Skip to content

How to Ship Automotive Parts

Is your precious cargo complicated and heavy — say engines, transmissions, or auto body parts? Here are some tips for getting your freight shipped!

Get a Freight Quote

Moving a Motor in a Few Easy Steps

Whether you’re a boating hobbyist or car enthusiast, a mechanic or a restorer, sometimes you just need to ship an engine. Or a chassis. Or a transmission. You know…something that requires a little more care and planning than shoving in a peanut-filled shoebox and driving to the post office.

So what’s your pleasure? Do you dabble in motorsports or rebuild classic cars? Do you enjoy the deep satisfaction of a beautifully refurbished antique or classic wooden boat? Or perhaps you’re more at home on the water—fishing offshore or cruising on a luxury yacht. Or—maybe automobiles and boats are your industry: You repair, you restore, you sell.

No matter your preferred occupation or pastime, each of these specialized activities requires specialized equipment, and it can be a challenge to get what you need, when and where you need it. Sometimes it seems we must move mountains to get to that perfect ‘69 Camaro SS hood or classic burgundy Flambeau outboard…or at the very least, we must hire someone to do it for us.

When your precious cargo is complicated and heavy—150 pounds or more—LTL, or less-than-truckload, shipping will likely be your most practical carrier method. LTL shipping is reserved for freight that’s too heavy for regular courier delivery, but too small to take up a full truckload trailer. Since specialty automobile and boating items need special preparation and packaging, here are some packing guidelines for optimum protection during shipping.


Ship an engine

Automobile Engine Shipping

No matter if your focus is race cars, muscle cars, the contemporaries or the classics—the guidelines for shipping engines are the same.

According to the third-party logistics specialists at FreightCenter, first ensure that all liquids, including water, have been drained to avoid delay, damage, and additional charges. Then, it’s best to pack your engine properly by crating it and securing it to a standard pallet. If you’re worried about scratches or dents, be sure it’s fully enclosed.

FreightCenter recommends taking your crated, palletized engine directly to the carrier terminal to save on the first and last leg of travel. You can also use terminal-to-terminal services to save on accessorial charges and extra fees.

Boat Engine Shipping

At the risk of stating the obvious here … Marine engines are very different from car engines and so, therefore, are the packing requirements. Outboard motors can be really heavy, and they’re awkwardly shaped, to boot. Transporting them can be challenging. If your engine is more than 150 pounds, the folks at FreightCenter say your safest option is to crate and attach it to a pallet for LTL shipping.

A few precautions will help minimize the risk of damage to outboard motors during transport. First, remove the propeller and tiller handle (if applicable) and wrap each separately. Note that tiller handles are the most commonly broken parts of outboard motors, so take extra care by wrapping it in both bubble wrap and cardboard for protection.

Next, encase the motor itself in lots of bubble wrap (doubling up on the cowling) and secure it with packing tape. Tape the wrapped propeller and tiller to a relatively flat part of the motor. Use heavy cardboard around the lower unit while protecting the propeller shaft, cover it with bubble wrap, and tape. Wrap the entire package with cardboard, and it’s ready for crating.


Ship a transmission

When it comes to shipping, transmissions are handled much the same way as engines. Again, you must drain all fluids—it’s a good idea to flip the transmission bell housing down and let the oil drip into a pan for a few hours; clean off the grease and grime, and remove any fragile parts to pack separately. Protect the shipping container from leaks by wrapping the transmission in a couple of plastic bags.

Then, it can be crated, wrapped in blankets or cardboard and shrink-wrapped, or put inside a large plastic tote with foam padding and taped shut. Strap your package securely to a pallet, and you’re good to go.

Auto-Body Parts

Ship auto body parts

It can be challenging to securely package large auto-body parts for shipping, but here are a few tips.

First of all, take a few good pictures of your freight to document its condition before shipping.

For body panels, like car doors and hoods, see if your local body shop has any boxes to fit. Otherwise, start by padding corners and edges, and then protect the surfaces by securely wrapping them in cardboard or a padded blanket. For other large or bulky items, consider packing them in wardrobe boxes or dish packs; if the item is particularly heavy or fragile, double box it, and of course, cushion with padding or crumpled paper to avoid shifting during shipping.

When shipping seats, carefully consider your transport options and pack accordingly. If they could be exposed to wet weather, make sure the seats are encased in plastic. And if you’re shipping wheels, protect them against scratches and dings by wrapping them in a soft cloth before covering them with cardboard.

Whew! Lots of care and effort goes into some of our favorite hobbies and crafts, doesn’t it?

Luckily, most shippers offer specialized services to make your life a little easier. It’s true it’s more affordable to take your freight directly to the terminal, but it’s also true we don’t all have the wherewithal to transport a 400-pound engine. In such cases, you may opt for additional services, such as inside pick up and/or delivery, liftgate service, and residential service. You may also consider adding on insurance or an arrival notification. Be sure to ask your logistics company what they offer and recommend in your particular case.

In the end, remember that your final shipping price ultimately depends on accuracy. To avoid costly surprises:

  1. Make sure your listed freight weight includes the pallet and packaging.
  2. Ensure the dimensions—height, width, and length—are correct, and remember, the smaller and tighter the package, the greater savings potential.
  3. Take any necessary accessorial into consideration, and get estimates from multiple carriers. Lots of third-party logistics companies can streamline this process for you.

Finally, look forward to the moment you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Copyright © 1998 – 2021 FreightCenter, Inc. All rights reserved.
FreightCenter Logo