Like New: Choosing a Remanufactured Engine
When a single fleet vehicle goes down with engine problems, the repercussions of the damaged truck or car are felt within the entire fleet department. Not only is the vehicle unable to do its assigned task, but also it begins to lose money for the fleet department everyday it is not in use.
When dealing with engines, fleet managers must scramble to replace a large piece of equipment in a short amount of time. Remanufactured engines allow fleet managers to replace a faulty engine quickly with a product that has been built up to or above the specifications and can be installed immediately.
Remanufactured engines also help the environment by recycling faulty engines, refurbishing them to specifications for re-use in other vehicles. These engines can be an easy, cost-effective alternative for fleet managers who need to get non-operating vehicles working again and back into their fleets.
Remanufactured and Rebuilt Engines Differ
In the world of replacement engines, remanufactured engines arenÕt the only choice. Used and rebuilt engines are also options. Remanufactured engines and rebuilt engines may seem the same, but they are very different products.
A rebuilt product is completely overhauled, but not upgraded with new technology. A remanufactured product is completely overhauled, but carries an updated design and components that address the original product's flaws and failures.
“If you go for remanufactured products, you get the latest and greatest product updates,” says Brian Hoglund, director of the Powertrain Business Line Team for General Motors. “We manufacture thousands of transmissions and many, many engines as well. As we do that, we see common failure rates from older vehicles, and we’ll make product improvements over time.”
Hoglund adds, “That’s the luxury of seeing so many failed pieces coming back that you then recycle. You can make updates. And a local rebuilder may not be able to do that because he doesn’t see the same kinds of volumes.”
Overhauled and rebuilt engines and transmissions do not run as well as remanufactured engines because the customer is still purchasing old technology, says Bob Boeglin, national sales manager for Jasper Engines and Transmissions. With remanufactured units, all parts are brand-new, including valves and springs; whereas with overhauled or rebuilt, the problem is fixed by tweaking or re-using parts that may or may not fit OEM specs.
Technician experience can be an issue with rebuilt engines, according to Mark Whitthar, powertrain marketing manager for Ford Motor Co. “You don’t know the training level of the technician involved.” Whitthar says that rebuilding an engine can be done very well, and is done throughout shops in the U.S., but the mechanic in the shop could have two weeks’ experience on the job or 20 years.
He adds, “When you rebuild something in a shop environment, there are certain things you can’t control, like dust and dirt. In the case of remanufactured engines, we have our engineers work directly with our suppliers. We have complete specifications and a very high degree of control over the remanufacture process.”
Zach Bawel, vice president of sales for Jasper Engines sees the remanufacturing process as a way to make the engines better than before. “With remanufactured products, we see the things that caused the original engine to fail. We work with our parts supplier to produce parts and things that can actually make that product better once it’s remanufactured.”
Mark Spaulding, vice president of operations for AER Manufacturing, adds, “A remanufactured engine is going to have a much higher content of new parts put back in it.” Spaulding notes that rather than fixing and reusing an engine part, a remanufacturer will scrap the broken piece and replace it with a new one.
Avoiding Downtime with a Remanufactured Engine
Remanufactured engines allow quick delivery and installation, with little or no downtime.
“I have finished goods sitting in 46 buildings around the United States, so I can provide fleet customers with same- or next-day service virtually anywhere in the U.S.,” says Whitthar. “I have finished goods ready to ship and to be installed into vehicles immediately. Mine are built exact fit for Ford applications.”
Hoglund adds, “Remanufacturing means faster vehicle turnaround. If uptime is important and the vehicle is a revenue-producing unit, you want to get it on the road as fast as possible.”
Many remanufacturers have made their products available to fleet managers who find themselves in a jam when needing a high-quality replacement engine.
“We’ve got about 18,000 units in inventory,” says Bawel. “So, if a fleet needs a Powerstroke diesel, we sell them one that’s in our inventory in one of 35 branches across the country. Then, once they pull out the old one, we get that back as a core, remanufacture it, put it back into inventory, and sell it to someone else.”
A Cost-Effective Alternative for Fleets
Remanufactured engines can also save money for fleet departments, eliminating the need to buy a new vehicle.
Bawel says that remanufactured engines are cost-effective if people are at the point of replacing parts. “I think several years ago, pre-September 11 when businesses were doing very well, there seemed to be a lot of people replacing their vehicles every three or four years.”
He now sees fleet managers extending vehicle lifecycles in an effort to reduce cost and expenses. “Remanufactured engines are a cost-effective way of continuing the life of the vehicle without the high cost of buying new.”
Spaulding agrees. “Fleet managers can extend the life of their vehicles and keep overall costs down instead of replacing cars every two years,” he explains. “A new transmission or engine can double the life of a vehicle.”
Hoglund knows fleet customers who have gone through two, three, and even four powertrains, but keep the vehicle because the service body is still intact. In some fleets, there are 15- to 20-year- old chassis, but the only thing needed is a new engine. “Its better for the environment to recycle them and it should be a better economical decision, too,” he adds.
Though the industry trend for both remanufactured and rebuilt engines seems to be trending downward, Hoglund sees a strong market in light- and medium-duty trucks. “We continue to see that market remaining very strong for new and remanufactured replacements.”