Engine Shipping: All You Need to Know

Engine Shipping: All You Need to Know

Engine transport is subject to regulations and strict protocols that most don't consider. To put it lightly, it's a hazardous material that needs careful packaging and transportation that's best left to professionals. Most engines are shipped through 3-PL providers (not the postal service) who have an extensive network of carriers to ensure your shipment is delivered without issue.

Here's a quick primer on the A to Z of engine shipping to ensure your engine stays safe and protected!

Preparing Your Engine Before Transportation

Engine shipping is hazardous because oil and fuel are highly flammable. Therefore, it's important to ensure all fluids, including coolant, water, oil, and fuel, are drained before shipping. More than that, oil is also a lubricant, so if it leaks, it can cause your engine to loosen from the restraints and result in engine damage and trailer damage charges.

Line the surface of wherever your engine is resting with an absorbent material before turning it upside down to drain fluids. It will soak any liquid and cushion your engine. We recommend letting your engine stand overnight to eliminate any residual fluid. The driver of your cargo may use a dipstick to check for oil, so ensure he has access to do so.

How to ship engines

Packing Your Engine Before the Shipping

Engine shipping should be via a crate or pallet. Regardless of which packaging method you choose, it's critical not to take shortcuts with oversized freight shipping. Improper and flimsy packaging can damage your equipment, and the engine shipping company may refuse to load it onto their truck if the packaging doesn't adhere to industry standards.

Always check with your carrier, as some won't accept uncrated engines due to the high liability of potential damage during transit. Here's how to ship engines using pallets or crates:

Transporting Engine in a Pallet

  • The right-sized pallet should leave 4-inches of space surrounding the engine when placed centrally.
  • Screw 2×4s to the edges of the pallet so that it's elevated and doesn't rest directly on the oil pan.
  • Use durable nylon or ratchet straps to secure the engine to the pallet.
  • Cover the engine with a blanket or cardboard before shrink-wrapping.
  • Ensure the fluid intakes are accessible.

Using Crates for Engine Shipping

  • Bolt an engine stand to the bottom of the crate to ensure better stabilization during travel.
  • Add foam protection around the engine to cushion it from turbulence and impact.
  • Assemble the crate with nuts and bolts for easy opening, as the carrier will inspect if the fluids are drained.

Whether crated or palletized, engines should be laid flat, with a decent amount of surface contact with the pallet or bottom of the crate. Engines with a sump should be positioned with a car tire to help stabilize.

Acceptable alternatives to ratchet straps are industrial-standard plastic straps or steel banding, provided there is a minimum of two bands in place, and all straps are protected where they touch the engine to prevent slipping. Generally, carriers consider crates the superior option over shipping engines on a pallet since they offer more safety. An engine boxed on all sides can't be knocked into and stays secure throughout transport.

Choose a Freight for Engine Shipping: FTL or LTL?

Full Truckload Shipping

FTL stands for "Full Truckload" and means paying for an entire shipment for engine delivery, whether or not your engine occupies the whole space in a semi-truck.


  • FTL shipping routes are direct, so delivery is faster, with fewer delays.
  • Engines aren't transferred between trucks during transport. Less handling equates to less risk of damage.


  • FTL shipping is more expensive and harmful to the environment because of the cost, fuel, and labor.


LTL refers to less-than-truckload shipping and, unlike FTL, you only pay for the space your cargo occupies in a semi-truck.


  • The motor shipping cost is cheaper because your freight is corralled with others.


  • When goods are transferred between trucks, more handling can increase the risk of damage.
  • Since LTL shipments combine different clients' cargo, they may take longer to reach their final destination due to many stops along the way.

While LTL offers bigger cost savings, there is a higher risk of delivery delay and damage. As for safety and speed, FTL is a better option. However, it really comes down to how quickly you need your engine delivered and the size of your budget.

Moreover, there is a higher risk of potential damage and delivery delay. Because LTL does not go directly to the end customer, the actual delivery date may differ from the estimated delivery date. As for safety and speed, when shipping parts from a propeller aircraft, it's best to go FTL.

Engine transport

Prepare All the Important Paperwork

Because engines are classified as hazmat or "dangerous goods," the paperwork is quite extensive but not necessarily challenging to complete. Most importantly, you'll need a bill of lading and a dangerous goods declaration form, which includes the following:

  • The shipper's information
  • The consignee's information
  • The Hazard Classification Number
  • The engine specification
  • Packing and handling instructions
  • The UN or ID number
  • Authorization
  • The Date
  • Your Signature

Added to this is a safety data sheet, which explains how dangerous your shipment is and how it should be handled in general and emergencies. Lastly, your shipment should contain hazard communication and handling labels such as "this way up" to alert others to the risk.

Remember, the carrier approves dangerous goods for carriage based on the information provided at the request. If the information isn't accurate, it creates issues for the shipper, as they may be forced to unpack or rework the entire container to reflect the goods approved.


The heavy, delicate, and irregularly shaped nature of engines demands careful packing and freight transportation by someone you can trust. Cowtown Express has over 35 years of experience as an engine shipping service, helping retailers, collectors, and manufacturers transport their valuable engines.

We specialize in creating custom solutions to protect and transport your investment. Whatever the reason you're shipping an engine, we understand how important it is to you. At Cowtown Express, you can rely on us to deliver. Get your free engine shipping quote now!

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