The terms overhaul, remanufactured, and rebuilt are often used interchangeably in aviation. But they do mean very different things, and it can be confusing for buyers and operators to understand the key differences and, more importantly, what they are potentially buying?
Most people will assume a remanufactured engine and a rebuilt engine are the same, and you would be surprised how many more people think an overhaul is equivalent. It’s shocking to see how many people fly beyond the TBO and provide a top overhaul to a buyer before the aircraft goes on the market. To know whether an engine will be torn down and rebuilt or repaired, it helps to ask questions. For example, if you find out it’s going to an overhaul facility, it’s likely being completely rebuilt. But there’s no defining term for what an overhaul means, so it’s better to begin the focus on the differences between overhaul versus reman engines.
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3 Key Differences Between Overhauled & Remanufactured Engines
You may not know that an engine can be long past its TBO and still be legally airworthy because the TBO is an estimate set by the manufacturer. More specifically, the AOPA says the TBO is a “reliable estimate of the number of hours the engine could perform reliably within the established engine parameters and still not exceed the service wear limits for an overhaul for major parts such as the crankshaft, camshaft, cylinders, connecting rods, and pistons.”
- Understanding The Manufacturer’s Role
For commercial use, TBO is followed, and engines must be overhauled to the manufacturer’s specifications to return to business. However, for non-commercial aircraft, it can be past its TBO and still deemed airworthy by the manufacturer depending on a few aspects like:
- Differential compression checks
- Valve guide clearances
- Oil analysis results
But for an overhauled engine, the manufacturer is not involved as a third-party facility usually does it. On the other hand, a reman engine means how it sounds, and it’s coming from the manufacturer itself or one of their authorized vendors.
You can purchase a reman engine from a shop other than the manufacturer. But the manufacturer itself will restore an engine to manufacturer standards, whereas other shops may increase horsepower or provide other performance upgrades along with the overhaul.
How It Works
Generally speaking, you will go back to a manufacturer, like Lycoming or Continental, and you will:
- Sell them your existing engine
- Receive credit for the core of that engine
- Be shipped a brand new motor
Your new engine will have been previously owned by somebody else, sent to Lycoming, and remanufactured internally with all the correct parts back to factory specs and limits. And that credit you received? The amount can potentially make the cost of your reman engine more affordable than without the trade-in.
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1. Knowing The Cost Differences
It’s essential to determine the difference between an overhaul, rebuilt, and reman engine when it comes to cost.
Many people would assume that going directly to the manufacturer would be more expensive than getting an engine overhaul. And those people would be correct – for the most part.
Compared to an overhaul, a remanufactured engine will cost about 10-20% more. For example, a 2020 Cirrus SR22 has an average overhaul price of $41,000. Buying brand new can cost upwards of $70,000+.
The price of an overhaul may seem cheaper, but the guarantees and benefits are much more different from a repair facility versus a factory warranty. Overall, determining an actual cost for your aircraft engine is challenging because it depends on your budget, equipment type, availability, location, and the engine itself. Depending on your requirements, needs, and the amount you can spend, you should decide what works best for you and schedule way in advance.
2. Analyzing Quality & Reliability
Purchasing a reman engine is considered better for a few reasons. First, all parts get returned to factory conditions and blueprint specifics. You are also likely to have a warranty when compared to an overhaul. Reman engines are deemed to be built as close to new as possible, with meticulous testing to ensure quality.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that a rebuilt engine isn’t necessarily bad. During a rebuild, critical components are replaced, and those parts should meet or exceed the standards of the previous engine’s parts. Each piece is inspected, cleaned, and placed back in the same order to rebuild the engine. Its quality in its entirety truly depends on your shop, their experience, previous work, reputation, and whether or not you trust them. If you can find an honest rebuild vendor, you can improve your engine’s lifespan for a reduced price compared to a reman engine.
Finding A Reputable Shop
Check the shop’s reputation, their experience with rebuilds, and ask for references. They should be able to give you the name and number of someone who can vouch for them.
Next, find a shop that’s in your area. The last thing you want to do is travel across the country when you need assistance. Then, let the shop deal with the vendors and get the most for your money. Because you will still need to rehang, insure, and have it delivered to the right place.
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