How to Transport a Used Engine

A lot of cars can handle more payload than you might think...

You don’t need a truck for everything. My roommate and I both do things that require parts-hauling, and his 2005 Scion xB is a noble workhorse. With more than 300,000 miles on it, the car keeps ticking as we’ve have crammed the impossible in there. Like, 30 bags of concrete. Or eight grown men. Or enough lumber to rebuild a small deck. Or, an engine.

How to Transport a Used Engine

When I use his car, It’s usually to haul an engine. Between the two of us we’ve had probably 50 different engines of all sizes and brands in the back of that xB. The xB’s a great little hauler for two critical reasons: The rear door has a wide aperture, and the floor is low.

But a lot of cars can handle more payload than you might think. As a matter of fact when I went to pick up a Hyundai engine for my Tiburon, I parked the xB next to a Ford F-350. The pickup driver marveled at the forklift carefully sliding the Hyundai’s 2.0-liter engine into the trunk, and remarked: “Oh wow, I can’t believe that motor fits in that little thing.” No shade on him, but I think it’s insane that he used a heavy-duty truck to pick up what looked to be a transmission that was no bigger than the box for a desktop computer.

If you’re ambitious like us and are going to transport an engine or transmission in the back of your vehicle, here are a few steps to follow. I promise you don’t need to run out and buy a big truck, your car or SUV is probably more versatile than you realize.

How to Transport a Used Engine

Clear out the car of any excess junk from the back seat or trunk area. You’ll want as flat of a floor as possible.

Put down towels and absorbent materials. Engines (and transmissions) are often greasy, and there’s a good chance that one will leak oil or some other fluid when you start sloshing it around.

Place plywood down in cargo hold (optional). Engines and transmissions are heavy. If you don’t think your seatbacks or cargo floor are strong enough to hold the weight or don’t want to risk damaging them, place a piece of plywood down for the item to sit on.

How to Transport a Used Engine

Carefully load the engine. If you’re loading by hand, be careful and make sure to lift with your legs, not your back! Place the motor in a manner in which it won’t shift around while driving, or leak fluids everywhere. Are there tiedown clamps in the cabin? Use them to secure the motor. It might seem “planted” when the car’s parked but they could still get to swaying once the car’s moving around. And you do not want a few hundred pounds of motor tipping anywhere inside your car.

When unloading the engine, lift with your legs – not your back. Seriously, we’re stating this again on purpose. Engines are heavy and greasy! I always find it advantageous to wear gloves. If you’ve got one, try and use a “cherry picker” engine hoist to bear a lot of the engine’s weight, and remove the engine from the trunk.

Grab Something Solid! Engines are awkwardly shaped, and it can be hard to find something to grab hold of to lift the engine out of the back of your vehicle. Try not to lift the engine using any pulleys or accessories attached to the engine, as you could break them. I usually find it’s best to tip the engine on its side, then lift using the side opposite the accessory belt or pulleys.

How to Transport a Used Engine

Clean up the mess! Dispose of any oil-soaked paper shop towels. You might need to spray down some of the surfaces with a mild degreaser to get rid of any oil stains. 

Ta-da! You’ve effectively usurped the need for a truck for parts-running even if the part you’re picking up is a whole engine. See, what did I say – you don’t need a truck for everything. Happy wrenching.

Kevin Williams

Kevin WilliamsKevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.