5.3L Motor Swap

On this section, I will attempt to document what’s going on with my CJ powerplant.  I’m giving the thing a new heart.  I originally bought a wrecked 1989 Chevy c1500 pickup, it had a 305 vortec motor that was (supposedly) recently rebuilt…well, after I got it out of the pickup (thanks to my patient, loving wife for not killing me with that hunk of junk truck sitting in the front of the house for so long while I tried to get the thing out of there!) I put it on the motor stand and began to work on it.  I decided to do a complete tear down and check things over because I knew it was going to have rust in it and would need new rings and to get the cylinders honed… well, after doing the hone job and measuring, I found out that the number 1 cylinder was out of spec by enough that it concerned me…so I took the motor and heads and everything down to a shop in Harrison, AR to have a machine specialist work it over in the tank and then bore it out.

2-3 months went by, so I called the guy and asked him what the situation was, and he told me the news…. 🙁  that motor had a big ugly crack in the block… it was pasted over with jb weld so I didn’t see it when I bought it ….UGH!!!!!!  SO, that whole project was a scrap and I was out 1000 bucks.   Live and learn… but yeah I was (and still am, a little) seriously ticked that I wasn’t given that information from the people I bought the truck from in the first place. Fool me once…

Ok, so a few months, maybe a year goes by and I’m trying to figure out what to do with a motor replacement for the CJ, then started reading about how the most popular swap right now for the last few years has been the venerable 5.3L Chevy Vortec… I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle something with fuel injection, but after doing the research I figured I may as well do it, because I’d be spending as much if not more to do the other way.

The trick to this deal is to find a wrecked vehicle that you can hear run (if possible) or at least get some kind of warranty on.   Also, these motors go for dirt cheap on ebay because they’re so plentiful.  Ok, so I found a deal on a 5.3L (325 c.i.d.) Chevy Vortec motor that was in a wrecked 2001 Suburban (2wd)… it came with the full electrical harness for the motor AND the 4L60e transmission.  SWEET!  I was wanting to put a 700R4 in this Jeep with a v8 anyway, and the 4L60e is just the electronically controlled version of that same transmission.

Here's what the motor looked like right when I first got it.. slapped it up on the stand and started checking it out...

Please note: if you’re attempting to do this project or something similar, you don’t have to follow the order in which I’m doing things (i.e. step 1, step 2, etc..as the menu above shows). And I wouldn’t suggest you necessarily follow what I actually have done with anything here, I’m only documenting this stuff in hopes that it may help fellow Jeepers with their ambitious projects and to provide a means of showing you all what NOT to do in some circumstances, or how you may be able to do something better.  I did these “steps” because it is just what I wanted to work on at the time… so, there is no particular order in which you need to do this stuff, just to be clear. 🙂

(UPDATED as of 9-3-12)

The 5.3L swap is completed… I got it on the road in July of 2012. So, I’ve been enjoying it for a year now with no trouble whatsoever other than a clogged fuel filter on the hottest day of the year here in Missouri  last year (it was 108* out and we had a really clogged fuel filter, which led to issues getting home from town, had to kind of limp in…but now I know it’s important to have a better fuel filter setup in front of the Walbro fuel pump!)  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have on my contact page.

Video of finished product