What’s the worst engine you’ve experienced?


We’ve seen the good and the bad in our lives, haven’t we? And when it comes to our passion for the automobile, does anything get us more upset than a poorly performing engine?

Take the photo above, as I am (sadly) quite the fan of Ford’s fairly disappointing Essex V-6. I am painfully aware of the issues with its head-gasket-munching demeanor, but I remain firm in my convoluted logic to find appeal in this mill. Which is irrelevant when the aluminum heads and flawed gasket design take over … but what was the motor that I truly hated?

1979 vw rabbit diesel engine worst

I was but a young child in the back seat of this poor little VW product. Thanks to its diesel engine, the memories of my family’s temporary ownership of the VW Rabbit linger to this day. (A family friend wanted us to run it periodically while he was tending to family matters in India over the holidays.) I was freezing cold in a damp parking garage, realizing that perhaps a 3-to-4-year-old VW diesel wasn’t as cool as I was expecting it would be. The engine refused to fire up with my Dad behind the wheel for several minutes—an eternity, for a kid my age.

The owner had told us his Rabbit was finicky, but the frustration in my father’s eyes was hard to forget. He had some choice words for the Rabbit, words that kids aren’t supposed to hear. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when my father made a long-distance call to India about that particular VW product.

The diesel Rabbit sputtered and stalled when it was cold, behavior which was kinda terrifying with all the bigger vehicles here on the mean streets of Houston, Texas. Things fared better when it warmed up, but the engine’s 50-ish horsepower meant merging on any of the interstates was an act best reserved for the most faithful of the flock.

This was the first time I remember my clothes smelling like the fumes emanating from a tailpipe, for better or worse. To this day I wonder how long the glow plugs are supposed to last on these engines, and if this particular Rabbit needed a new set.

No matter, this question remains:

What’s the worst engine you’ve experienced?

Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: 2023 Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor Review: Sleeper sedan


    2016 Lexus NX200(T) –replace the entire head assembly due to faulty valve (reputedly manufactured in China and faulty in a number of engines). Dealer had car for 3 weeks. We had a 79 Chevy MonteCarlo V-8 that smoked at 6K–a lease car eagerly turned back to the leasing co. We swore off GM for life. Seeking auto bliss we then owned Jags, Fiats, then a Dodge mini-van (mitsubishi engine) which lost its A/C compressor on the way to the Sonoran Desert. Next!!!

    A 2002 Subaru WRX 2.0L boxer engine gives the most amusing (or not) anecdote. The car was inherited by me through my son, who had the (more common than not) misfortune of running the engine out of oil, and wrecking the connecting rod bearings. For whatever reason, Mobil 1 oil would run past the turbo bearing, leaving the engine dry. More than one example of this came to be known. My son arranged for the engine to be repaired in the cheapest possible way, and boy, did I pay for it. The rod bearings went again within 1000kms. Sent the engine back to the rebuilder on the Hamilton beach. Repaired(?). Installed. Broken again within 2000kms. Screw this; I went to a supposed expert on Suby rally cars. We agreed to buy a new crate 2.5L short block, and use the heads, etc from the 2.0L. That engine blew up again. So Ian, like so many others, accused me of racing the engine before it was broken-in. Btw, I drove it like a baby carriage. He put an old engine from some other WRX into the car but still charged me for the newer one. That engine blew. I was so furious and frustrated, that I proposed that I would park the car on his lawn and plant flowers in it. Paul Neethling convinced me to go to Scotty at CanJam. Paul pulled in a couple of favours so that the rebuild didn’t cost as much as it could have. * Scotty insisted that the oil cooler and its lines, and the strainer be replaced before he would touch it. Ok, that sounded reasonable. Scotty and Paul found a bunch of errors and omissions from the previous ‘experts’. After the engine was installed in the car, I insisted that Paul drive the car until break-in. Well, after all of that, and Paul’s tuning, the engine ran strongly for 3 more years, before I sold it. Lesson: always replace (not just flush) the oil cooler, etc. it makes sense that metal from the engine failure(S) would collect in the oil cooler, only to be released back into the engine, causing another failure. There’s more to the story, but you get the idea.

    GM 60 degree V6 especially the 2.8, 3.1, and 3.4 DOHC engines.
    While the later versions were better, they were still hot garbage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *