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Why the LS Engine Is So Great

There are few products in the car world that are unanimously loved, and the LS engine is one of them. A true gear head’s eyes light up when you talk about them, and they’ll start rattling off a list of what makes the engine so great. In this piece, we’ll rattle off our own list as we discuss why the LS engine is so great.

What Is an LS Engine?

An LS engine is a small-block created by the folks at GM. It goes into their rear-wheel drive cars and it’s a V-8 configuration. It was first released in January of 1995, and fellow gear heads have been drooling over them ever since.

What Makes the LS Engine So Great?

The truth is that we can’t sum up an LS engine’s greatness in a single word or even a single paragraph. The following sections go into better detail about what’s so great about this amazing little engine.

They’re Inexpensive

The first thing worth mentioning is the price. It’s much lower than you’d expect. This is a direct result of the over-production of the engine. Chevy decided to put it in almost every rear-wheel drive that they manufactured, and that called for a lot of these engines to be made.

If you know a little bit about supply and demand, you’ll start to understand why these are so cheap. The supply is really high for these. It helps that Chevy is one of the largest manufacturers in the USA. If you go into a junkyard, you’ll get your choice of hundreds of LS engines for your project.

Goes into Tons of Vehicles

This might be a combination of all the reasons that make an LS engine great, but they go into so many different vehicles. Pickups, Mazda RX-7 FDs, Hennessey Venom GT’s, and Ultima GTR’s – the list goes on and on. These engines are incredibly versatile and modular, and they work with a ton of different builds.

Easy to Find

You can find an LS engine almost everywhere. Heck, even Walmart has them for sale on their site! When an engine is easy to get your hands on and inexpensive, you’re in for a good time. It makes any build, repair, or replacement significantly easier when you don’t have to hunt down an engine.

Size: Weight is Great

Any car fan knows that there are two big downfalls when it comes to a car: the size and the weight. If you try to put in an engine that’s too big, you’ll have to take out some essentials or make a hole in your hood. If the engine is too heavy, then you’ll slow down the ride and kill the performance.

The LS engine has the perfect ratio of size to weight. The fact that one of these can fit into a Miata should tell you everything you need to know. At the same time, you’ll find an LS engine in a supercar that can shred around a track.

They weigh in around 460 pounds and can fit into cars with small engine bays. That’s two massive thumbs up for the LS engine.

The Performance

As you know, the engine is the heart of the operation. When you talk about performance, it’s the first thing you mention. These little guys have plenty of pep in their step, to say the least.

This is all thanks to the designers at Chevy. They use cutting-edge technology to design every part of the engine to make sure it gives you the most bang for your buck. A new LS3 engine will churn out 430 horsepower at 5900 rpm. A stock LS37/525 will give you 525 horsepower to play with. That’s a boatload of horses for your whip (learn more about horsepower here).

If you know your way around a garage, it’s possible to achieve 1,000 horsepower by keeping all the internals intact. That’s a massive testament to the strength of this engine family.

Old pickup truck with an LS swap

Great Heat Management

When engines run, they get hot. Real hot. There are so many systems and designs built into a car just to try to keep an engine cool. Another thing to love about the LS engine is that it has built-in heat management.

The aluminum heads have steam vents that allow gas to escape. If the gas were to get stuck instead, it would heat up the system and risk a detonation. They even put the thermostat in a smart position – by positioning it lower in the engine, it can get a reading of the true temperature, not a gas pocket.

This helps the driver understand the true engine temperature as they’re driving. This design helps you avoid a big problem.

Aftermarket-Friendly

Here at Motor Hill, we love aftermarket-friendly companies. When we see a murdered-out, dropped Subie with cambered wheels and body mods we get a tingly feeling inside. So, it warms our hearts when we think about how aftermarket-friendly the LS engine is.

You can easily find a full LS swap kit today for almost any car you’ve got. The bread and butter of Datsun’s 280Z is an LS swap – it makes the right lightweight without making major sacrifices that other engines force you to make.

Want to have a little more fun? You can easily find a turbo- or super-charged kit to add to your LS engine. You can make that 1,000 horsepower build with race-spec cylinders and some extra goodies. Yeah, we meant it when we said these are aftermarket-friendly.

Chevrolet Corvette C5 1997-2004

Very Strong Option

This engine uses aluminum instead of carbon steel. To save you a long lecture on why aluminum is so great, let’s boil it down to these few points, aluminum is:

  • Cheap
  • Strong
  • Easy to manufacture
  • Lightweight

This engine also features a Y-block. This configuration is insanely rigid, especially in the main cap area. It uses a snap-fit cross-bracing pattern for its fasteners which further improves the strength of the assembly.

Bolts are threaded deep into the block, giving more engagement and oomph. If you look at this engine from an engineering standpoint, you’d conclude that it’s “over-engineered”. This phrase usually comes with a massive price tag, but not in this case.

Their Design

The LS engine opts for pushrods instead of overhead cams. Why is this so great? It reduces the overall size of the engine. It has a lower height which is favorable as far as the overall design is concerned. With a smaller profile, the engine can fit into a number of different vehicles (as discussed earlier).

Conclusion

All in all, the LS engine has so many great things going for it. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the favorite child of the GM family, and we can’t stop talking about it. You just learned more about what makes an LS engine so great. If you want to learn more about the car world, check out the rest of our blog. Make sure you have the right tools and accessories to keep your ride running smoothly.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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