Yahoo! Mail     Daniel Stern  talks about  remanufactured  alternators.....

Alternator info etc.

Sumday, March 1, 2009
Okay, let's talk about alternators
 More generally, let's talk about "remanufactured" auto parts such as you can buy from parts stores and other lines of part supply. In one word, they're garbage. Don't buy them. I've got a good friend in the rotating-electrics industry; I've seen what goes into the "remanufactured" parts, and it's pure junk, through and through. Low-bid, low-spec Chinese consumables that don't even come close to meeting the OEM spec. And yes, that's even on the "lifetime" units.

I've had enough very bad experiences and helped enough people fix their cars (stranded by prematurely dead "remanufactured" electrics) that I very strongly warn people off of them. And even the ones that don't fail outright cause operational problems. Alternators with extremely poor low-RPM charging characteristics and/or "noisy"/jumpy output due to mismatched rotors and stators and low-quality diodes. Starters that sound like hell because the gears are mismatched and sandblasted. It's just not worth the price savings.

There's nothing inherent in the concept (or theory) of remanufacturing that precludes a consistently high-quality result. As is so often the case, the problems arise from the implementation, not the concept. In America, most of the market for remanufactured parts is more interested in out-the-door price than in the vagaries of quality and durability. People spend twenty minutes calling around asking for a price on a starter, then go fetch the one with the lowest quote. This is especially true where DIYers are concerned; mostly they're working on their own cars because they cannot or will not pay to have someone else do it. In that context, low price is king, and the money goes into glossy boxes and frilly "Lifetime Warranty!" certificates and gimmicky "100% new parts!" babble (not telling you anything about the cruddy unquality of those new parts...), while the parts themselves get treated as quickly as possible. So that's one vector for pressure towards low price and away from pesky quality concerns.

Another is that the items we're specifically discussing here are old! Many or most of them have been through the quick 'n' abusive, low-price-at-all-costs "remanufacturing" process several times. Critical casting dimensions have been blasted into oblivion...multiple times. Low-quality parts have replaced low-quality parts...multiple times. Stators and rotors have been mismatched...multiple times.

Even those parts sources that tended to carry a higher grade of refurbished rotating electricals (NAPA, CarQuest, Big-A, etc. in comparison to the consumer-grade places like Kragen, Schuck's, Autozone, Pep Boys, etc.) have lately been "aggressively moving to capture their share of the DIY market", which is MBA-speak for signing on to stock the dreck coming from A1-Cardone, Arrow, Champion Reman and the rest of the quick-n-cheap remanufacturers.

More recently, there's been a great deal of name-licensing to try to bolster confidence in reman parts by applying reputable OEM names to them. "Bosch Remanufactured". "AC-Delco Remanufactured". "Mopar Remanufactured". Nothing's different; the contract is farmed out to the low-bid factory where unskilled workers tear apart cores, abusively clean them with overharsh abrasives (destroying machined tolerances and protective surface finishes in the process), throw the mismatched parts of numerous different and marginally compatible originals back together using poor-quality Chinese consumables (brushes, bearings, diodes, etc.), spray 'em with clear coat that lasts all of 3 months, and throw 'em in "BOSCH" (or whatever) boxes together with a 3-color Certificate of Lifetime Warranty.

I've seen these operations at work. The "BOSCH" boxes are right next to the "ACDelco" boxes are right next to the "MOTORCRAFT" boxes are right next to the "MOPAR" boxes are right next to the "AUTOLITE" boxes are right next to the "CHAMPION" boxes are right next to the "Original Equipment reManufactured" boxes (not kidding about any of these, even the last ones).

I don't see it getting better any time soon in the automotive aftermarket. The latest gimmick is the "100% new" scam. Yeah, you can walk into a parts store and buy a "100% new!" alternator or starter or whatever for your 20-year-old car.  Sure...but they're brand-new, very low quality Chinese copycats.

Remember several years ago when President Bush visited a company called USA Industries to talk about how the American small business owner is the backbone of America? Maybe you don't remember this, but proudly posted on the White House website was a picture showing President Bush's visit to USA Industries in Bay Shore, NY, in March of 2004. He went there to trumpet his tax cuts' benefit to good old-fashioned American businesses like USA Industries.

Only one problem with all those starter/alternator boxes stacked up behind the smiling politicos, flanking the great big American flag:
The only thing American about USA Industries is the labor involved in unloading shipping pallets. USA Industries does not manufacture or remanufacture anything. They collect starter and alternator cores, sell 'em for scrap metal, and import Chinese copycat parts for insertion into flag-festooned "USA INDUSTRIES" boxes and distribution to your friendly local auto parts chain to be sold as "100% New from USA Industries!".

Alternator problems like low output at idle, flickery or spiky output, etc. are often greaty aggravated by the installation of a "remanufactured" alternator. These contain mismatched components from multiple different original alternators, which are physically interchangeable but electrically don't work properly together. There are many problems that can affect any alternator and reduce its output, make it flickery, etc. An open or shorted diode or another fault in one of the alternator's winding phases can cause the alternator to carry on working, but with reduced efficiency and output. Often, such alternators will pass the "tests" you can get done at the parts store.

Let's talk also about warranties.
"Lifetime warranty" means you get to spend your lifetime replacing failed parts under warranty. Sure, they'll usually give you another alternator (starter, carburetor, brake cylinder, distributor, whatever) but the overall effect is to make the car unreliable, which means the lifetime warranty is nothing but a sales tool.

All of the above applies equally to alternators, starters, brake master cylinders, carburetors, etc.

So what's the alternative? A careful bench rebuild by a qualified rotating-electrics house that uses quality parts. Ask what brand of components they use. WAI/Transpo is a good answer. I don't worry much about warranties. 30 days is plenty. If they accidentally screwed up or got a bad component, it'll show in that timeframe. I have never had trouble finding such a place anywhere I've lived. "Starters and alternators" or "alternators and starters" is a typical subject heading.


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