Another great weeks in the books. Take a look at the some engines in process and the final shipment!
How to Determine the Proper Engine Rating
Electronic engines get a bad rap in the heavy duty diesel engine world due to the amount of issues that can go wrong with them. However, the good news is that if you have an electronic Caterpillar engine you can easily obtain more horsepower and torque via the ECM.
Re-rating an engine is an electronic process of powering up or down the default horsepower via the electronic control module (ECM). Re-rating a diesel engine is the easiest way to beef up an engine without digging into the hard internal parts. You can do modifications to the engine by changing out the pistons, injectors, the camshaft or damper. Adding an updated turbo is also another way to increase HP. However, these modifications are expensive and may not work as required which we will discuss later in this article.
To re-rate a CAT engine one must go to a CAT Dealer or Independent Certified CAT Distributor that has access to CAT ET (Electronic Technician) program. The CAT ET software will plug into the engine and get a diagnostic readout of the engine health. Once in CAT ET the ECM can be “flashed” or reprogrammed to power up or down within a given CAT Engine Family. You can only repower a Caterpillar engine within its given family.
For example a Caterpillar C7 has Families A, B, C, D, E and F. The Horsepower Rating ranges from 207 hp to 330 hp. Family A only has 3 horsepower and torque options whereas Family E has 7 options. If your engine serial number prefix is rated “A” then you must stay in the A Family. The pistons and injectors are different for each Family. It is impossible to simply go up a Family. The higher horsepower E and F Families are reserved for Fire Truck or RV Applications. So if you’re thinking you can easily increase your engine 200-300 HP you are mistaken.
There are two main way to determine the current horsepower rating of your engine. One is by simply looking at the data tag on the valve cover or timing cover. It will have the horsepower and torque rating of the engine. If you suspect the engine may have already been powered up or down from the original OEM specs you have two options: take it to a dealer or dyno testing facility. A CAT Dealer with CAT SIS and CAT ET will be able to plug into the electronic engine and they can do an ECM Download. This process takes about 5 minutes and will give a readout of fault codes, millage, current horsepower rating, torque, oil pressure etc… A dealer generally won’t charge you just for an ECM Readout. You can also have a full dyno test done which will give a full range of performance specs done on the engine.
Other things to consider when doing an ECM re-flash is whether or not the transmission is rated to handle the increase torque load. Transmissions are all about torque rating. An Allison, Eaton or Fuller Transmission all have something called the Nominal Torque Capacity Rating. Whatever that number is multiply it by 100 to get your maximum torque output allowed for that transmission. For example if a transmission has a tag number of RTO – 11909MLL the “11” or first number, is your Nominal Torque Capacity. That engine would be rated at 1100 ft/lbs of torque. Before doing a re-rating you must check to see if your transmission can handle the new workload. If you desired re-rating torque measurement is higher than your transmission’s capacity to handle the load then you will destroy your transmission.
Aftermarket Engine Modifications
Earlier in the article we touched on doing aftermarket modifications to your CAT engine. We here at Capital Reman build our engines to OEM spec. We do that simply because playing in the “modification sandbox” can cause numerous issues with warranties. If you add aftermarket injectors, turbos, camshaft or manifolds to increase power it will automatically void any manufacturer warranty. The question is do aftermarket mods work? The answer is that they do indeed work and are the same quality as OEM these days however one must be careful tinkering with electronic engines as mods can overload various systems on the engine. Doing modifications can also decrease the life of the engine as it usually means increased exhaust temperature. If you are burning more fuel and creating more exhaust it will wear down the exhaust valves much faster. Aftermarket turbos can also clog easier when paired with an electronic engine with a SCR or DPF Filter. Some CAT Engines have turbo regeneration issues caused by the very intricate balance of re-circulated exhaust gasses by the emissions systems.
Some opt to further optimize their engine by seeking out illegal DPF Delete Kits to remove all emissions technology altogether. It is understandable why some go down that path as early emissions technology was prone to costly maintenance and performance issues however, newer engines with emissions upgrades actually have increased in horsepower and torque. If you do go down the aftermarket route just be aware that the warranty will be voided, performance upgrades are not a guarantee and that you might be further damaging/decreasing the life of your engine. Not to say aftermarket mods aren’t fun! There are tons of great aftermarket companies that make performance turbos, injectors, camshafts and more but get your pocket book ready as internal mods are expensive.
ECM Reflash Costs and Warnings
Re-flashing an ECM takes about 2 hours from start to finish at a CAT Dealer. The software is accessed via CAT ET and a flash file is downloaded to the ECM. This software is propriety to Caterpillar and is password protected. BUYER BEWARE! There are aftermarket CAT ET programs on for sale on the internet but none of them will work properly as the software needed is password protected at Caterpillar dealer. CAT Corporate charges the dealer about $250 per ECM Re-flash and the dealer will usually just charge labor to you the customer. Overall the cost of an ECM Re-flash is around $500. Not too bad to quickly power up your engine. If you go down the aftermarket/mods route for the ECM use a reputable Re-Power Company like Pittsburgh Power or ECM Diesel.
There are some dangers of ECM Re-Ratings. About 1/30 ECM Re-Flashes ends up with a destroyed ECM. The ECM can become corrupted or simply wipe itself of all data. The new flash file could simply be incompatible with the ECM in the engine and destroy it. Mostly these incidents occur with early model electronic engines that have more unstable electronics. CAT ECMs are not cheap ranging from $1,500-$2,000. You can purchase a used ECM however those are a gamble as the pin connectors and solders can be easily be bent or broken.
That being said, don’t let the possible ECM failure scare ya! Getting a little more juice out of your CAT Engine can easily be done with an ECM Re-Rate just make sure to do your homework and take your engine to a reputable source.
This is an prime example of the dedication and craftsmanship that all of our employees show on a regular basis. We had brag a little but this is an absolutely awesome Remanufactured Caterpillar 3116 built by engine builder Ben Gunn. Nice job Ben!
At the turn of the century there was a lot of buzz around a new diesel engine being produced at Caterpillar, one that could meet the growing emissions requirements enacted by the EPA. The Caterpillar C7 Engine was supposed to be the “golden child” in Caterpillar diesel engine lineup; one that combined raw horsepower with computer controlled clean emissions. However, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The engine was produced from 2003 to 2009 and was installed primarily in over the road medium duty class 8 trucks. All of the big players in the trucking industry hopped on board hoping the CAT C7 was going to live up to the hype. Paccar, Freightliner, Ford and GMC all purchased the engine in droves. The technical classification of a medium duty tuck is a single drive axel with a gross vehicle weight of 18,000-33,000 lbs.; mostly box tucks, tow trucks, daycabs, and straight trucks.
The Caterpillar C7 was designed mostly out of necessity vs. practicality. Caterpillar, needed to produce a new engine that was going to meet or exceed the Tier Ratings enacted by the EPA in 1994 to curb diesel engine emissions. The stricter Tier 4 emissions requirements went into effect January 1, 2004. The Caterpillar C7 was released in 2003, only months ahead of the Tier 4 ratings change, and replaced the popular 3126 model. Older CAT engines like the 3116 or 3126 were essentially grandfathered into the older tier rating requirements and did not need to be upgraded.
CAT C7 Commonalities With CAT 3126
The CAT C7 shares many common configurations with the CAT 3126. The engine configuration was the same as the 3126 but the fuel system changed using a new engineered style known as the HEUI injector. The HEUI injector allows for multiple injections at different metered rates. Using a staged fuel distribution ratio helps improve engine combustion which ultimately reduces emissions ouput. The electronic configuration was also more robust to offer better fuel management and electronic sensors into the engine. The CAT C7 was really the first heavy duty diesel engine to offer a greatly expanded ECM or electronic computer module. The ECM is the same hardware as previous electronic engine generations just upgraded to handle more systems. Using an advanced 120 pin connection the amount of information the computer was able to process was astronomical. Other similarities between the CAT 3126 and CAT C7 include the same bore and stroke at 4.330 and 5.000 respectively. The cylinder heads are slightly different in the common rail design, still 3 valves per cylinder but there is no oil rail cast in the CAT C7 cylinder head.
The most noticeable difference between the CAT 3126 and CAT C7 is within the valve train. The front gear train is mostly the same except for the gears which have fewer teeth and a more robust design. Some speculate that the reason for the wider gear teeth is so that the gear designs can’t be interchanged with older CAT 3126 and CAT 3116 versions. The oil pump and water pump are also larger to accommodate the need to lubricate/cool more moving parts.
When examining the crankshaft and rods the common differences between the CAT 3126 and the CAT C7 include smaller crankshaft counterweights to include the lighter weight piston design. The connecting rods and crankshaft share the same journal sizes but are slight different in terms of cast size and shape. The connecting rods in the Caterpillar C7 ACERT are not forged, liked the CAT 3126, but consist of powdered metal with a fractured cap design. There are also various sizes and configuration of the connecting rods depending on the piston used in the engine.
Horsepower is the determining factor when choosing the piston configuration in the CAT C7. The two options include a taller aluminum piston with a 1.811 wrist pin for 230 hp and higher versions and a shorter 1.52 diameter one piece steel piston for engine configurations below 210 hp.
CAT C7 ACERT Technology
The CAT C7 includes the ACERT technology which is an air/fuel management system to control NOx emissions regulations. ACERT stands for “Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology”. Highlights of the ACERT technology include a closed crankcase breather and diesel particulate filter using CAT’s engineered regeneration technology. With the upgraded ECM the technology allows for a more precise control over the combustion cycle by monitoring the incoming air and fuel as well as the exhaust after treatment.
With the ACERT design the smaller CAT C7 models used an air inlet system with multiple traditional wastegated turbos to boost air intake flow and pressure. The more midsized hp models used only a single turbo while the larger horsepower models used dual turbochargers working in conjunction for optimal airflow. Within the design of the C7, the turbos use variable geometry valve actuation controlled by the ECM to adjust the perfect amount of airflow into the combustion chamber. This variable valve actuation also allows for the CAT C7 to offer an integral jake brake on two of the heavy duty diesel horsepower models.
The fuel delivery system on the CAT C7 is hydraulic electronically controlled unit injectors for the mid horsepower models and mechanically actuated and electronically controlled on the higher horsepower models. Both systems are metered and timed to inject multiple bursts of fuel to create a more efficient combustion cycle.
Lastly, the ACERT technology offers an exhaust after-treatment. The after-treatment technology reduces NOx particulate matter in the muffler via a spray of an oxidation catalyst agent. The after-treatment function is fairly straightforward and requires no additional cleaning or maintenance. Later ACERT technology on the CAT C13 and CAT C15 incorporated more advanced Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), Diesel Exhaust Fluid and more robust Diesel Particulate Filters.
CAT C7 ACERT Problems
With diesel engine technology there are two rating systems to determine the average life expectancy of the engine: B10 and B50. B10 is the average life expectancy of an engine measured in miles where 10% of the produced engines failed and needed a major overhaul. Consequently, B50 is the average miles where 50% of the engines failed. With the CAT C7 the B50 rating of 450,000-500,000 miles. This means half of the CAT C7 engines had a major engine failure at 500,000 miles and needed an overhaul. According to the B Rating System an “overhaul” or “major engine repair” is regarded as removal of the cylinder heads and/or dropping the oil pan with an inframe repair. Failures or parts replacement without removing the cylinder heads or dropping the oil pan are not counted in the B10 and B50 engine life statistics. This failure rate for the C7 isn’t terrible in relation to other diesel engines. For example the B50 rating for the popular Cummins 5.9 engine is only 350,000 miles. However, a Detroit Diesel 60 Series can easily go 1,000,000 miles before overhaul.
The ACERT Technology had a lot of problems for Caterpillar, first with the CAT C7 but more so later on with the CAT 13 and CAT 15 engines. The technology was really the first generation emissions technology for heavy duty diesel engines. The ACERT technology was prone to numerous regeneration issues. Drivers reported low power and low fuel economy. It was common that the CAT C7 ACERT engines would experience overheating when driving up an incline. The cooling fan does not kick in until 235 degrees Fahrenheit while many drivers reported overheating at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The engines run hotter to burn off more diesel particulate matter. Drivers are instructed to downshift to 1100 rpm when going up an incline to avoid overheating. Other issues regarding the CAT C7 ACERT technology is clogged diesel particulate filters as well as clogging of the inlet of the turbocharger. The ACERT technology was not well regarded due to its numerous issues with maintenance, fuel economy, and lowered horsepower. The company stopped producing over-the-road engines at the end of 2009 and elected not to meet the stricter 2010 emissions requirements by the EPA.
The original Caterpillar C7 would change configurations once again in 2007 to adjust to changing market demands. In 2007 diesel fuel itself changed to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel or ULSD. The fuel change dictated that the fuel system of the CAT C7 ACERT needed to change to a common-rail injection system. The new common-rail injectors took injection pressures to 25,000-27,500 psi. The fuel transfer pump supplies the fuel to the fuel rail at 280 psi. Overall, the common rail system worked well but added another system or point of failure within the CAT C7 Engine.
Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is thinner which means the fluid is vicious. Since the lubricity is lower this equates to better fuel circulation at a high pressure to keep the heat levels down. In the later 2007 models the turbocharger was also upgraded to variable nozzle technology which can offer appropriate boosts of horsepower at all engine rpms.
C7 Dimensions and Operating Capabilities
The Caterpillar C7 engine is an line 6 cylinder diesel fueled engine with a displacement of 7.2 liters. The maximum heavy duty hp dry weight is 1,425 lbs., with an oil capacity of 4.75 gallons or 6.75 gallons with the deeper sump pump and oil pan. The cooling system and water pump allow up to 3.99 gallons. The CAT C7 was available in 8 different horsepower ratings from 210 hp – 360 hp with torque ratings from 520-925 lb-ft of torque. The 330 hp and 360 hp models were only available in recreation vehicles and firefighting equipment. The first Caterpillar C7 models (210, 230 and 250 hp) were available in both low or high torque options. The torque options allowed for different transmission applications preferred by the various big truck manufacturers. Each manufacturer’s torque capacity was different and had to be matched with the CAT C7 of choice.
Overall the CAT C7 ACERT Engine represents the beginning of the end for Caterpillar’s long rein with over-the-road diesel engines. The company ultimately didn’t feel the cost of continuously producing emissions upgrades was worth the time and effort and exited the over the road industry in 2010 paving the way for Cummins and Paccar. Caterpillar still makes a great engine and continues to produce off-road construction equipment effected less by strict emissions regulations.
CAT C7 Engine Specs and Technical Data
|Engine Spec||Engine Data|
|Minimum Power||225 hp, 520 lbs-ft torque|
|Maximum Power||300 hp, 925 lbs-ft torque|
|Emissions Ratings||U.S. EPA Tier 3 Equivalent, China Stage II, EU Stage IIIA Equivalent|
|Engine Configuration||Inline 6, 4-Stroke-Cycle Diesel|
|Combustion System||Direct Injection|
|Fuel System||HEUI Injection, ACERT Technology|
|Computer System||ADEM A4 Electronic Control Unit|
|Dry Weight||1296 lbs.|
Remanufactured CAT C7 Engines
Considering the CAT C7 is prone maintenance is overhaul issues it is an engine we rebuild quite frequently here at Capital Reman. We offer two options when it comes to remanufactured CAT C7 ACERT and Non ACERT Engines:
We can remanufactured a brand new CAT C7 Engine on an exchange basis meaning we build a new engine from a core. When we deliver your brand new engine you simply send us your old core back. We have a very fair core return policy. If the camshaft, crankshaft, cylinder head and block are reusable we will return 100% of your core charge. If some of the internal components are worn beyond repair we will pro rate your return.
Our Longblock CAT C7 Engines include the cylinder block, complete cylinder head, crankshaft, pistons, liners, rings, connecting rods, camshaft, followers/lifters, intermediate cover, front gear timed group and complete gasket sets. Turbos, injectors, oil pumps and water pumps can also be ordered with the engine.
Repair & Return:
Repair and Return engines will follow the same procedure as remanufactured exchange engines however Capital Reman Exchange will rebuild the components provided by the customer. From time to time there are components that can not be remanufactured with the customer’s engine. In instances where parts can’t be remanufactured the cost of replacement parts or components will become the responsibility of the customer if they elect to replace them. There is no core charge associated with Repair & Return Engines.
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Call Capital Reman Exchange Today at 1-844-239-8101 For Immediate Caterpillar C7 Engine and Pats Sales or Service or Read Our FAQ Page to Learn More.
Three days after the election of President Elect Donald Trump the DOW Jones Industrial average hit an all time high with a finish of 18,873 points November 10th. Across the board companies are surging in the wake of a pro business administration.
Those among the celebratory crowd is Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) The heavy-machinery stock hit a 52 week high the day after the election and is up over 10% overall. The real question is whether or not expectations meet reality in the coming years.
Devalued Foreign Currency Struggle For U.S. Manufactures
Overall Caterpillar is up 33% this year with speculators correlating that this surge is due to Trump’s popularity in the primary elections and Trump’s support for the company mentioned in various Republican Debates. In January of 2016 Trump stated his disdain for foreign heavy equipment manufacturers such a Komatsu because American companies like Caterpillar have a hard time competing against a purposely devalued Yen currency.
Trump wants to put a stop to that type of manipulation which was caused by Japan’s central bank which he believes purposefully devalued the yen. This devalution in turn makes Komatsu’s machinery more affordable for U.S. companies to purchase than domestic Caterpillar equipment. Komatsu is the second largest heavy-equipment manufacturer in terms of revenue in the world only behind Caterpillar. Komatsu has also vowed to give Caterpillar a run for its money in terms of mining equipment with the purchase of Joy Global, CAT’s mining equipment rival. Donald Trump has promised to revive the coal industry in the United States which would be excellent news for all heavy-equipment manufactures as well as roll back EPA regulations that are costly for diesel engine manufactures like Caterpillar.
Up until this year Caterpillar has been in a slump with layoffs and plant closings around the United States and abroad. Caterpillar’s machinery sales have been down over 25% year over year and the company has reduced its construction equipment sales forecast for 2017, expecting weak sales to continue into the New Year. Komatsu on the other hand is only down about 2% over the year.
Increasing Tariffs on Foreign Equipment
The Trump victory has sent speculators into frenzy as many believe he will resort to imposing substantial tariffs on Japan and China to reduce the number of heavy machinery imports into the United States. This move should benefit the majority of equipment manufacturers but especially Caterpillar. In May, Trump sang the praises of the company stating how much he admired the inner workings of CAT Tractors and the people that work for the company. Trump is pro construction and pro growth and that is not to mention his promise of only using Caterpillar and John Deere equipment for the wall he is proposing to build between the U.S. and Mexico.
Speculation is just that… speculation. Imposing new tariffs and damaging already relaxed trade relations won’t be quick or easy. However, Caterpillar still stands to benefit from a Trump Presidency as infrastructure, energy and home development tend to take off after a lull. Reduced regulations can only be a positive for those in looking to do business in America. Donald Trump has expressed a desire to rebuild America’s old and crumbling infrastructure even proposing to spend over one trillion dollars on fixing highways, airports, dams and bridges over the next 10 years.
Hard Time For Caterpillar Inc. In Recent Years
Caterpillar may have been born in America however, it is a global company. Roughly 50% of its revenue comes from outside of North America. For really the past 30 years or so Caterpillar has rode the growth of developing markets and infrastructure outside the US. Growth has slowed in recent years for Caterpillar abroad. Most developing nations across the world have a basic to fair infrastructure that was upgraded/created from really nothing. A lot of modern roads, bridges, and drainage systems were put in place in the 1970-2000s and beyond for countries like India, Brazil, and China. Now that those networks are in place explosive growth has slowed.
Really the success of Caterpillar revolves around how quickly the international markets recover. A stronger yet more closed off America could also spell issues for Caterpillar which does import parts and machinery from its overseas facilities. It could be a double edged sword for the company. CEO Doug Oberhelman is expected to step down at the end of the year as his ambitious plan to sell more parts and service via aggressive policies backfired with Caterpillar dealers. Caterpillar is still overvalued from a stock perspective but this could shift if an explosion of growth takes place in the next few years domestically and abroad.
Trump’s goals are quite lofty and for some seem completely unreasonable but that if you look at Trump and his background this is exactly what he likes to do: build things. Trump has made a career of building up a small business empire of real estate such as casinos, hotels, golf courses, offices, condos and other resorts; even once owning Trump Airlines at one time. His ambitions are quite high and that can only bode well for Caterpillar here in America. Only time will tell how Trump’s policies will affect the heavy duty machinery industry and if his plans actually come to fruition, but ultimately Caterpillar is in better hands with the Trump Administration.
Sources – Chamaria, Neha. “How a Donald Trump Presidency Could Affect Caterpillar Inc. Stock.” The Motley Fool. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web.
In the automotive industry there are really two options when it comes replacement parts: OEM and Aftermarket Parts. We all know those guys that are die hard OEM people. They will swear to their dying day that OEM parts are vastly superior to their Aftermarket counter parts. They tell tales of “that one time” they got a sensor, gasket or O-Ring from a local auto parts supplier that didn’t fit quite right or failed right away. Expletives fly from their mouth at a rate of 1000 exploding suns as they go on and on about the horrible ordeal and cost them bookoo bucks. That’s all fine and well but what is the real truth?
Hersey can be dangerous. Typically, these stories are from the same guys who tell tales of fish they caught that were as big as a house and that they once dated a super model. Either everything is either larger than life or more horrible than trying to give a crocodile a root canal. The real truth is that the girl they once dated was the one that was as big as a house and the aftermarket part they bought was actually installed in an engine that was 47 years old; oh and by the way hadn’t had the oil changed in since the Reagan Administration.
To put this argument to rest once and for all let’s look at the facts regarding the OEM and Aftermarket parts industry.
OEM Parts Analysis:
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer which means the parts are directly made by the engine manufacturer in their facilities, not a third party manufacturer or subsidiary of the engine manufacturer.
- Supposed Quality Assurance: The OEM part is an exact replacement to what was originally in the engine. The fit is 100% guaranteed to be perfect and the peace of mind knowing the part will work as directed is guaranteed.
- Easy Parts Selection Process: There is no guess work to determine what part matches the one needed. One process, one parts software selection system and one simplified sales process.
- Manufacturer Warranty: OEM parts usually come with an unlimited miles 1 year warranty which is usually passed on by repair facilities.
- Extremely Expensive: OEM parts are, on average, 65% more expensive than Aftermarket parts. The Dealership model has always increased profits by charging a premium on warranties, service and parts. In fact, recently Caterpillar has pushed its dealers to sell more parts and preventative maintenance services. Many new machines come equipped with expensive computers and sensors which monitor the health of the entire system… but they also breakdown more easily. More repairs mean more $$$ for the dealers.
- Limited Places to Purchase: OEM parts can be bought on the secondary market in places such as eBay, Craigslist, or through salvage or reman facilities. However, the vast majority of consumers go to the dealer to purchase OEM parts due to availability. Machine shops and mechanics can purchase OEM parts but the process includes a substantial markup and additional time to order the parts.
- Questions of Superior Quality: The only reason to buy OEM parts is the peace of mind you get from receiving a part that is guaranteed to fit 100% of the time. However, many studies (discussed further in this article) have determined that the quality of the OEM vs. Aftermarket parts is minimal or none at all. Many aftermarket suppliers have also improved upon original OEM designs to produce a better quality product.
Aftermarket Parts Analysis:
Aftermarket parts are classified as parts that are manufactured by a third party company not affiliated with the original engine manufacturer.
- Cost Savings: The savings the consumer receives varies from brand to brand but overall the amount is significant. On average 65%. If the price seems too good to be true it probably is. The major aftermarket manufacturers are all ISO 9001 level facilities and have been around for 50+ years. It pays to do your homework instead of buying something randomly off the internet.
- Equal or Great Quality Than OEM: The quality of aftermarket parts has gone up significantly in just the past 10 years. There are thousands of aftermarket parts companies and the very best ones reverse-engineer the OEM design. Many times these companies will improve on the original design to make the part more efficient, stronger or fit better.
- Greater Selection: Since there are thousands of aftermarket suppliers you can find multiple vendors that make different variations of the same part. More vendors means a better variety of prices and models.
- Greater Convenience: The issue with dealing with OEM parts is that you are on the dealer’s time. Most often the dealer is going to have to order the part from a central warehouse. Aftermarket companies like NAPA and O’Riley have millions of parts right there in one location.
- Quality Variations: The vast majority of aftermarket suppliers produce excellent quality products. However, since there are thousands of suppliers there are bound to be some of lower quality manufacturers. It pays to do your homework to determine who the major players are in the aftermarket industry. If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is.
- Limited Warranties: Depending on the aftermarket company some may not come with a warranty to keep costs down. Others offer limited short term warranties. However, all of the big name companies tend to offer at least a 1 year warranty.
- Overwhelming Selection: With so many aftermarket parts to choose from it can be quite overwhelming to come to a decision on what is the best part for your particular need. With OEM you know the part number and you get an exact replacement. Slight variations and improvements in design can make the selection process difficult.
Legal Research and Court Cases
The answer is yes and no. A vehicle involved in an accident can be valued lower than one never damaged especially if there is overall structural loss, chassis damage or if the airbag deployed. That being said the parts used to make the repairs to the vehicle or engine will not have any impact on the resale value. There are two major court cases from IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) regarding OEM vs. Aftermarket Parts.
State Farm Ruling
The insurance industry as well as many in the automotive sector believe Aftermarket and OEM parts are of the same quality. The country’s largest auto insurer, State Farm, officially states that Non-OEM parts (Aftermarket) are equal to OEM parts. The use of aftermarket parts in vehicle replacements results in a savings in claims payouts that are then passed on to the customer. State Farm cites various crash tests by the IIHS in which non-OEM parts were found to perform equally or better than OEM parts.
State Farm also instituted blind tests to see if repair shops across the country could determine if there was a difference between OEM and Aftermarket Parts. According to the study an overwhelming number of repair facilities could not tell any significant difference between OEM and Aftermarket Parts. The test included a visual inspection as well as a post installation inspection. After the conclusion of the testing, State Farm, as well as other insurance and automotive manufacturers, created the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) as a non-biased organization to test the quality of Aftermarket Parts for the automotive industry. CAPA now provides millions of reviews, pricing and quality assurance information for the consumer on aftermarket auto parts.
The debate between OEM and Aftermarket Parts was first formally discussed by top industry organizations in the early 1980s. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is first and foremost concerned with consumer safety and is not affiliated with any automotive manufacturer. In 1987 the IIHS performed its first tests on Aftermarket Parts to determine the safety of Non-OEM parts. The IIHS performed two major aftermarket parts tests: the first one compared an OEM and Aftermarket hood in a 30 mph crash with a head on frontal barricade. The results of the tests determined that the Aftermarket Hood met all safety standards and reacted just like the OEM hood did.
The second IIHS test was performed in 1999 which compared two off-set frontal crashes at 40 miles per hour. An off-set crash basically consists of two cars “clipping” one another where the front driver side hits head on with another car’s front drivers side. The study tested OEM and Aftermarket hoods and front bumpers. The results of the test were the same as the one performed in 1987… there was no significant difference between the OEM and Aftermarket models.
The National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII) has studied the OEM vs. Aftermarket issue closely since 1995. The year 1995 was the first year multiple state legislators introduced bills forcing requirements, on to insurers, regarding Aftermarket parts. In 1999, 25 state bills were introduced, 18 in 2000 and 18 in the year 2001. Not one of the bills introduced and was ratified into law. On a federal level, the United States Department of Transportation has not found any safety hazards concerning the structural integrity of aftermarket parts. Of the millions of aftermarket parts on the market, there have been zero national recalls on Non-OEM parts in this country’s history. Not to say there have not been recalls of aftermarket parts however none have been structurally unsafe and warranted a national emergency. All parts, whether OEM or Aftermarket, must meet the guidelines of The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act which was enacted in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson. From an insurance standpoint most states do indeed have laws that require insurance companies to disclose if they use Aftermarket parts in vehicle claims but don’t require any specific manufacturer.
Illinois Court Ruling
Over the years there have been numerous legal battles fought over the issue of Aftermarket vs. OEM Parts. There have also been cases regarding the quality of recycled, refurbished or used parts. However, the law is more lenient, as the assumption is that the buyer is aware going into the transaction that the “automotive part or used diesel engine” is not brand new. The two most famous Aftermarket cases are the Illinois and Texas Court Decisions.
The most famous court case was Avery et al v State Farm in 2001 and ending in 2005. The class action lawsuit involved Policyholders of State Farm vs. State Farm Corporation regarding the quality of Aftermarket Parts in replacement vehicles. Policyholders argued that Non-OEM parts are inferior to OEM parts and thus unable to return a damaged vehicle to pre-accident condition as stated by State Farm’s auto policy. The plaintiff presented evidence from body shops and those in the auto parts industry stating that Aftermarket Parts are inferior to OEM Parts in shape, corrosion resistance, finish and quality. Attorneys stated that albeit Aftermarket Parts might be of similar structural integrity to OEM Parts, that oftentimes they are not galvanized properly to stand up to long-term corrosion which could lead to future safety concerns.
State Farm’s attorneys maintained a stance that Aftermarket Parts are in no way inferior to OEM Parts stating IIHS studies, a track record of zero national safety recalls and overall policyholder satisfaction numbers.
The original ruling was in favor of the policyholders for $1.05 billion judgement. However, in 2005 the ruling was overturned at the Illinois State Supreme Court. The $600 million in punitive damages as well as the $457 million award was reversed in favor of State Farm citing that corrosive evidence was anecdotal in nature and not widespread across the Aftermarket Parts industry as a whole.
Texas Court Ruling
The other large OEM vs. Aftermarket case occurred in the State of Texas. The 2000 case entitled Berry v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance stated the insurer violated the Texas Insurance Code by denying to cover the costs of OEM parts replacement. State Farm argued that Aftermarket Parts are essentially same parts, restored the vehicle to OEM condition and were not in violation of any insurance code (particularly 5.07.1). The policyholder’s main argument was that Aftermarket Parts are manufactured to slightly different specification and did not perfectly fit the vehicles they were intended for. They also argued that aftermarket parts are more likely to rust due to insufficient priming protection and that Non-OEM parts can void the manufacturer’s warranty thus reducing the resale value.
The defense team for State Farm countered the prosecution’s claims citing a 1996 memo from the Texas Department of Insurance (Governing Body of Insurance Related Matters in Texas) concerning the issue. The Texas Department of Insurance interpreted article 5.07.1 of the Texas Insurance Code as not having to “enforce extreme circumstances”. In layman’s terms, the Texas Department of Insurance does not believe in forcing insurers to provide OEM parts nor allowing the insurer to specify the types of parts the consumer has to choose in a replacement vehicle. The Texas Department of Insurance stated that the use of aftermarket parts actually benefits the consumer by saving them millions of dollars each year in lower insurance premiums. The Texas appellate court was sympathetic to the concerns of the policyholder but found it to be illogical to require OEM parts in every auto insurance claim regardless of age or working condition of the vehicle. Such obligations would be costly to the insurer and the policyholders in the long run. The court ruled in favor of State Farm and found that no contractual violation of article 5.07.1 had occurred. However the court did not make a ruling whether or not Aftermarket Parts were any different to OEM parts in terms of quality, corrosiveness resistance or compatible size.
International Standards Organization: (ISO Certification of Factories)
Many of the pre-conceived notions about Aftermarket Parts come from years of less than optimal quality standards from 1980-2000. Today, in 2016, things are much different. The vast majority of aftermarket parts are manufactured overseas. That doesn’t mean the quality is junk. In fact most parts are made in facilities that rival those in the United States. Factories are ISO-9001 level production facilities. International Standards Organization (ISO 9000 level) of certification was first created in 1987 and is based on the BS 5750 series of production standards which were first proposed in 1979. However, production standards and certifications can be traced back to 1959 with the creation of MIL-Q-9858 standards with the United States Department of Defense. The international community created the ISO to help level the playing field for companies worldwide interested in becoming the best at manufacturing and streamlining processes. ISO standards also benefit the consumer by adding a layer of advocacy to protect uninformed customers.
ISO 9001 certification is not something that is handed out easily. The amount of paperwork and scrutiny over procedures is quite detailed and laborious. ISO Certification can take years to finally achieve. ISO Certification is a mechanism for improving results such as production time, safety standards, design and engineering, vendor management, employee satisfaction, cycle time reduction and inventory reduction within a production environment. The international organization focuses on 8 core principles: Customer Focus, Leadership, Involvement of People, Process Approach, System Approach to Management, Continual Improvement, Factual Approach to Decision Making and Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships. All of the major aftermarket companies require their manufactures overseas to be ISO 9001 certified.
The truth is that OEM Parts and Aftermarket Parts are all made by the same ISO facilities overseas. Many consumers think that buying a genuine OEM part means that the manufacturer personally makes the part in U.S. factories. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The same suppliers overseas make the exact same parts for the OEM and the Aftermarket companies. There are many subsidiaries that go into making OEM parts. The only difference is the box they go in and the price. Yes some parts are manufactured in the U.S. however the vast majority are not.
So there you have it. In this little journey of ours we have gone over the pros and cons of Aftermarket vs. OEM parts, presented court cases and industry analysis’ as well as showed you evidence of where so called “OEM” parts are truly made. The decision is now yours whether or not you want to purchase Aftermarket Parts but don’t worry we won’t hold it against you if you want to go the OEM route… just remember peace of mind is only a state of mind and not necessarily the truth. But hey ignorance is bliss right!?
Olson, Robin. “Auto Manufacturer Parts versus After-Market Parts: A Question of Quality.” International Risk Management Institute. N.p., 7 Nov. 2001. Web. https://www.irmi.com/.
Nutt, Jeremy. “OEM vs Aftermarket: Are Auto Parts Created Equal?” 1A Auto Parts. N.p., 22 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://blog.1aauto.com/>.
Hutter, John. “CCC: OEM Made up More of Auto Body Parts Costs in 2014; Labor Rates up Slightly.” Repairer Driven News. Driven Communications Inc., 01 Apr. 2015. Web. <http://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2015/03/26/ccc-oem-made-up-more-of-auto-body-parts-costs-in-2014-labor-rates-up-slightly/>.
Gordon, Dennis. “OEM vs. Aftermarket Diesel Suppliers.” Colorado, Denver. 1 Sept. 2016. Capital Reman Exchange. Web. <http://capitalremanexchange.com/>.