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Discussion Starter #1
I went through the first engine swap this past spring, you can see the details here: 2011 Equinox 2.4L engine swap with donor from 2013 Verano

Unfortunately, that replacement engine was also consuming oil, and it died a mere 6k miles and 3months after being installed. My kids' Equinox was towed back to my place, and now I'm ready to replace the engine again.

I found another reasonable donor vehicle - a 2013 Verano with 92k miles that was totaled due to hitting a deer - and towed it home this past weekend.


I have the engine out of Donor 2, and did check the service history at the local Buick dealer - this one had oil changes at a GM dealer up until 57k miles, and nothing else showed after that. The vehicle was likely sold at that point and GM dealers weren't used for service after that time.


So, I'm going to go through the same process of preventively replacing the timing chain and guides, and the front and rear crankshaft seals. I'll move the accessory belt and tensioner over from the Donor1 engine, as they only have 6k miles on them. I do see carbon build-up on the back of the intake valves. I had to remove the intake as it was damaged/broken from the deer strike, so that allowed me to inpect the back of the intake valves and stems. There's even a "ball" of build-up on one of the stems.

Does anyone have a suggestion for cleaning them before installing the replacement intake? Is it too risky to clean them? I think it's riskier to NOT clean them.

I'll be doing an oil change as a last step before installation into the Equinox.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Interesting video here on the topic:

I see how it makes sense, but it's probably more work/expense than my kids' want to put into this one. It is telling to see that this (carboned-up intake valves) is not just an issue to the LAF and LEA engines, but to direct-injection gasoline engines from other makes, as well.
 

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I really don't see any half way here.
Either pull the head and send to a machine shop to clean and check, or plant the motor with the head as is.
With the engine out and timing chains to do you are halfway there already.

I know you are trying to keep the price down, but you don't want to do number 3.
Give yourself every chance to succeed with number 2, that is what I would do.
Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Starting to pull the dead Donor1 engine:


And the remains of the #2 piston in the oil pan:


And a chunk of the #2 piston blocking the #2 conrod:


I dropped the oil pan in order to be able to remove the chunks of piston and hopefully be able to turn the crank so that I can access all 3 of the torque converter bolts. In that way, I disconnect the torque converter from the engine/flywheel, and allow the engine to be removed out the top easy enough. I forgot that with crank stuck, I couldn't rotate it to access all the torque converter bolts. I'll try it out in the morning to see if this did the trick.

As for sending the head out...I don't think they'll be keeping the Equinox long enough to make it worthwhile. And then, if the head was going out, the piston rings should be replaced, too - again, it's not something in their budget or in line with their long-term plans for this vehicle. But for others who would be pursuing this same path for their own long-term vehicle, I agree that it would make sense to basically rebuild the donor engine by refreshing the head and replacing the piston rings before installing the engine.
 

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I managed to clean the backside of the intakes on my 2017 ( 2.4L ). I used a piece of coat hanger wire, bent slightly, to loosen the crud on the valves and around the valve seats. Only cleaned one port at a time on a cylinder that had the valves closed. Rotated the crank to make sure that the valves on that cylinder were fully closed. ( TDC on the power stroke ) Covered up the other ports that I wasn't working on, and used compressed air to blow out the crud. I was suprised that the crud came off with very little effort. The final job looked alot better but was not nearly as nice as having it blasted. I did that about 3000 km ( 1800 miles ) ago when I was working on a PCV upgrade. The engine had about 128000 kms ( about 78000 miles) on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The Dead Donor1 engine is out of the Equinox. I had to disassemble more of the motor in order to get it to turn enough so I could reach all 3 of the torque converter bolts. With those bolts out and the torque converter seperated from the flywheel & engine, there is plenty of clearance to move the engine a little to the side and then up, forward and out of the engine bay.






Dead Donor1 on the left, and the next Donor2 engine on the right


These are parts of the Number 2 piston and it's rings


Now it's on to prepping Donor2 before installation.
 

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Hey khnitz did you ever determine what exactly caused the piston in cylinder 2 to fail ? ( timing chain, drop a valve etc. )
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The original engine in the Equinox definitely failed by the front timing chain guide failing and the engine skipping time and then bang!-crash!-boom! This was the result of oil consumption due to piston ring wear and various oil-starvation (low-oil-level) incidents.

I believe the Donor1 engine (the 2nd engine) led a rough life before we got it. In the other thread, I posted pictures of how coked-up the valvetrain area was. Also, the exhaust manifold nut/studs broke at the #1 cylinder when swapping the exhaust manifolds (I had to helicoil in new studs), so that made me think that that area of the engine may have had higher running temps or something due to oil starvation from a clogged oil passage (this is just me theorizing). Ultimately, I think different episodes of low-oil-level starvation led to increased wear and failure of the #2 piston. The valves did not drop in that (or any) cylinder, as they are all still in place - though the valve stems on the #2 cylinder are bent from when the piston parts went flying. The conrod and wristpin of the #2 cylinder were still intact.
I had replaced the timing chain, guides and tensioner on this engine before installing it in my kids' Equinox, and this did not fail.

I'm hopeful for the Donor2 engine (the 3rd engine). I am in the process of replacing the timing chain/guides/tensioner on that one before installing it, as well. Here are some comparison pictures of the Donor1 and Donor2 cylinder head/valvetrain area. Donor2 looks like it had regular oil changes with synthetic oil (just my impression).


 

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Ya donor1 certainly looks like it didn't get regular oil changes... Donor 2 looks much better. ( and hopefully it will last alot longer... )
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Donor2 is in and running! I also replaced the catalytic converter, as it was plugged from miles of exposure to oil-filled exhaust, and I also replaced both O2 sensors to be safe as well.


This is the follow-up (final) start of the engine, after additionally replacing the above mentioned components, and installing fresh spark plugs (again), as the first new set became badly fouled after starting Donor2 with the previous air intake on the engine. That intake, which was on when Donor1 died, had a lot of residual oil in it that likely was pushed there when the engine died. I swapped in a spare intake I had from the previous donor, after making sure it was oil free, and everything is running smooth, now. There's an exhaust leak at one of the rear mufflers that my kids will have to take care of, yet. But now it's just a matter of buttoning the Equinox back up and it can go back on the road.

Whew.
 

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khnitz,
Good job and thanks for the update. Glad to see that you didn't give up on that Equinox because it looks to be in good shape. Once again good luck, and I hope this engine lasts MUCH longer than the previous one !
 

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I have rebuilt several of the DI 2.4 Ecotec engines and after taking to the owners it seems they rely solely on the dash warning to change oil and fter. None of them check oil level in between or have heard of the oil consumption issues or timing chain component failures. All of the engines I have done (save for 1), are second or third owners. Therefore they do not get any correspondence from GM or have serviced at dealership where issues are known and attended to.

Like in the obove posts, I see #2 as the victim/culprit for final destruction. #2 & #3 rise and fall in unison opposite of #1 & #4. But for some reason #2 is usually in pieces or blown through the block. I guess it doesn't matter which piston fails, it's a full rebuild or replacement to put back in the road.

Most of my rebuilds due to timing system failure have beautiful engine internals. Crankshaft is clean and a polish is all that's needed. The bores are also good, hash marks are visible and a hone will be fine. Piston rings all still move freely. Bearings show normal wear. Rod and crank journals look great. VVT solenoid screens are full of metal from guide that shredded. Oil pan has some glitter.

The rebuilds from oil consumption (of engine failed or not) is the opposite. Crank and rod journals scored. Bores scored. Piston rings "frozen" in place. Head full of sludge. Oil pan and VVT solenoid screens FULL of metal. Oil change sticker withing 3,000-3,500 miles of last change. Timing sets fully operational and complete other than top guide is missing all of the upper rail usually. Leads me to believe that when the right side guide fails, it's a fast end of life process from there. Rare for me to see top guide intact, so must not cause enough damage as it goes. Must be a slower "eating" of metal whereas the other guide sees more stress and shrapnel causing chaos and catastrophic failure.

All owners claim no noise or warning in a timing failure.

No owners were aware of engine using oil. Simply waited for dash to day change oil.

I'm sorry you had to replace more than once to achieve result. That's why usually rebuild while out. Yanking is the hardest part IMO.
 

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Today's engine reliability makes drivers lazy, most don't even know how to check oil. Us old timers who HAD to do 3k change back in the day would check oil weekly if not daily with '60's and '70's motors that leaked and / or burnt oil after 50k miles.
At least donor 2 engine looks inside that it had some love in it's previous life.
Hopefully you can close your tool box for a while ! Kids....
 
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I wonder if a person could put a Buick 3800 inline and run it rear wheel drive on a really nice blown up Nox AWD machine? Just sitting here daydreaming.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for all the positive vibes, everyone :)

@uluz2a6, Thanks for sharing all that detail. Hopefully it can help others who stumble across this thread in trying to resolved their engine issues. Based on your experience, do the rebuilt engines ultimately have the same potential failure mode? I mean, the carbon still builds up on the back of the intake valves (as with the direct injection, there is no fuel in the intake air stream to wash over the backs of the valves) and then flakes into the cylinders to cause premature piston ring wear, right?

Oh, and here's a little bit of the first test drive, with the 2nd replacement engine...
 

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The engines that failed (rod knock, smoking, hole in block) all had same bottom line: low oil pressure lack of oil. On the engines with oil consumption issue can still "live" early on in the issue because they do not lose enough oil in between oil changes to compromise oil pressure. So not checking oil at that point isn't an issue. But the situation goes downhill exponentially as time goes on. Eventually you have 2 quarts of oil doing the job of 5 quarts. And the remaining oil is nearly oil. It's a thinned out liquid leaving behind sludge and destruction.

So you have one group of owners blessed with an engine that doesn't burn excessive oil and is changed regularly (or at least as dash reminds) but doesn't know to change timing set at 100K and loses engine. And another group that has chain issue as well as low oil pressure eating bearings and other parts.

I feel the majority of car owners simply add gas and change the oil and expect car to perform as they want/demand it to. The DI 2.4 is a strong and reliable power plant overall, but has issues that must be addressed. I only see the damaged vehicles. But most of the time, I see the other rparts of the vehicle in excellent condition. Clean interiors. Shiny paint. Good brakes. Tires with full tread. Oil change sticker mileage well withing spec. Oil life monitor also in spec. Etc. My point is they simply didn't know. About the "cancer" lying in wait inside the engine.

I charge $350 to replace both timing sets a fraction of dealership because I am wrenching out of my garage with no overhead costs. But if the chain fails it goes from $350 to over $1200 minimum. All this due to ignorance. They simply do not know how important it is to check oil and service chains. Most of these people have loans to pay off still on the vehicle that has no functioning engine.

They all have similar story: engine fails and they tow to shop or dealership and are given the news that it's huge dollars. $7,500+ at dealership and $5,000 at local shop. It's sad. I admit I profit from this too, but I do feel for the people that are left with no choice but to repair them and continue pay off of the loan.

Good news is that the updated rings and pistons really do seem so clear up the oil consumption. I am in touch with several of the owners still that I have rebuilt engines on and all have all oil at time of oil change.

I'm rambling now. Sorry.

As far as the carbon on the back of of valves, I am told by my machine shop that it's a combination of cheap gas (not top tier station) and blow by from rings (oil consumption issue). I did only one vehicle for an original owner that had oil consumption issue. Vehicle had 220K on it and used over quart ever 1,000 miles. He had used Mobil 1 and Shell since new. The cylinder head looked new inside. Valves looked like had 10,000 miles on them. Bearings (both rod and mains) could have been reused. They had zero scoring on them and were as good as new. The oil pump and all oil passages were total clean and free of any sludge. This is an owner that regularly checked his oil and made adjustments when needed. Changed his timing chain at 100K (and again at this rebuild), as well as any other issue that arose.

Same engine plagued with oil loss as others, but he is not ignorant about it and deals with it. 220K and if I didn't know mileage I would assume had only 50K on it.

My point is the difference between knowledge and ignorance. It's easy to call some owners "stupid" asking "how hard is it to check your **** oil"? Where I don't blame them anymore. They do their part. They pay for car. They put gas in. They change oil. They insure it. They plate it. Thats all though. If car needs something dash better tell them about it. I know it doesn't fulfill the requirements to keep it on the road indefinitely, but they think it does. Unfortunately, these issues with the DI 2.4 do not merit a warning light on dash unless it's the oil pressure light, but that's too late.
 

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Also, if curious about the 220K engine using a quart every 1,000 miles smoked lime a train... No, Mobil 1 doesn't burn the same as conventional oil. No visible smoke, but if following vehicle I am sure you could "taste/sense" it. It did knockout the catalytic converter and that needed replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks, again, for all that detail.

I've warned my kids that they will need to check the oil at every fillup as long as they keep this vehicle.

And you're right - the Equinox itself is a nice car. Even at 154k miles on this one (this engine only has 92k miles on it :) ), it rides nice and still looks good. Things aren't really falling apart on it...but, my son and his wife will just need to keep monitoring the oil level and not snooze on it.
 
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