Dodge 318 Crate Engine Guide
Before buying a Dodge 318 crate engine, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Every builder brings something unique to the table, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. There is no "best" 318 crate motor in the broad sense, only the best one for your needs.
Before dropping your hard-earned cash, think about some of these topics. Then when you're ready to buy a 318 crate engine, you'll know you're getting the best product for your vehicle and your budget.
What's Included With The Crate Engine?
Different builders produce varying levels of "complete" engines. Some will provide a motor capable of running "out of the box," while others won't include everything needed to run. In many instances, manufacturers will leave off items like carburetors and/or fuel injection systems, manifolds, water pumps, ignition systems, alternators, valve covers and sometimes even heads themselves.
Do you want an "out of the box" motor to drop into your vehicle? Make sure it comes with everything needed to run. On the other hand, if you want to modify and customize your new 318 engine, it might make more sense to purchase one without the items you'll want to replace anyway. For instance, if you've got a hot intake manifold and carburetor, it wouldn't make much sense to buy a crate 318 with these included - it'd just cost you more money.
Is The Engine Block New Or Used?
The engine block is the fundamental "building block" (no pun intended) of your engine.
While Chrysler/Dodge does sell complete 318 engines, most people who look of "crate motors" are looking at third-party builders. Some of these companies build their products on brand new engine blocks coming out of the Chrysler assembly plants, while others build theirs on used blocks. There's usually nothing wrong with used engine blocks, provided they've been rigorously tested, inspected and cleaned prior to the engine building process.
Make sure you know where your block came from. And if it's used, make sure it's been properly processed. It probably wouldn't hurt to ask the company where the block came from, either. In many instances, a company representative could tell you exactly what vehicle the block came from, what happened to the donor car and how long ago it was salvaged. That's not always available though, so don't discount a company if they don't have this information.
What Are The Performance Specs?
I'm not just talking about the "go-fast" specifications like horsepower and torque (though they are important and you should definitely know what these are, too). I'm mostly referring to the "intent" of the engine build.
Some engines are built for maximum performance. As such you can expect lower fuel economy, less overall reliability and more maintenance costs (or man hours, if you do the work yourself).
Other engines are built for maximum economy, meaning they'll get better fuel efficiency and run very reliably, though they probably won't make any hot rodders jealous.
Make sure you're comfortable with the motor you're buying. If you're looking for a 318 crate engine for a muscle car, you'd probably be pretty disappointed with a fuel efficient slug. On the other hand, if you're simply replacing the motor out of your daily driver commute car, it wouldn't make much sense to go for all-out horsepower, because the gas prices and maintenance will eat your wallet alive.
Will The Crate 318 Engine Work In Your Vehicle?
Dodge has been making the 318 for decades, and while the bottom of the motor has remained relatively unchanged during that time, the top has gone through several generations of modifications. While any 318 engine will fit any car or truck designed for the motor, it's important to know if the engine itself is compatible.
For example, most carbureted cars never included any electronic control modules (ECMs), they adjusted themselves based on vacuum created in the intake manifold. If you buy a late model fuel injected crate engine, don't expect it to "plug and play" with your old carburated muscle car or early model truck.
Likewise, a carburated 318 crate motor won't make you very happy if you drop it into a late model fuel injected, computer controlled car or truck.
And just because your car or truck came with a computer controlled, fuel injected 318, don't assume that any 318 engine of that family will drop right in and fire up. Electronics have evolved over the years, and the ECMs that regulated some engines aren't compatible with the electronics of similar 318s.
Make sure you explain your vehicle in exact detail to a customer service representative before placing your order. If the company is reputable, they'll probably ask for this information anyway.
How About Emissions?
If you're swapping a 318 crate engine into a vehicle you drive on the street, you better make sure the new motor will meet the emissions requirements for your state, county or city. In most instances, all cars and trucks must maintain the emissions standards for the year in which they were built. Make sure your potential new engine will meet those criteria.
Certain parts are required to control emissions, such as smog pumps and catalytic converters. And while an engine swap shouldn't affect your converter, you will need to make sure the new motor either includes smog equipment, or is capable of having it mounted (in case you must do this yourself).
Keep in mind that most high performance parts can hurt an engine's ability to contain its emissions. Modified fuel systems, ignition systems and exhaust systems can drastically alter your emission characteristics, even if the original smog system is still in place.
Do You Have The Tools For An Engine Swap?
Replacing your existing small block Chrysler engine with a new 318 crate motor is an elaborate process. And while it's not necessarily difficult, many first-timers or inexperienced D.I.Y. mechanics might find themselves in over their heads. Before you begin the process of replacing an engine, make sure you have all the tools necessary - and not just the usual "fix it" tools; you'll need products designed specifically for this task, such as an engine hoist (sometimes called a "cherry picker"), an engine stand and a leveling pulley.
If you're performing the engine swap yourself, and you have never done one before, it's a good idea to find an experienced mechanic to help you through the process.
Find The Best 318 Crate Motor For Your Needs
These tips should help ensure you get the best small block "LA" small block engine for your needs. But this list is not all-inclusive. There's simply no way I could list every little detail. There's no substitute for the eye of an experienced mechanic. If you're not experienced enough to go through a complete engine swap, you might want to make a new friend, or at the very least pay a respected mechanic to guide you through the process (make sure he or she is experienced with Dodge engines).