Ask The Experts: Should You Buy A Rebuild Or Remanufactured Head For Your Diesel Engine?

Diesel engines, especially in heavy-duty machinery and trucks, have an extremely hard life. At one point or another, they will need major service, and the heads will have to be replaced.

The good news is that heads can be remanufactured or rebuilt. But which is the best option? What are the key differences between a rebuilt or remanufactured head?

CATERPILLAR C15 C15 ACERT 3406E STAGE 3 LOADED CYLINDER HEAD W INCONEL INTAKE EXHAUST VALVES NEWWe, here at Highway & Heavy Parts, are determined to answer these questions and more about engine heads. No matter if you are an owner-operator or run an entire fleet, keeping your equipment running right is extremely important. 

We have outlined the key differences between a remanufactured and a rebuilt head. Both have their pros and cons. The more that is known about each, the easier it will be to make a final decision when it comes to replacing the heads on your diesel engine.

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Rebuilt Cylinder Head

Oftentimes, a rebuilt head is the most cost-effective way to get your diesel engine back up and running. An old head can often be rebuilt and easily brought back to good operating conditions given that it isn’t damaged beyond repair (warped or have an unrepairable crack).

When a reputable company such as Highway & Heavy Parts rebuilds a diesel engine head, components such as valve seats valve guides, and injector sleeves will be carefully inspected and replaced if they do not meet OEM specs. 

As it is the cheaper option of the two, do not expect to get the same durability that a remanufactured head will provide. As a general rule, if the engine has less than 500,000 miles or if you are planning to replace it within the next 300,000 miles, a rebuilt head may the best idea. 

Here are some of the possible downsides of going with a rebuilt head over a remanufactured one:


Modern, heavy-duty diesel engines will last roughly 1,000,000 miles before needing major service. After a while parts begin to wear and problems arise. Simply replacing what is needed will not give you another 1,000,000 miles, but should help the engine continue to power through. Think of it like putting on a band-aid. You don’t resolve the problem, you simply mask it. 


If any cracks were present in the head before being sent out for a rebuilt, chances are that it will become susceptible to issues further down the road. This is especially true if the company shop that repaired the crack didn’t do a proper weld job. 

Repairing a cracked head is not as easy as just throwing on a bead of weld and calling it a day. It requires specialized machinery. Of course, this can be done without it, but the customer may end up paying the ultimate price later on. 

Want to know more about cylinder head cracks and what causes them? Check out the post we have put together about why is your cylinder head may be cracked here.

Improper Inspection

The days of just using a depth gauge or caliper to measure wear are long gone. Modern diesel engines are much more complex and work within extremely tight tolerances. Although they are more complicated, they are also made to last much longer than the 500,000 to 750,000 miles that older engines offered. 

However, modern problems require modern solutions. Specialized ultrasound and current machines are utilized to make sure every last square inch of an engine’s head is made to last as long as possible.

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Remanufactured Cylinder Head 

From the options listed in this post, a remanufactured head is the best choice. Sadly, reconditioned, refurbished, repaired, etc, get mixed up constantly. Keep in mind that there are substantial differences between each term. Here is an article we wrote that explains the differences between rebuilt, remanufactured, and refurbished.

Although similar to rebuilt heads, a remanufactured head undergoes several tests which ensure the customer receives a cylinder head that is virtually as good as new. Cleaning, pressure testing, and machining are important steps that are performed when a diesel engine head is remanufactured. If you are near the million-mile mark or want the truck to last another million, getting a remanufactured head is an obvious choice.  

Difference Between Casting And Welding 

A cracked cylinder head is one of the main reasons customers choose to replace them. The remanufacturing process is will ensure that any previous cracks will be eliminated for good by physically cutting out the damaged section and re-casting it. What does this mean for the customer? Not having a potential bad weld that will open back up is a major selling point of a remanufactured head. 

Want to know more about cracked cylinder heads? We have a post about that too. Check it out here!

Using New Parts

When choosing a remanufactured head, every possible component is swapped out for a new one. These include, but are not limited to valve guides, seats, springs, keepers, injector sleeves, etc. Using all-new parts is one of the main reasons why a remanufactured diesel engine cylinder head has a higher cost.

Remanufactured Head Warranty

The warranty of a remanufactured head will typically be much better compared to a rebuilt head. This is partially thanks to the process which a remanufactured goes through. New parts and a thoroughly inspected head will allow manufacturers and shops alike to provide a much better warranty on both parts and labor. 

Initially, the cost of a remanufactured head will be much higher than just replacing a damaged or worn-out part but will pay for itself in the long run. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way and will pay later on. Both in terms of potential downtime and repair bills. Do it once, and do it right!

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Final Words/CTA

Do you have any questions about finding the right remanufactured or rebuilt diesel engine head? Our ASE-certified technicians are bound to have all the right answers. Highway & Heavy Parts is the industry leader in heavy-duty diesel engine parts.

Give us a call today at 1-844-985-3408 or request a quote online now and see what makes us one of the best in the business.

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