Buying a Used Engine

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The winter has been a busy one in the world of Rotax Max with the shows to attend and work with the Service centres to further improve the customer’s lot. By the time this is in print we will have held a Service Centre meeting, the vast majority of Centres have accepted the invitation. This will give both us at JAG and the Rotax factory a very good understanding of the market and how the customers’ needs vary across the country.

I believe this type of forum to be vitally important to the continued improvement of the service that is offered and ensures that the customer gets fair and even handed service no matter which centre he uses.

The Rotax warranty scheme is well established and continues to give customers of new and rebuilt engines a degree of assurance which is unique in the karting world today. The current engine units have no particular weaknesses and this can be attributed to the invaluable feedback which can only be achieved when the warranty system works as efficiently as it does.

The new and long awaited crank cases are now in stock, they have been delivered on new engines and are also available as spare parts. I have spoken to a number of service centres and they report that there is no change in performance over the old type. The new cases are very well finished and take advantage of modern casting and machining methods. There are some detail improvements which not only save material, but also do not compromise stiffness and integrity of the finished product. I particularly like the webbing from below the cylinder studs down around the main bearing pockets and then splaying out to give extra rigidity to the engine mounting bolts.

Recently we have seen a lot of carburettors which are not in good shape. I am amazed that people will spend a significant budget on their equipment and just getting to meetings and then overlook this most vital part of the performance jigsaw. Where the carb is concerned it is impossible for it to be too clean! When not in use it should be drained, cleaned and put into a self-seal plastic bag. A general spray of a moisture inhibitor like WD40 would not go amiss either. I believe we are fortunate to have remained with the carburettor specifications that have been in force here for many years. As many of you will know there are a new set of regulations in the RMC which is effectively the official Rotax International rules. For a start they outlaw the 12.5 venturi and have other slow jet and float regulations that differ from our own. While this change would have little effect on the big teams and the drivers that race nationally, it would be an unnecessary expense for the club driver on a tight budget.

We must never take our eyes off the fact that the club racer that has just one kart and engine, is the bedrock of the sport. There is a burgeoning customer base in the Cadet classes which need to feel confident to move on into the Junior classes without the fear of escalating prices. Whatever class these guys choose it needs to be attainable at entry level. The Minimax has become a lot more user friendly since the introduction of the carburettor slide restrictor. The club class is now growing strongly. Used outfits are readily available for little more than the re-sale value of their Honda Cadet equipment. A chassis that has spent its life in Minimax hands will have a greater life expectancy than a kart which has been harnessed to a Senior or 177 pilot!

With the JAG records department now permanently staffed there is a mine of information available to give the history on any sealed engine offered for sale. While this is not a guarantee of its current condition, it does give the prospective purchaser a feel good factor of the care that the engine has received. A bit like a used car, a used engine will betray poor maintenance if you look a little deeper into its appearance. Items to watch for are condition age and type of radiator. All three radiators are fit for purpose. These days a black radiator is a bit of a sales stigma when fitted to a Senior engine, it is however still widely accepted in Junior or Mini format. The “Black Rad” is gradually dying out so an engine with an old one that has had a hundred hits would be a good starting point to negotiate the price down a bit! In round terms a new silver radiator will set you back £200 so imagine what the engine might be worth without one? If you are buying an engine on its own do beware that you are receiving the accessories you expect. This is one advantage of buying a used outfit complete, at least you definitely have all the bits!

The same goes for the exhaust system, has it been welded? Not in itself a disaster but it does suggest that it has had a life… before death! Once again a new pipe will set you back the approximate magic figure of £200 so another pawn for negotiation.

There are plenty of really sound used outfits on the market for under £2000 complete. By the same token it is hard to find a gem for less than £1500. The bonus is that for the beginner in Minimax these engines are unlikely to need any major service work assuming you have bought with confidence that the unit and its ancillaries are in good order.