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

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