Labor Costing Study: GM LS-Series Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

Labor Costing Study: GM LS-Series Engine





The venerable Chevy smallblock engine has been one of the most popular and successful engines in the history of the world since it was created in 1955. So when GM decided it was time to update the Mouse motor, people were understandably worried. And when the resulting  replacement was the LT1/LT4 Gen II engine used from 1992-1997, the reaction was underwelming.

Undaunted, GM engineers again took a stab at reinventing the Bowtie legend. The result this time was a success, and the development of the LS1 V8 signaled the birth of the Gen III engine family.

The Gen III engine (and subsequent  next generation Gen IV) family consists of a wide variety of V8 engines, ranging from the 5.3L LS4 to the 7.0L LS7 in automobile configurations and Vortec 4.8L to L92 6.2L truck engines. They all have significant differences, but they also have similarities that follow along throughout the limbs of the family tree. For that reason, it’s often easier to refer to the whole bunch as the LS engine family.

In this section, you’ll find our current labor costing study on rebuilding the LS engine family, which offers a look at national and regional average labor charges. The study covers various head, block and crankshaft service procedures as well as miscellaneous labor charges.

The charts can be downloaded in PDF form by clicking on the link below. In addition, the detailed chart on page 36 represents the national average, median and mode labor charges for all of the procedures covered in our survey.

Your operational procedures may allow you to be more productive than these charts indicate. Conversely, you may find your costs are significantly higher than others in your same area. These discrepancies should not be seen as indicating that your costs are either too high or too low.

According to Bob Roberts, Market Research Manager for Babcox Research, these discrepancies may be seen for several reasons.

“In some shops, certain operations may be included while doing others and this may lead to a larger dollar amount charged. Additionally, some shops may have given us an ‘each’ price when we wanted ‘all’ or they may have included an ‘all’ when we asked ‘price each,’” Roberts says.

“Some shops reported to us that they perform some repairs on a ‘time’ basis. We did not use a dollar-per-hour value if they provided it. A few shops price all their repairs on a ‘time’ basis. This is most common with welding repairs.  Some shops do not perform all the operations listed and this leads to a smaller number of observations and thus a less reliable average,” Roberts says.

“In all cases,” he concludes, “the national average will be the most accurate figure.”

The “average” for a specific labor charge is the result of adding all of the charges for that service from all respondents and then dividing that number by the total number of respondents. The “median” is the result of ranking all of the survey responses from highest to lowest and then finding the number that falls exactly in the middle. The “mode” is simply the most-often reported number from all survey respondents.

Additionally, our chart provides the “95% Confidence Interval (CI)” range. In real terms, if you were to ask all of the machine shops in the country what their labor rates were for each operation, it is 95 percent certain that the “true” average labor cost would fall within this range.

Because so many different engines and configurations fall under the “LS” heading, you may be interested in more articles about these GM engines. You can search for all of these, previously published in our pages, on Engine Builder’s Web site ( “Bringing a Gen III Stroker Back to Life,” by Norm Brandes and Keith McCord, November 2007; “Rebuilding the GM Gen III Small-Block,” by Doug Anderson, April 2008; or “Taming the New Tiger – Stroking a GM LSx Engine,” by Keith McCord, September 2008.

Additionally, a new book from CarTech Books, How to Rebuild GMLS-Series Engines by Chris Werner is available by visiting

Download the complete Labor Costing Study pdf here (1.7mb): GM LS-Series LCS

You May Also Like

LTR Engine Build

This Late Model Engines build is centered around Concept Performance’s new LTR block, which is the first aftermarket as-cast aluminum Gen V LT block. 

The Chevrolet LT engine family from General Motors is rooted in the early ‘70s, when the LT1 was featured in the Corvette and Camaro Z28. After a 20-year hiatus, GM reintroduced the platform in the early ‘90s. The “LT1 350” came out in 1991, and was distinct from the high-output Gen I LT1 of the 1970s. It displaced 5.7L (350 cu in), and was a two-valve per cylinder pushrod design. The LT1 used a reverse-flow cooling system, which cooled the cylinder heads first, maintaining lower combustion chamber temperatures and allowing the engine to run at a higher compression than its immediate predecessors.

A Look at Lead Times

Lead times are no longer months upon months as they were in the middle of 2020 and throughout 2021, but the situation is still of some concern, and it’s forced engine builders to get creative at times.

LS Intake Manifolds

LS swaps are popular for many reasons, but there are a lot of variations and details to sort through – more of them than you may expect – and many of them are associated with the intake manifold.

Choosing the Correct Block for Your LS Engine Build

Whether you’re scouring junkyards, ordering cores, investigating factory options, looking at aftermarket cast iron or aluminum blocks, or spending big bucks on billet LS blocks, you’ve probably noticed it’s been harder to find exactly what you want for the foundation of your LS build than it historically has.

Open Loop/Closed Loop and Learning

Closed-loop control can be programmed to either add or subtract up to a certain percentage of fuel in order for the engine to reach the target air/fuel ratio.

Other Posts

Top 10 Ken Block Gymkhana Films

Who doesn’t like a little bit of burnt rubber?

America’s Best Engine Shops 2022 | H&H Flatheads

Despite not being a fancy, state-of-the-art set up, Mike and his team at H&H have a great thing going. The equipment does exactly what it needs to, his team is experienced and the shop has built thousands of vintage engines for customers everywhere!

America’s Best Engine Shops 2022 | Choate Engineering Performance

This shop’s dedication to quality engine work, its growth, its machining capabilities and its impact in the diesel industry, all make Choate Engineering Performance well deserving of Engine Builder’s and Autolite’s 2022 America’s Best Diesel Engine Shop award.

America’s Best Engine Shops 2022 | 4 Piston Racing

The 4 Piston Racing facility in Danville, IN houses two buildings – one is 12,000 sq.-ft. and the other is 2,500 sq.-ft. The shop is very heavily focused on Honda cylinder heads and engine work to the tune of 300+ engines and 1,000 cylinder heads annually!