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Thinking about an LS3

This is a discussion on Thinking about an LS3 within the General Help forums, part of the LSx Technical Help Section category; Okay, so my engine has crapped out on me. Apparently, it was very low on oil, and there was a ...

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    Thinking about an LS3

    Okay, so my engine has crapped out on me.

    Apparently, it was very low on oil, and there was a lot of shrapnel on the drain plug. Not sure how it lost so much oil. There are no puddles where I normally park the car... just burned up?

    Anyway, the engine has been running fine, but started making a noise. The initial investigation yielded the above discovery. Sean at TGMS says that he thinks the sound is probably a rod bearing that has gone bad from oil starvation.

    If that's the case, I'm inclined to think that the rest of them are worthless (or soon will be), too. Also, given the amount of shrapnel that came out, I suspect that the pistons/cylinders are in poor shape, as well.

    Maybe I'm jumping the gun, but I figure the cost to repair the engine will approach the cost to put a new, pre-assembled one into the car. I can't find any re-man LS1s or LS6s right at the moment, though I know they come up from time to time. I would like something that is newer than my own engine (104,000 miles) or something that is freshly refurbished.

    The thing I worry about with the LS3 is the computer and wiring and all that will require additional parts and labor driving the cost up. I've seen some crate motors, but I really want an OBD-2 set up. Also, my goal for the car is right around 400-450 horsepower at the crank. The LS3 puts me right there. But at this point, does anyone have any better (less expensive) ideas? I'll have to pay for all parts and labor. There is no budget at the moment, as this was a surprise event.

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    Moderator 98TransAmWs-6's Avatar
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    Swapping in a ls3 doesn't require much more than swapping in another ls1. You will need a ls1 to ls2 wire harness extention kit for the map and cam sensors I believe as well as a couple others. This way you can still run your engine harness and then tune your computer for the ls3 which can be achieved with a mail order tune. I would run your accessories though and ditch the front ls3 accessories unless they are needed for some reason for simplicity if you get a crate ls3. By the way you do have obd 2 if you have any of the ls fbodies.
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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    How long had the car run in service since the oil was last checked? With low oil? What about changed?
    It's on jackstands.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 98TransAmWs-6 View Post
    Swapping in a ls3 doesn't require much more than swapping in another ls1.
    This is good news.

    Quote Originally Posted by 98TransAmWs-6 View Post
    By the way you do have obd 2 if you have any of the ls fbodies.
    Right. What I meant was that I didn't want to go with a carbeurated SBC 350 or something like that.
    The main reason I'm thinking of a swap is to eliminate the labor cost of ripping apart my engine and putting it back together (either way, I have to pay for R&R).

    Quote Originally Posted by 35th-ANV-SS View Post
    How long had the car run in service since the oil was last checked? With low oil? What about changed?
    She was about 4000 miles into her most recent oil (Penzoil Platinum). I usually change before 3000 miles. What are your thoughts on this? Might not be as bad as I think?
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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    Do you check the oil level regularly or not until it's time to change it? Had you checked it prior to 4,000 miles ago? I'm just wondering if the car ran low on oil for a short time or a very long time.

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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    And, what exactly is "very low" on oil? Are we talking a quart, 2, 3?

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 35th-ANV-SS View Post
    Do you check the oil level regularly or not until it's time to change it? Had you checked it prior to 4,000 miles ago? I'm just wondering if the car ran low on oil for a short time or a very long time.
    I used to check it a few times a month... and then eventually stopped since it was not using oil... lesson learned, I guess. But no, I did not check it after the last oil change.

    Quote Originally Posted by 35th-ANV-SS View Post
    And, what exactly is "very low" on oil? Are we talking a quart, 2, 3?
    He said 1.5 quarts came out when he drained it. And with metal flakes.

    If it matters, the engine has "felt" completely normal, operating smoothly and revving normally. The temps (or at least, the temp gauge) has not shown any abnormal readings, either.
    Last edited by Naaman; 11-16-2014 at 06:46 PM.

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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    Well, seeing a small amount of metal on the oil pan bolt isn't the end of the world and doesn't necessarily mean anything. But being 4 quarts low...I mean, I'm not sure how that's even possible after 4K miles unless a few things are happening.

    Is there any noise now that new oil has been put in and the car has ran some? With that low of an oil level, it's likely the entire upper half of the motor (valve train) was dry and any noise could have been related to that. Ex: stuck lifter.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    I have not had access to the car yet. I will ask Sean to fill it and see if the noise returns. Can you think of a scenario wherein the oil COULD get that low (for example, if it had been several thousand more miles, what would have happened to the oil)? There has been no smoke either, so I don't think it's burning up or leaking (at least, if it does have a leak, it's not landing on anything hot, and there is no oil stain under the car).

    The only thing I don't want is for the engine to fail in the middle of a trip or something. I'd be ecstatic if a simple oil change "fixed" it.

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    Moderator 35th-ANV-SS's Avatar
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    How can you know the motor is trashed if you haven't even started it? Lol. Yes, refill the motor with the correct amount of oil and start it and let it run for awhile unless you hear some absurd noise.

    First thought is the last oil change....did whoever do it put in 5.5 quarts? Sounds like you really can't answer that question since you never checked the oil level.

    PVC system and bad piston rings come to mind.

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    Moderator 98TransAmWs-6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 35th-ANV-SS View Post
    How can you know the motor is trashed if you haven't even started it? Lol. Yes, refill the motor with the correct amount of oil and start it and let it run for awhile unless you hear some absurd noise.

    First thought is the last oil change....did whoever do it put in 5.5 quarts? Sounds like you really can't answer that question since you never checked the oil level.

    PVC system and bad piston rings come to mind.
    I was actually going to ask that question, how does he know the proper amount if oil was put in in the first place. Oil doesn't just disappear and it isn't likely you are burning 3 or 4 quarts every 4000 miles. I would want to figure out where the rest of the oil went. You don't have a catch can do you?

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    Sean at Top Gear is a good guy, so is his father that helps run the place from time to time. If he's telling you that there is something wrong in there, he's probably right.

    Running any engine that low on oil usually isn't going to reward you with good news. You can also bet that if you have one rod bearing that bites the dust, it ALWAYS wipes out the neighboring rod bearing on that same journal. Then any run time from there will start to take out the mains as trash passes through the engine.

    If he's seeing alot of trash come out with the oil, and he has cut the filter apart and sees more trash?? Then I'd say that engine would need to come apart. I'd definately be cutting that filter open to see how much is in there.

    You could talk to Sean for different options. He has access to used engines and might find you something with less miles that suites your needs and budget. That's going to be the biggest factor,,,,your budget. None of this crap is cheap to do anymore and it sucks it happened. Personally my vote is to find yourself an LQ 6.0 engine and drop that in. They are cheaper than the LS2's and 3's, and I actually prefer the iron blocks over aluminum anyway, so it's a win-win for me. Stick a small cam in it while Sean has it out and have him or Nic tune it and you'll have a pretty fun ride for as little money as possible.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    No catch can. And I was the one who changed the oil. It got 5.5 quarts. I will ask for the oil to be refilled and see what happens. My car is 45 miles away right now, and I had to wait through the weekend for Sean to go back to work this morning.

    What I'm thinking is this:

    The oil was low for an unknown length of time. During that time, parts were being starved for oil, which damages them. But the engine operated symptom-free for the entire time (until the noise developed... a rattling above 2500 rpm). If the engine was damaged, I didn't know it until last week. So even if I fill it with fresh oil, and the noise goes away, the damage doesn't. My understanding is that if the engine is damaged (parts have too much clearance or have high or low spots, etc), then that leads to more damage, etc.

    Anyway, let's see what happens next.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firebirdjones View Post
    Sean at Top Gear is a good guy, so is his father that helps run the place from time to time. If he's telling you that there is something wrong in there, he's probably right.

    Running any engine that low on oil usually isn't going to reward you with good news. You can also bet that if you have one rod bearing that bites the dust, it ALWAYS wipes out the neighboring rod bearing on that same journal. Then any run time from there will start to take out the mains as trash passes through the engine.

    If he's seeing alot of trash come out with the oil, and he has cut the filter apart and sees more trash?? Then I'd say that engine would need to come apart. I'd definately be cutting that filter open to see how much is in there.

    You could talk to Sean for different options. He has access to used engines and might find you something with less miles that suites your needs and budget. That's going to be the biggest factor,,,,your budget. None of this crap is cheap to do anymore and it sucks it happened. Personally my vote is to find yourself an LQ 6.0 engine and drop that in. They are cheaper than the LS2's and 3's, and I actually prefer the iron blocks over aluminum anyway, so it's a win-win for me. Stick a small cam in it while Sean has it out and have him or Nic tune it and you'll have a pretty fun ride for as little money as possible.
    This may sound dumb, but I've made sillier assumptions before: are the LQ engines compatible with a T-56 (or the LS1 or LS7 clutch/flywheel)?

    Once he gets back to me with some options, I'll consider some upgrades. I never wanted to deal with the engine coming out (at least, not on a "surprise" like this was), but the silver lining is that I may have the "excuse" to get some extra work done. We'll see what I can afford when he comes back with some estimates.

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    Yeah it all swaps over.

    The only big thing to watch for is the reluctor wheel count on the crank. Around 2005 they changed to a 58 tooth wheel which your computer isn't compatable with. You would need an adapter box that plugs into the harness to make that deal work.

    So if you are looking at take out LS2's and LS3's, they are all going to be a 58 tooth reluctor wheel, so you'll have the added expense of the adapter box. Not really a scenario I prefer to get into. Not only more money, but it's also another electronic device thrown in the mix. The iron 6.0 truck motors which were produced prior to 2005-2006 will be the 24 tooth reluctor wheels, which is what also makes them more attractive for a used engine in my opinion, no fancy conversion box needed for the older 4th gen computer. So when shopping for used engines, keep this in mind.

    However the LS2 and LS3 engines that are built in custom crate form can be had with the option of 24 or 58 reluctor wheels if you want to go down the path of buying a brandy new engine.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    That's the part that confuses me... why shouldn't I just get the ECM for the LS2/3 or whatever engine goes into the car?

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    LS2 is 24x, LS3=58x.

    The cost new 58x ecm ($???) plus it will require a custom wire harness to work with your instruments and transmission (if A4).

    The cost of a custom WH ($1000-$1600) is much more than a simple swap of a reluctor wheel ($30 if need to press on).
    Last edited by SMWS6TA; 11-17-2014 at 02:19 PM.

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    Moderator Firebirdjones's Avatar
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    If only it were that easy.

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    Moderator 98TransAmWs-6's Avatar
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    I'd just have the reluctor swapped if I went the ls3 route. It avoids the converter box needed otherwise.

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    Senior Member Naaman's Avatar
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    Hmmmm.... I suppose it depends on whether I buy a used engine that comes with the ECU... of course, the wiring harness is another question altogether. Mine is an M6, though.

    I'm still waiting on Sean to come back with some options. I think that an 02-04 LS6 would be my first choice. But as for a brand new engine, the LS3 is about the least expensive one that "makes sense" for what I want to do.
    Last edited by Naaman; 11-17-2014 at 02:58 PM.
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