The Do's and Don'ts of Shipping an Engine

This article was written to help you better understand how to ship an engine. These are general guidelines which include some of the do’s and don’ts of freight shipping using LTL (Less Than Truckload). This will help ensure your engine ships and arrives safely without any hiccups.

Packaging is one of the most important aspects of shipping and protecting your engine.  One should always consider the value of the engine and the likelihood of it being damaged during transit.  Taking the appropriate steps to ensure your freight is protected will allow for a secure delivery.

Crates or Pallets. Most engines from a savage yard or individual will ship in a crate or on a pallet. Many people will say “I don’t have a pallet or crate”. There are several places we would recommend to find these items and are often times free. Craigslist is a good source for pallets. Go to your local Craigslist and search for pallets or crates. In most towns, listings show up for pallets or crates in the free section. If they are not in the free section and are for sale, they are a couple of dollars each. Another good place to locate a pallet for shipping is behind buildings and businesses. Companies often want them gone and will let you take as many as you need.

**WARNING** NEVER take pallets without getting permission from someone associated with the business. People have been arrested for walking off with these materials. It is not worth the risk.

It's important to make sure that the pallet or crate you use is high enough off the ground for a pallet jack to be used underneath. Some pallets have a low clearance and will not work for LTL shipments.

When shipping an engine, there are several requirements and methods of shipping:


  • Drain fluids: Engines should be drained of all oil and the dipstick tube should be plugged.

  • Clean Engine: Spray down the engine using a power washer taking care not to spray water in places where water should not go such as the intake manifold. Any signs of leaking fluids or drops of oil can cause a delay in shipping, cause a rejection, or even the return of your shipment by the carrier.  Do your best to eliminate evidence of fluids.

  • Using an old tire is good to use for protection when shipping an engine: You can take the tire and place it on top of the pallet and place the engine on top of the tire. This will help give the engine a little cushion, as well as keep the oil pan off of the pallet where a forklift fork could puncture it.

  • Banding: Metal banding is the method of choice to secure an engine to a pallet. Using no less than 2 metal bands, tighten the engine very snug to the pallet. These bands do not not often break, and will hold the engine securely. Plastic banding, however, stretches and may loosen up during transit. If you do not have banding, cheap ratchet straps can be purchased at a local hardware store such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Harbor Freight for $10 or less. Use a few of the ratchet straps to secure the engine to the pallet. Don’t be afraid to ratchet it as tight as you possibly can.

  • Stretch Wrap: Always use stretch wrap/shrink wrap to wrap your engine to the pallet. The entire engine should be covered with as little visibility as possible. Black stretch wrap is preferred as it is harder to see through and will mask any leaks or drips that may occur during transit.

Once these steps are completed, an accurate weight of the engine secured to the pallet or crate is needed to schedule the shipment. To get the weight, you can put the palleted engine on a scale, or use the manufacturer’s spec sheet to get an accurate weight. Be sure the weight of the pallet is added to the weight of the engine. It is wise and beneficial to take a photo of the weight. If there are any re-weigh charges, you will have evidence of the weight listed on the paperwork.


One way to make sure you get the best shipping rate possible is to ship the engine from a commercial business to a commercial business. Both ends of the shipment will need a loading dock or forklift for loading and unloading the engine. Often times, a local terminal will allow the engine to be dropped-off and/or picked-up at their location. This helps to keep expenses low. Residential shipping is always an additional charge and will often double the price of the shipment. A lift-gate charge is also very expensive. Not all trucks have a lift-gate so when one is requested, a special truck is dispatched for pick-up and/or delivery which increases the cost.  

Before shipping your engine, you have the option to add additional insurance. All shipments come with a Carriers’ Limits of Liability, which usually pays by the pound and has a minimum payout amount. Capital Insurance is suggested for shipments that are deemed more valuable and is worth the additional money for full insurance coverage. The additional insurance covers the purchase price of the engine and often times covers the freight charge as well. If the damaged engine can be repaired, the insurance company will ask for a repair estimate. If it is cheaper to repair than the cost of the purchase price, they will usually cover the repair cost. If there is damage on arrival, make certain that the driver notes the damage before it is unloaded and before you sign the BOL. Be sure to document everything as detailed as possible as that information will be needed in order to fill out an insurance claim.

Determine the Class of your shipment. Usually, an engine on a pallet will be a Class 85 with a NMFC code of 120790-1. Be sure to enter the NMFC code if you want it to ship in that class. If the engine ships in a crate, the class and NMFC change to a Class 70 with a NMFC code of 120790-2. You can also use a density calculator to determine the shipping class. Remember, the lower the Class, the cheaper it is to ship.

A Bill Of Lading (BOL) will need to be completed and three photo copies made. Each pallet or crate will need a copy of the BOL secured to it before the truck picks up. A packing slip envelope works well for this paperwork. Make sure both addresses are clearly visible. When the driver shows up, hand the additional two copies of the BOL to him/her. At that time, they will put the PRO# (tracking) stickers on the pallet and on the copies of the BOL. One copy will be handed back to you for your records. The number that is on the sticker can be used to track your shipment on the carrier’s website.

If you follow these basic guidelines, you will be better prepared to ship your engine, your engine will be secured and protected, and it will travel from point A to point B without any issues along the way.

WeLTL specializes in the shipping of engines and automotive parts and would love the opportunity to be of service in helping you with your shipment. Visit us a and request a free freight quote or contact us at


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