 dual port VW
Subaru flat four, recent edition
4.6 Ford V-8 with the plastic intake and the spark plugs shooting through the hood
305 Chevy, camshaft and timing chain failures
Celica 2zz four engine sludge
I think it was only the first few years of the 305…they had it straightened out by 82 or so.
Our 2002 F150 has the 4.6 Windsor built engine. Don’t know if a previous owner changed it or Ford had corrected the mistake by then, but I was mighty glad to see when we bought it in 2011 it had a all aluminum intake. And at 176,000 miles it doesn’t leak ( although it has started finally weeping oil from the oil filter adapter. Why oh why couldn’t they have just had the filter screw onto the block directly like all my other engines!).
Some of the engine choices posted I agree with and others I don’t. The fact that the 2.3l Pinto engine was slow does not make it a bad engine especially since it lasted for years in cars and was also turbo charged and fuel injected. In base guise it was a reliable and unexciting engine but it was not bad.
The same goes for the GM V8-6-4 engine. It was primitive computer control that made it run like crap but once a little wire was snipped, the engine was reliable and ran well.
The same in regards to the HT4100 engine. It was unreliable in its first years but by 1986 it was reworked and reliable enough. That engine would become the 4.5l and 4.9l engines in which both were reliable.
Interestingly enough even with the HT4100 and the V8-6-4 engines, Cadillac actually sold very well up until 1985 when the downsized Deville arrived looking too much like the Olds and Buick offerings and then sales tanked.
Well enough of the soap box. Here are my worse engines
1. GM 2.0/2.2l engines- Found in S- Series pickups, Cavaliers, Corsicas and a whole other host of cars, this engine eat head gaskets up
2. Olds Diesel- Most of those cars still around were converted to the Olds 307
3. Modified Nissan Z24i 2.4l engine for use in the US market Nissan Van from 87-90 and this version of the Z24 engine tended to catch fire so Nissan stepped in and bought almost all of them back.
4. GM Crossfire V8
5. Chrysler 318 Fuel Injected V8. This was found in the 80-83 Imperial and it was rubbish and ran poorly even with the carb conversion.
100% agree with your #1 on your list. My mother owned a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird (later given to my youngest sister) that blew through 2 brand new engines in less than 5 years…my mother did maintain it (oil changes, etc.) and I think the car only had 60k miles or so when the second engine went (threw a rod)..
My youngest sister is no longer with us, but I think this is the car that spooked her from buying any more American cars (my Mother still buys only American, but she sees things differently I guess).
Different engine. That was the Brazilian 2.0 SOHC.
Did the Sunbird have a different source of 2.0 engines than the Cavalier? Kind of doubt it…maybe they both were Brazilian 2.0’s? Anyway, terrible experience with that engine, made my Dad’s list of worst cars he ever bought new.
The fact that the 2.3l Pinto engine was slow does not make it a bad engine especially since it lasted for years in cars and was also turbo charged and fuel injected. In base guise it was a reliable and unexciting engine but it was not bad.
The 2.3L Lima was an epic engine, Ford Motorsport was squeezing close to 700 HP out of them in IMSA GTP.
Also got nearly 3 decades of use out of it, including a trick twin-spark head at the end. I think Ford still carries it as a crate engine in their performance catalog.
The Olds diesel
Originaln Chevy Vega engine
From ones I have any sort of experience or knowledge on-
Cadillac HT4100-garbage, mainly because they rushed it into production. The 4.5 and 4.9 that were developed from it were actually pretty decent.
The v8-6-4 was fine itself, it was the computer that tried to deactivate the cylinders that didn’t work. It came too soon for the technology at the time, though the idea is solid and is now used to good effect by various companies.
The Northstar was, as someone else described it, hit or miss. I’ve seen some go over 200K, and I’ve seen some blow head gaskets before 100K. This is one of those engine/cars I really enjoy driving-as long everything is OK with it. Regardless, Cadillac had already screwed the pooch with their other crap engines and crap quality, this kind of continued bad reputation was not what they needed. Also unfortunately, like many other GM products of the time, it seems Cadillacs of this general era start dying the death of a thousand cuts even before they start having serious powertrain problems.
Ford 3.8 V6. I would guess that is simply why one doesn’t see a whole lot of FoMoCo cars from that era on the streets. I have to gawk when I see one of those fugly Continentals from this era because I’m just that surprised it isn’t in the junkyard with a blown head gasket.
Mopar 2.7L v6, crappy design with the oil sludge and all. Garbage, but I wonder if they managed to improve them because they put this engine in base 300s and Chargers into the 2000s.
The Mopar 2.7’s sludging issues were corrected sometime before they were put into the LX cars. I forget what caused the issue, but it was limited to early models.
Reportedly corrected by the 2002 models. The oil return passages were increased in size, so that oil drained properly into the sump instead of being blocked by accumulated sludge. Crankcase ventilation was changed, increased to reduce moisture accumulation and sludge formation. Actually I recall that as early as 1999, some mechanics were already substituting a higher-flow crankcase vent valve to accomplish the same thing. But because this was not tested and approved, it was in violation of EPA regulations, and of smog-control regulations in many states…another example of “Hi, I’m from the Government. I’m here to HELP you.”
And not in fact corrected. The 2002 and later versions of the 2.7 were just as bad.
Funny thing is if you make a list of the 10 worst automobile engines of all time, there will be a number of GM engines on it. Conversely, if you made a list of the 10 best, a number of GM engines would be on that list as well.
Some bad engines that come to my mind:
Ford 3.8L V-6
Early Olds 350 diesel. 1982-up ‘DX’ versions were much improved. The 4.3L V-6 diesel was actually pretty good.
Mercedes 3.8L V-8
Turbocharged Detroit 8.2L diesels
GMC Toro-Flow diesel
As for the V8-6-4 Cadillac, the engine itself was actually fine mechanically, it was the primitive electronics that caused the driveability issues that gave it a bad reputation.
I wonder if the Northstar will make both the best and worst engines list?
I’m surprised to see noboday other than Bob B mentioned the Maserati engine until now… The early ones had a na oiling fault which resulted in engines exploding at low miles; I believe they have dealt with that later but still one could never truct these things.
You know, considering how many different engines that have been offered in the U.S., it’s kind of amazing how few unique designs of the Big Three are on this list.
Almost all of the truly bad ones can be limited to the Vega and Cadillac HT4100 aluminum block-with-iron-heads monstrosities, the Olds diesels, a few early (for U.S. manufacturers) OHC engines, and that’s about it.
Call me overly optimistic, but we do seem to have it pretty good when it comes to reliable engines.
I think where the engine is used has a lot to do with whether its a pass or a fail.
–The GM 2.8 V6 was acceptable in smaller cars like the Z24, but in the S-10 pickups and Blazers…what a turd! They even tainted the first few years of XJ Cherokees and MJ Comanches with this abomination. PN got a lot of miles out of his, but from what I hear that’s the exception not the rule. I know several people who had to do a LOT of work on these well before 100K miles. And power….WHAT power? Youd have been better off with the AMC derived 4 cylinder in those Jeeps. Even with a OHV design, it was among the most powerful 4 bangers you could get in those days.
–The Jeep 4.7 V8 was a rockstar in the Grand Cherokee and Dakota. Pretty competitive in the Durango, even. But in the Ram….not so much. 150 or so less hp than the first Magnum Hemis and worse mpgs. Just mismatched to a larger rig. Why the Avenger and Sebring coupes weren’t rwd with top variants using that V8….Ill never know.
–Mopar 3.8 V6. In the minivans, this was a solid motor and with plenty of power. But in the Wrangler….what a turd. The torque curve was all wrong for a Jeep and even though on paper the numbers looked better than the old 4.0, it just didn’t work out in reality.
My parents suffered through two engine replacements in the first generation of the Chrysler K car before they came to their senses and bought a Chevy. I think it was called an MCA jet or something similar.
The Mitsubishi 2.6. Sticking with Chrysler’s own 2.2 was a wise move for K-car buyers.
yeah, the Mitsubishi Astron engine. had some unique features but holy crap, that carburetor was a freak show. and for an engine which had (as advertised) “silent shafts,” it was probably one of the noisiest engines I’ve ever encountered.
Balance shafts aren’t really a big help in terms of noise, although they do keep big inline fours from feeling like cement mixers.
I would go for the Audi High-Compression engine of the late 1960s (1.7/1.8/1.9). 10:1 compression and no electronic control back then meant constant engine knock during the hot days of summer, usually leading to a melted piston or worse, a defective crankshaft rendering the engine useless. High compression also meant horrible NVH, especially at high revs. When Audi tried to correct the issue by lowering the compression, they found out the OHV design was thirsty and gutless. Unfortunately noiselevels remained the same.
Well, a few caveats – I’ll just stick to US manufacturers as I’m not that familiar with others. And I’ll highlight engines that were fundamentally flawed through bad engineering rather than equipped with bad components (Cadillac 368 V8-6-4 being an example of a good engine made bad…..).
– Vega 2300: For all the reasons already addressed
– Ford Escort 1600 CVH: Timing belt good for at most 60K miles in an interference engine – resulted in Escorts being selected “most likely to be found out back of the garage”
– Olds Diesel pre1981 – though the 1981 and up were much better
– Ford Essex 3800 V6: In a word, head gaskets…..
– Mid 70s GM 3800 V6s with uneven crank throws: mobile massage chairs…….(but later developed into a great engine)
– Cadillac 4100 V8: Chased more loyal Cadillac owners away from the brand than the 80 Seville Bustle-back…..
– Chrysler Maserati TC 2.2L Turbo: One word – Kaboom!
Citroen flat 4 1970-1984 RIP. It will burn oil and its camshafts will wear. It will rot its exhause manifolds through (both sides but especially the awkward one on the r/h side). It will also rot the heat exchanger pipes, the inlet manifold pipes and the bottom of the carburettor hotspot. All at different times. And you cant get at three of the plugs without double jointed wrists or get a timing light on the flywheel without using a mirror.
Oh, and in 1015 cc form it’s a completely torque free zone
Being a Citroen the engine design was completely seperate from the vehicle. It should have been clearly labelled ‘Not for Use With Petrol/ Do Not Install in a Motor Vehicle’
This is a seriously good thread ~
Lots of interesting replies and quite a few that simply make no sense , folks who talk trash about a thing they clearly know nothing about .
Notice I say little about many engines here , only what I know and have worked on / owned / driven .
If I’m correct , I am to under stand the robust 368 CID V-8 in my 1980 Cadillac Hearse is the same as used later in the awful 8-6-4 Caddies ? . I didn’t know that although I did watch a buddy suffer through a horrible brand new 8-6-4 , mostly it ran 7-5-3 and drove him batshit , the Dealer was unable to fix it .
I also learned the hard way that not everything Toyota is good ~ ’91 V6 Camry , apparently those engines are toast after 60,000 miles , oops .
IIRC that is the same 3.0 (3.slow) that is in my 95 4runner). There was apparently a head gasket problem that caused the exit of that engine after about 6 years. On the good side, when the head gaskets were modified by a factory recall they lasted well. If my truck is a good example they were still slow. Other weak points would also be the aforementioned water pump under the cover with a 70k mile timing belt. On the good side it is a non-interference engine. I now have a 205kmile example in my driveway that runs very well. I have a CEL that sometimes comes and goes (have yet to find the cause) but it runs very well.
Nobody mentioned the Nissan NAPSZ engine series (2.0-2.4 AFAIK). They were a great engine that mated an aluminum head with a cast iron body. 4 cyl with 8 plugs. I owned two trucks with that engine (81 2.2 and 87 2.4). They ran beautifully until they overheated. The weak point was that by the time you knew you were overheating it could possibly be too late. It would be on my best engine and worst engine lists. Loved it when it ran well and lamented it when it blew that very thin head gasket.
Btw my experience with the Ford 300 six does not agree with others here. Extended Ford van. 15-17 mpg and worked like a dog. Preferred it to it’s main competitor the Chev 292. I guess truly YMMV.
The Toyota V6 having issues surprised me because ‘ everyone ‘ knows and loves Toyotas…. I didn’t pay enough attention to discover they were talking about the myriad four cylinder ones until far too late .
The ’91 Camry ran fine and had sufficient power (nothing extra !) and until the temperature gauge headed North on that hot day , it was right as rain .
It came to me with a brand new radiator and had been Woman owned so no hooning etc.
I replaced the engine with a clean low mileage Japanese takeout that had good compression and even before we cleaned it , was dry and tight…
New factory cam belt and water pump were added along with way more seals , sensors valves and things than I realized Japanese cars ever came with , when finished it once again ran fine but only lasted about a year before violently over heating again , I wasn’t driving but that was that ~ $3,700 flushed on a $1,000 car for one of my Foster boys , I shoulda bought him a crappy old dented Toyota pickup for $800 instead .
My buddy got a $500 Nissan ?720? pickup with the fabulous NAPS-Z engine because ” the Mechanics can’t make it run right ” ~ I told him to grab it and bring to me , not surprisingly the Barrio ‘ mechanics ‘ had mixed up the _eight_ spark plug wires , it took me a short time to sort that out and do general tune up , what a great truck . after a year or two of new house hauling he gave it away to a seriously poor old man relative who last time I checked , was still driving and loving that truck over TEN YEARS later .
Ran like a top , original black paint we polished and waxed to a mirror finish
The 8-6-4 engine is still a good robust unit. You just have to deactivate the cylinder shutdown and have it run on all 8. This is very well documented and covered on any Cadillac forum.
What were the marketing department thinking when they drew that ad up? It’s cheesy and corny and all sorts of wrong.
Didn’t Don Draper write that?
Sounds like him. Big words to impress and then hints at the truth with the talk of aluminum foil.
I don’t think the post 1965 rule is set in stone so here is Lincoln example
1936-1948 V12 Lincoln…have heard nothing but complaints about this engine
“it was more like a “12-cylinder Ford” than a classic multi-cylinder powerplant in character. And it was not without problems. The main ones were inadequate crankcase ventilation that caused rapid sludge buildup in sustained low-rpm running, aggravated by poor oil flow, plus too-small water passages that led to overheating, bore warpage, and ring wear. To a degree, some of these maladies were dealt with during the Zephyr’s first year, and Ford improved the engine by adopting hydraulic valve lifters for 1938 and cast-iron heads and oiling improvements for 1942. Yet this V-12 never shed its reputation for service troubles, though the postwar versions were actually quite reliable.”
My experience of the Imp was that it was not so much the engine itself that was the problem but what was going on around it. The radiator was mounted at the front of the car and water was piped to-and-fro from the rear. Something that I am sure was fine at pre-production stage – but when everything got furred up in later years led to chronic problems of overheating. Sure this thing can be fixed with thought – but in period users often did not bother. Automobiles need a certain amount of ‘foolproofness’.
Those are not on the list yet but I have my doubts about the recent trend of miniature turbocharged engines with bike-like hp from Ford, VW, Citroen and others… How long before the problems start?
Doesn’t matter though does it? My guess is they’re actually going to last really well with little maintenance for quite along time (1o or 15 years maybe?) but when they go, the repair cost will be so high that they will be immediately scrap. But we’ll all largely be electric by then, so it will make good sense to just bin them. Good motors though, so the few that survive the great dying will be highly collectible in 50 years.
Here are a few big ones everyone left out
Cadillac Catera 3.0 V6 – Weak timing belt in an interference engine.
BMW M60 – Nikisil Cylinder liners wore away
Porsche 996 and 986 Motors – IMS Bearings took out almost all of these. My father’s went at 30k miles.
Chevy 2.2l four. Predessor to the eco-tech Truly terrible..
VW W8, 2 v4’s that don’t want to be together
BMW m70 V12- Two inline 6’s sandwiched together with two separate engine computers. Didn’t work well
Ford Powerstoke diesel from the 2000’s
Not quite true re: the Porsche M96 engine family. The class action indicates 10% max failure rate, (still horrendous, I agree, but hardly “almost all”). MANY were covered under warranty and even more were covered well past warranty. For years now the fix has been to replace the bearing with an aftermarket one and consider it a wear item to be replaced with every clutch job. Even if done without ANY other work at the same time, it’s a $2000 repair at a good shop, when done in conjunction with the clutch etc, it adds around $800 for a reputable kit. Some have done it as a DIY for under $100 in materials. $2000 is a huge amount if you’re driving a Civic, if you’re driving a car that was $50k-$100k a decade or more ago depending on versions/options it’s not unreasonable. It’s unreasonable when people buy them used and don’t have any maintenance/repair budget. In the end, once a buyer is educated, these cars make fantastic value propositions relative to their power/handling/everyday usability and everything else. By the way, the first few years of 997 and 987 were also affected though to a lesser degree once Porsche went to the second redesigned bearing in or around 2005.
10% is horrendous, and I believe is a great underestimation, many owners put only a few thousand miles a year on these things which means the failures don’t happen till long after the warranty expires. The number is probably 30-40% of cars that didn’t get a new IMS preemptively. Many owners sucked it up and bought a used or rebuilt engine for 15-20k. Porsche never stepped up to replace engines under warranty, the class action suit was filed for that reason. Boxsters also had issues. The 996 is nice car and a very good value used because of this black cloud over them. Just need to make sure the IMS has been replaced before you buy one. It was most definitely a design flaw of an under-specced bearing, not a “wear item” GT3 and Turbos had a better bearing that wasn’t prone to failure. As far as I know the improved after market replacement IMS don’t fail.
I didn’t say the bearing IS a wear item, I’m saying it should be treated as one, the designer of the most popular replacement bearing (sold by LN engineering, developed by Jake Raby) suggests that as well. There were three designs of the factory bearing on M96 engines, the newest one (2005 or so and on engines) is significantly more robust than the older ones.
If your engine went out under the warranty, Porsche did cover it. The class action came about due to the numbers of affected units and the quantity of people that had run out of warranty due to time, not mileage. If they didn’t cover it it was most likely due to other reasons, i.e. an inability to provide proper service documentation. Porsche never admitted that the bearing was the issue, but did take responsibility for failed engines within the warranty time frame.
Of course the Boxster had issues as well, the engine is the same design, just lower displacement. The Turbo and GT3 have a completely different engine design, the IMS bearing in those engines is different and oiled in a much different (better, more expensive to manufacture) manner.
Apparently driving style is one of the main determinants of failure, counterintuitively the cars that were babied or driven only for low mileages appeared to have had the most failures. Driving it at higher engine speeds and longer distances appears to mitigate the issue.
My uncle had a Catera. The timing belt snapped a day or two before it was scheduled for a recall to replace it! He was idling at a stoplight when it broke. Consequently, the dealership decided the engine wasn’t that badly damaged so they opted to overhaul it instead of replacing it. Fearing more trouble ahead, he promptly traded the car. (I presume he would’ve kept it for awhile if they’d put a crate motor in instead.)
I was surprised no one had mentioned the M60 before now. Though that might be because there are basically none of the Nikasil versions left, most of them having died and early death and having been warranty (or even post-warranty) replaced by BMW with the corrected Alusil version.
Here’s my list from both personal and professional experience running a used car dealership since the early 90’s.
1) Olds 5.7 diesel – yes it can be argued that many didn’t understand the diesel engine and that GM finally improved it by 1981 with the water separator but early examples of these engines were simply a disaster with failure rates very high. The problems this engine had could fill up a page and are well documented
2) Cadillac HT 4100- another V8, this time gasoline, that was rushed into production ahead of schedule because of unrealistic government and cafe demands and GM’s dumb policy at the time of no gas guzzler tax. This motor, like the diesel, was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and never should have been introduced as early as it was in such large heavy cars.
3) 2.3 liter aluminum Vega 2300 motor- it’s oil use is legendary. So it’s it’s short life span
4) Toyota 2.2/2.4/3.0 and 3.3 liter V6 engines from the 90’s to mid 2000’s. Horrible failure rates on these engines with the sludge problems saw loads of customers with failed engines on there hands ranging anywhere from 50K to 100K miles without much warning. Just look out for sudden oil use and the tell tale white blueish smoke upon startup. I have heard many of them tick until temperature is reached. I remember going to our two local Toyota dealers during this time period and seeing no less than 5-6 engines every week getting swapped out with the cores sitting in crates behind the shop area.
5) Ford 3.8 Essex V6- Ford’s answer to Buick’s 231 V6 which in itself was a bad engine from 1975-1987 in carbureted form. Head gaskets, warped heads and weak bottom ends were the order of the day and we saw many blow up soon after the heads gaskets were done
6) Buick 3.0/3.2/3.8 V6 engines with carburetor from 1975-1987 era- these were crap engines in many ways ranging from weak oiling systems to rough idling in non even fire trim to oil leaks galore. getting on of these motors to last to 100K was a real challenge but the 1985 on up versions saw improvements to the oiling system and front timing cover which reduced leaks. The real improvements came when the 3.8 SFI motors followed by the 3800 came out
7) Chrysler 2.7- known as the sludgeomatics- these engines were also a nightmare for many an owner that didn’t use synthetic oil and change it religiously every 3K miles. Engine swap outs were very common on these
8) Triumph Stag V8- Just a disaster from the get go with bad materials, design and quality- or just bad everything
9) Prosche M96 engine family IMS bearing failures, oil leaks, cylinder head studs for years 1975-1989, mechanical chain tensioner failures of pre 1984 era, premature valve guide wear causing excessive carbon buildup in the secondary air injection ports which means not passing emission regs.
10) Early Mazda rotary engines V8 gas mileage combined with Vega oil usage was a dreadful combination
1) GM Quad 4 pre balance shaft upgrade
2) VW Mexico engines such as the 2.0 R4 as used in the New Beetle/Golf and Jetta -old low tech and high oil consumption are the joys of these engines
3) Mitsubishi 2.6 and 3.0 engines sold to Chrysler- bad heads, blown gaskets, chain adjustments, leaks, ticks, knocks. The failure rate of these two engines during the 80’s was astronomical. The early to late 90’s version of the 3.0 improved to rate and average mark however.
4) Chrysler 2.2/2.5 engines- pin knocks, head gaskets, cam failures and poor block castings, frequent sensor failure and very weak motor mounts causing premature axle shaft failure and oil leaks are common
5) The PRV joint venture V6
6) Ford Powerstroke diesel from the 2000 era.
Good list. But the Northstar didn’t make the cut?
Chevy 2.2? You can’t be talking about the Cavalier 2200 engine because those were a long lasting tough mill with reasonable mileage. Mid 1990’s has defective head gaskets from he factory up until 1997 but the later 1998 on up 2200 has been nearly bullet proof for anything we sold it on.
One example that barely falls outside of the 1965-up definition is the 1961 Studebaker OHV version of it’s Champion six. That one developed a head-cracking problem was likely one of the Post Office’s reasons for replacing it’s fleet of Zip Vans years ahead of schedule.
The Chrysler 2.7 and Ford PowerStroke 6.0 seem to be the worst of the modern ones. I have also heard some bad things about engines in modern Mazda CX-7s, but this is all hearsay.
Here is my list, a rather late one, coming from someone with a garage background:
(from worst to best)
1. The Vega 2300.
2. GM 5.7 diesel.
3. Chrysler 2.7 V-6 Sludge-o-rama.
4. Iron Duke. Gutless and unreliable at the same time.
5. GM Northstar. Just no excuse for this.
6. GM HT4100. GM should have never done this.
7. GM Quad 4. Rough, noisy and cracked heads.
8. Ford Essex 3.8 for eating head gaskets.
9. Ford 2.3 Lima, which I always hated for being gutless.
10. Early odd-fire V-6’s from Chevrolet and Buick, they were rough and gutless.
The Iron Duke was certainly an NVH delight–like having a thrashing blender in the passenger compartment. BUT, having had four of them, I can say they were reliable. Unkillable. Believe me, I tried.
And yes, absolutely gutless. But no worse that other inline 4s of the time. Well, American inline 4s. The 997cc A-series in my 1962 Morris Cooper really isn’t that far removed on power, at about 40% the displacement.
The Iron Duke being “no worse” than other inline fours? Well, have you ever driven a Honda of the era? Or a Camry?
Both my father and I had AMC Concords with the Iron Duke and neither of us ever had an issue with them. Yea, they were a little ( 🙂 ) rough, but they were quite durable and capable of some pretty impressive fuel economy. Both of our Concords had sticks and would easily get 32 mpg on the highway.
So the answer is “no” then.
Perhaps you missed the line “Well, American inline 4s.” Next time, I’ll try to highlight it for your reading ease. In any case, your “unreliable” statement is just that.
The tech IV may have been gutless (what wasn’t in the 80’s 4 cylinder wise?) but unreliable. I say bull to that statement. Noisy prior to 1989. Sure. But hardly unreliable. It’s possible the 1970’s version of this engine wasn’t to hot but the 1982 on up TBI 2.5 was a very strong reliable engine with more examples than I can remember with 300K plus miles still running strong. The rare few Tech IV’s that blew up were mainly from severe owner neglect and high mileage.
There’s a certain faction among auto-aficionados who dislike Pushrod I4s as a category.
The good examples aren’t bad engines given their limitations but many people think every I4 needs to be a DOHC 16V unit with a 7000 rpm redline.
Wow, that’s a lot.
My personal non-favorite is the Chev 267 small block which took one of the best volume engines ever built and rendered it a torqueless mess. (Of course it was still reliable so it doesn’t get full marks for terribleness)
A bit off topic, but I’ll nominate the Honda CX500 motorcycle engine. Conceived during a time when Honda could do no wrong with motorcycles, someone asked, “Hey, why don’t we build a single pin V-Twin with 4 valves per cylinder that revs to 9000rpm? And while we’re at it, we’ll turn it 90 degrees so it works well with shaft drive?
Well, there wasn’t room for a 6th overdrive gear with the engine turned sideways, so you needed all those RPMs for highway cruising, at which point the unbalanced engine forces buzzed the whole bike relentlessly. The charging system was in a hot location at the back of the motor and the timing chain tensioners didn’t last, both of them engine out procedures to replace. Case seams were vertical so they leaked oil like a British bike, and being a top heavy motor they were harder to handle when stopped.
I owned two (primarily because they were inexpensive) and luckily never had major problems but I never liked them much and both times they were gone once I could afford something better.
You never had problems because they were amazingly reliable bikes. The only bike that ran longer was the Goldwing.
RE : Honda CX500 Motos :
‘You never had problems because they were amazingly reliable bikes. The only bike that ran longer was the Goldwing.’ .
Just so ~ even my Son who’s collectively known by the entire V.J.L.A. as ” a one man wrecking crew ‘ couldn’t kill one and God knows , he tried .
They had poorly made nylon fans that simple fell off their steel hubs causing over heating @ idle .
And bad alternator stators that could only be accessed by removing the engine then splitting it away from the tranny…. ugh .
The 267 was indeed weak for a V8, but as you noted, the reliability was there. There have been plenty of engines with low output per displacement, especially in the mid 70’s through mid 80’s, so I think that would leave it off the list. But that’s just me…
Hold up right there. Let me ask a question… What makes a bad engine?
Is it low durability? I nominate the Colombo V12 from Ferrari.
Is it poor NVH? I nominate Mercedes-Benz’s OM617.
Is it limited bhp/liter? Cuz just about any early American V6 is laughable. And forget about later Cadillac 500 V8s.
Seriously. The self destructing Alfa V6 stirs my soul. The NSU Ro80 sings and screams and makes its car one of the most fun to drive German FWD in history. And the Trabant engine was unquestionably the ne plus ultra of engine for the environment it was built in. The Trabant is one of my favorite cars period. Not refined or fast or fun. But the engineering is nonpariel.
The OM617 in NA form was noisy, shook the whole car, you could feel every ignition through that gazinta steering wheel. It also is known for surviving a millions miles or more of caning. So is it a bad engine? You tell me.
The Ro 80 engine was unfortunate because it was really a case of just not doing enough preproduction testing. The apex seal design was really very clever; NSU just ended up in a situation where they were relying on engineering projections rather than real-world testing in selecting materials. The later ones were much improved, but as per usual, the damage was done by then.
Yes, the Ford/Navistar 6.0L Powerstroke! Too many issues to list here, typically last about 60,000 miles before some mechanical catastrophe takes them out. Made me forget all about the Olds 350 diesel. Unlike the Olds, the equally failure-prone 6.0L is difficult to service and expensive to repair. Ford actually recommends removing the entire cab of trucks so equipped to access the engine. In my opinion, the worst diesel engine yet devised. There was (briefly) a 4.5L V-6 derivative that was equally bad.
307 Chevy anyone?
The 307 in parents’ 1968 Bel Air wagon was one engine that didn’t blow up before they were ready to trade it (this one at roughly 87,000 miles iirc). They were GM buyers all the way up to 2009. After seeing all the strandings, major disassembly jobs needed, and should-be minor problems that the dealer would not or could not solve, over the years… I haven’t owned a GM myself since the ’70s.
So, what was the weakness with the 307?
IIRC, the Oldsmobile 307 regarded as being gutless. The Chevrolet 305 was considered to be “spunkier”
True, but that’s the Olds 307. I think the nomination was for the 60’s-70’s era Chevy 307. (I have no idea what its issue was though.)
And while the Olds 307 was down on power compared to the Chevy 305, it was at least relatively smooth and quite reliable (other than the rat’s nest of vacuum lines which were prone to leaks).
I had a ’77 Bonneville with a 301 Pontiac engine… I regularly got passed by glaciers…
Were the blocks “soft”? I think perhaps it replaced the 283 which was a great engine may have something to do with it…
For some reason I like 283s even though the blocks were made of mush. Must be nostalgia.
They’re neat – smooth and like to make revs. They “feel” different to a 305 or 350.
Yeah- I have a couple of ’em. They sure run nice but even with proper maintenance they aren’t good for 100,000 miles; noticeable signs of bore wear show well before then. Mushy cast iron blocks.
Had a ’70 Chevy C10 with 307 V8 that was still on the original short block at 161k miles when I sold it. Did have to pull heads around 100k miles to install hardened valve seats due to leaded gas going away. The truck did quite a bit of towing heavy loads. It was using oil at about 500 miles to the quart at the end, though. I have heard that some had soft cams that would go flat, but mine never had that problem.
Here is my worst, and it is from personal experience:
Buick 3.0 litre carburetor V-6. Absolutely the WORST engine ever. Having owned two Centuries with this engine, I can tell you they were made to last no more than 50k miles and they were history. I bought my first Century, a 1984 Limited Coupe, with only 26k on it from the original owner and got 10k more out of it before that POS 3.0 crapped out. The rod knock was so loud that even the dealership was shocked that it had made it there on its own. GM helped with that one, but then it went again after only 30k more miles and I was on my own this time. After finding a junkyard engine, that car never seemed to drive the same and I got rid of it even though I truly enjoyed the size and comfort of that Century. A few years later I was given the chance to buy a friend’s grandmother’s 1985 Century that had about 30k miles on it. I was praying it was either the 2.5 Tech 4, or the 3.8 V-6. But no, another 3.0! That engine ran ok but you could tell it was on the verge of problems so I decided to sell it. It had that strange knocking sound upon starting that I knew was going to be trouble. GM discontinued that engine after only 4 years so you know it was a total dog!
The ironic thing? I still wanted another Century so when the chance came to buy one with the 3.8 SFI V-6 I grabbed it. That engine is one of the BEST GM ever made. So I owned the same kind of car with two different engines, one being GM’s worst and the other their best!
The FWD biased 3800 is one fantastic engine, no doubt.
Searched the comments for the Oldsmobile V8 diesel, multiple mentions already, that one is definitely a major contender for the pile-o’ award. I would like to discuss it, but really there’s absolutely nothing to say about it. Think of anything, and on this engine it’ll be terrible, right up until the moment when the whole thing detonates. Quite frankly this one engine ruined the reputation of passenger car diesel engines in the US for decades afterwards.
The Cadillac 8-6-4 was another bad idea, or rather a brilliantly future anticipating idea executed far too early and badly, but on the upside you could turn it into a regular V8 by getting the control box removed.
Another mentionworthy block is the Chrysler 2.2 I4. Not a bad design at all, but notoriously badly built from the factory, and then instead of fixes they applied turbocharging to it.
The Iron Duke on the other hand is always one of the first that come to mind, but being the complete opposite from the Chrysler block it’s really solidly built and runs forever, but it’s incredibly gimped by design, mostly thanks to the emissions shackles.
I need those, can I get them at RockAuto?
They’re right next to the muffler bearings.
And the blinker fluid.
And spark plugs for diesel engines.
Don’t forget the Piston Return Springs…….
I’ll pile on the Chrysler 2.7 as well, which has the water pump located BEHIND the finicky timing chain and its prone-to-early-failure hydraulic adjuster. The chain itself might go 200K, but it never gets the chance.
Crosley COBRA anyone? Seemed like a good idea and worked fine in portable gensets but wasn’t up to car duty so Crosley developed a cast iron block and replaced all the leaky COBRAs.
Also a personal favorite is the Lancia Gamma, where turning the steering wheel to full lock when the engine was cold would strip the teeth off the timing belt and trash the engine.
The 3.0 L Mitsu used by Chrysler. The only engine I have owned that had to have its heads removed while I owned it. And everyone I know that had one had the same experience.
Talk about different standards to compare engines–We’ve had a few customers with hemi powered Mopars have a shit fit when they find out they have to replace 16 spark plugs–and the late model ones require platinum plugs.
I worked at an auto parts store twelve years ago, and the one thing that stands out in my mind, was that the engine rebuilder we dealt with couldn’t supply 6.5 diesels due to not being able to supply cores. Something to do with the crank webs cracking?
I could also suggest the GMT800 and up 4.3/automatic…two guys at work have them, and our old shop truck also was a 2005 Chev 1500 with a 4.3/auto.
Stone reliable, but man, zero fun to drive! Geared so high that they were really, really lazy around town, and with overdrive, lazy and shifting all the time on the highway. Not enough power to haul a trailer or a load.
I will say we had 5 different people driving the shop truck trying to kill it, and they never did.
The 4.3 was actually a lot of fun in the S-10. Very nice power by 90s standards.
The 6.5L was O.K. as long as you didn’t ask too much of it. Core scarcity may be due to the fact that all those military Hummers are equipped with 6.2’s or 6.5’s. The U.S. Army must go through a mess of those things.
From what I understand (Which isn’t much on diesels), the regular 6.5s were much more reliable than the turbodiesel ones.
I don’t think I’d call the 6.5 one of the worst engines out there, but the 6.2L- that’s another story. My father had one in a GMC- that thing ate starters and didn’t do well at all in the cold.
We have had two vehicles with 6.2L diesels, a 1984 GMC van and my dad’s 1988 Suburban. They were both gutless but reliable engines that outlasted the rest of the truck.
The 6.5L was unreliable and the reason I replaced my van with a Cummins-powered Dodge pickup. I read recently that there was a casting flaw in the 6.5 blocks installed in every Hummer that would cause it to crack near #8 cylinder. The fuel injection system was also problematic. They also suffered from exhaust manifolds cracking. Apparently good 6.5 exhaust manifolds are almost impossible to find now.
I did hear from someone that both the 6.2 and the 6.5 suffered from cracks in the cylinder heads between the intake and exhaust valves. You could have an engine that was running fine, but if you tore it down for overhaul you’d discover the cracks and now you’d need to source replacement heads.
A lesser known engine may be the Daewoo XK6 inline 6 that was used in the Suzuki Verona…Apparently it had some design input from Porsche. 155hp from 2.5 liters wasn’t all that great and it was less than some of it’s competitor’s four cylinders were making at the time. 0-60 times were slower than even compacts from the time…All of this could probably be forgiven if it wasn’t for the fact that it was probably one of the most unreliable engines designed in the 2000’s. Head gaskets, valvetrain issues, worn rings, and numerous sensor issues would occur (and usually at very low mileages). My friend had an early ’04 Verona that needed a complete engine rebuild at around 50k, and his situation was far from uncommon with these. It’s a shame, because I really wanted to like these back when they first came out, and other than the fact that they were slow they drove very nicely (almost like a poor man’s S80) and had a nice sound to them.
Porsche had some input on the Volvo white block modular 4,5, 6 cylinder engine that they used from the 90s until recently. Early variants needed a timing belt every 20,000 miles, which doesn’t say much about their design prowess. Fundamentally stupid design…later versions are Ok with 105,000 mile changes, but it took awhile to correct the design to get to that point.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the VW “Wasserboxer”, especially the first 1.9 liter version. Quieter and better heater than the air-cooled engines, but not much power and very prone to head gasket failures and/or head erosion. It’s ironic that Subaru swaps are popular for these …
Simple – the single worst of the modern era is the Porsche M96.
The early water-cooled boxers combine a breathtaking failure rate thanks to a sealed IMS bearing, with a rebuild cost of about $20,000.
At least replacing the Vega engine was cheap.
This kind of counts and kind of doesn’t but still gave GM another black eye. The Chevy engine in the Oldsmobile scandal back in the 70’s. A lot of loyal Olds fans bought cars on the merits of a Rocket V-8 but to their dismay they didn’t get what they paid for because they got a Chevy motor instead. Another crack in the bedrock Under GM.
You can’t really fault the engine (The SBC was a very good engine), but I agree- that was one of the most egregious moves that GM made at the time. Some of the customers didn’t find out until they tried to get their “Olds 350” serviced.
I’m surprised I’m the first to mention (unless we’re only talking car/light truck engines) the Cat 3208. My late father was a lawyer and he made quite a bit of $$$ for his clients suing Cat over 3208 failures.
The Vanagon waterboxer engine was very prone to head gasket failures so not a very durable engine. Almost 350 comments! Is this a CC record? The GM 5.7 V8 Diesel was a real dud, especially the early versions. The Ford 400 small block, my friend went through 2 of those, 2nd was a Ford factory rebuilt, they both blew at around 65-70k miles.
At least in the US they did not have to suffer the Citroen GS. Beautiful car, but totally unreliable from day 1. My dad had one from 1979, one of the last GS before if was changed to the GSA. We loved the looks of the car and the ride…. but somehow in a car which was almost a ten year old design, engineers and mechanic from Citroen couldn’t make it run properly.
It’s a week late. but how about the Audi 4.2L V-8 with the timing chain that costs up to $8000 to fix?
One that doesn’t really get mentioned but should:
The Suzuki 650 used in the Savage/S40.
It has a faulty timing chain adjuster that can and will work itself loose inside the timing case, which means unless caught the engine explodes with about 10,000 miles.
Lots of info here:
It has been known to suffer from premature cam journal Wear:
It has a faulty plastic plug in the head, which means after 5,000 miles or so you always smell oil vapors:
I mean, it’s a fun engine and all, but it tells you something about Suzuki’s contempt for their customers (well, at least the customers that bought Suzuki Savages) that they built this motor (with some interruptions) from 1986 to 2019, so THIRTY FOUR YEARS, and never fixed any of these issues. Or maybe it says something about the customers who bought these motorcycles. Either way…
Is this the same engine that is still in Suzuki’s DR650 motorcycle? The early versions of the DR presumably shared the engines with the street Savage, but were heavily redesigned in 1996. The new one has its share of issues and the DR is still in production after 25 years with some subtle improvements by Suzuki. The DR650 (full disclosure, I own one) has a worldwide following, dare I say cult, along with a healthy aftermarket and well-documented fixes for its few minor quirks. Mine is fairly low mileage, about 25,000 but the cam chain and tensioner are just fine.
They are the same size and both air cooled, but they don’t share any components that I am aware of, fortunately for DR 650 owners. I think the Savage engine was effectively half of an Intruder engine, but I’m not sure, and Intruders don’t have the same cam chain tensioner issues either, though details of the bottom end have to be different for numerous reasons.
Joe Yoman above mentioned the Chrysler 2.2 litre fuel injected model. I too had one of those, a 1985, and while it threw a few fuel pumps and a sensor here and there, it gave me 300,000 kms of fairly hard daily driving through winter and summer for 10 years. So, no.
I would nominate my 1996 Cavalier 2.0 litre FI engine. Head gasket failed at 50,000 kms. Along with the transmission. At just 3.5 years old.
I’d nominate my 1193 cc engine in my old Beetle, but that wouldn’t be fair, it had served a long life by the time I came upon it.
It’s interesting that nobody mentioned the Ford Triton V8s in 2015. The one mention of the Mopar 4.7 liter V8 failed to mention that they’re disastrously frangible. The 3.7 liter V6s too. Anything with cylinder deactivation is now treated with contempt by independent mechanics. I suspect it won’t be too long before all the earlier bad engines are forgotten as people spoiled by port-injected anvils from the ’90s and 2000s come to grips with the ephemeral nature of turbo-charged and direct-injected lumps.
Six years ago I nominated the 1.9 Volkswagen “wasserboxer”. I still stand by that choice as the worst engine I’ve owned. And I owned a Vega. And the Vega overheated and immediately started consuming oil. And it overheated because a thin and poorly clamped gasket on a coolant passage into the intake manifold failed, and coolant leaked onto the exhaust manifold leaving no trace, no sign of steam or other warning signs until the coolant was mostly gone, and the coolant temperature gauge caught my eye because it read LOW, on a 90°F day in Portland. So yeah, my Vega was troublesome and certainly the engine was weirdly designed and lots of poor quality stuff, but I think hindsight has been harsh on these cars. Rust, penny pinching on some basic parts, and poor packaging didn’t help either. My Vega replaced a B18 Volvo which was pretty rough and noisy, and much less torquey. My Vega lasted 90K miles before its meltdown and that included quite a few autocrosses, many commute miles, and a wonderful trip from California to the Canadian Rockies. And back. Though the last 500 miles required many gallons of radiator top-ups.
You are a lucky, luck man.
Scroll down a little bit through the below….and I think you’ll recognize that you dodged a silicone coated aluminum bullet with an iron head.
From personal experience, my top three worst ever engines:
1. Mazda 13B Rotary
2. GM 231 V6
3. Mitsubishi unknown model 4 cylinder POS in my Colt Vista
All three of the above engines blew up for no good reason in cars that were relatively low mileage and well maintained. The Mazda was the most problematic, as nobody would touch a rebuild job on one in the 1980s, we had to rebuild it ourselves, in the street, in the middle of winter. The 231 failed TWICE in two different cars, after which I made sure to only buy V8s – or imports! It was at least an easy swap. The Mitsubishi wasn’t worth the effort and was immediately junked upon failure.
It was great to re-sample all these Comments—-lots of fun to chew on.
I’ll defend Ford’s Lima/Pinto 2.3L, even if some expected more oomph from it. Was its failure rate anything at all like the Vega’s?
As to the Vega Engine ad, my guess is that “and other delights” is referencing the Tijuana Brass LP of not many years prior. Here’s the update, BTW: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/herb-alperts-whipped-cream-lady-now-76-living-in-longview-and-looking-back/
The Ford 2.3L Lima engine had some kind of design flaw that was enough to warrant a ‘silent’ recall in the seventies. I worked a Ford parts counter during that timeframe and Ford had a kit with specific parts that was routinely used to repair (under warranty) a ‘piston scuffing’ issue on those engines in Pintos and Mustang IIs.
I only saw it mentioned once, but the most recent bad engine has to be the 1.6L four in the 2004-2011 Chevy Aveo (aka Daewoo Kalos). Even when new, they were quite agricultural, slow, and got dismal fuel mileage for a small powertrain.
I don’t know what was specifically engineered poorly with the engine (probably just an overall use of the lowest quality manufacturing material), but it quickly developed a reputation for the exhaust to spew out various colors of smoke, depending on what system was deciding to let go.
I’ve read elsewhere that ’85+ HT4100s were much better, but my step-aunt had lots of trouble with hers in a nearly new 86-7 FWD Fleetwood. I can’t remember now, it might have been the electronics kept failing, but she soon ditched the car.
2004+ Northstars have had few headgasket problems, thanks to better bolts, yet the reputation makes them a good used car buy. The real crime is it took them a dozen years to get it right. The $25 tensioner pulley on the DTS has a tendency to fail before 100k miles and take the water pump with it, an expensive repair due to labor.
It’s unbelievable that one of the most mass produced engine families aren’t mentioned, from 1961 to into the 1980’s, each and every Buick V-6 and V-8 with the front timing cover oil pump are the absolute worst engines of all time. No oil pressure, low oil pressure, knocking rods, wiped out mains, broken crankshafts, etc. Most mechanics who actually work on engines are well aware of all of this. If you own an wrecking yard, you know most of the Buick engines are junk. By the way, Cadillac used a similar design that caused trouble, but seemed to do much better. A tip. If these engines were used daily, they did better, but left sitting any length of time, the oil drains out of the pump, pump looses it’s prime, and there’ll be no oil pressure at start up. The Buick shop manuals all address this and have the method to reprime the pump.
All light and medium duty GM diesel engines, they didn’t get the diesel engine thing right until they hired Isuzu to design the Duramax and even then the very early ones had some problems.
The other pox on GM was the small block Chevy, a very good engine except for lousy valve cover leaks, only took them about 30 years to fix it and the design they used was their own design used since around 1938 on the Detroit diesels. Also exhaust manifold and head design. Lets wrap the manifold tightly around the spark plugs and then see if we can figure out how to keep plug wires from melting.
Small block Chevy engine took a beating when they were used in trucks, real trucks, not pickups.