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
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
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
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.
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
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
properly together. There are many problems that can
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
All of the above applies equally to alternators, starters, brake master
cylinders, carburetors, etc.
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
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