Whenever you are in the market for a starter or alternator, a number of factors must be considered: cost, reliability, availability, etc. But none of those are likely as important as one question that should be asked of the supplier: What is the remanufacturing process for this particular part?

Suppliers, both local shops and original equipment manufacturers, have their own definitions of what constitutes remanufactured, so knowing the process used can help in determining whether you are purchasing a quality part. And don't confuse a remanufactured part with a rebuilt part, either, because for most remanufacturers, they are not the same thing.

There remains a big difference between remanufactured parts and rebuilt parts, says Bruce Purkey, president of Purkey's Fleet Electric, which remanufactures all major brands of alternators and starters. “The real difference is one person is going to fix what's broke and the other is going to fix or replace whatever needs to be,” he says.

Purkey says a rebuilt alternator or starter will be fixed with the broken items replaced. By checking, inspecting and testing each part in the product, and replacing parts that do not meet original equipment specs, a remanufactured item can be brought back to like-new condition.

“I think, in all honesty, if properly tested, a remanufactured alternator or starter is just as good as a new one,” Purkey points out. Purkey says a remanufactured starter from his company will include many new parts, including bushings, wicks, caps for the wick covers, brushes, field coils, solenoid and the associated parts (only the coil may be reused), and brake washer. “Everything else can be reused if they meet manufacturer specs,” Purkey explains.

ALL PARTS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

Most remanufacturers will reuse parts. The quantity will vary, but all agree that “known wear” parts will be replaced automatically. Jim Lewis, executive vice president of Denso subsidiary American Industrial Manufacturing Services (AIMS), says there is no golden rule when it comes to the life expectancy of a remanufactured part. “Life span can vary customer by customer and usage by usage,” he says.

AIMS remanufactures only Denso products. Lewis explains that about 60% of the parts in an alternator and 80% of the parts in a starter are reusable. But just because parts are reused doesn't mean they are inferior products. “We tear the part down and we check every part we intend to reuse,” Lewis says. “In the remanufacturing process, certain parts are known wear parts and they are replaced automatically.”

WHAT WAS OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Although Delco Remy remanufactures most major brands, about 85% of its product line is comprised of original Delco Remy products. However, the goal is always to bring the product back to original equipment specifications, regardless of make.

“One of the approaches we take is we'll remanufacture a product back to OE specifications at its time,” says Kent Jones, vice president, North American heavy-duty sales and marketing for Delco Remy. This allows fleets with older engines to receive a quality product suited to the vehicle's needs. In fact, for fleets with older vehicles, remanufactured may be the best option. “A remanufactured product is an excellent choice,” Jones says, due to its cost and warranty coverage. According to Jones, Delco Remy's products generally include a 1 yr./unlimited mileage warranty, but that could be extended up to three years in some cases. And for any original Delco Remy product with a warranty still remaining, the company will honor that warranty with the remanufactured replacement.

Changing emissions regulations have increased the importance and attention on remanufactured parts, Jones says. Some fleets may have '04, '07 or '10 engines with three differently spec'd starters for instance, Jones adds. The needs of the products have changed in a number of ways, including the output needed and the engine temperatures they must handle to accommodate those changes.

As for quality, Jones recommends sticking with an original equipment manufacturer. Local remanufacturers may do a good job, he says, but trying to match the OE's specs can be tough and can lead to inconsistencies in the product. “There's rarely a time where the factory product isn't the best option,” he says.

For customers, one of the biggest selling points is warranty. Customers buying a new starter can oftentimes expect a warranty to last several years, while a remanufactured starter might carry a 1-yr. warranty. Purkey says the remanufactured item should last just as long as the new starter, provided there are no other problems in the vehicle, such as electrical, that would impact the starter's operation.

“A remanufacturer cannot build the quality into the [trucks],” he says. “I assume [the fleet] has done everything they're supposed to do” to ensure the products will last their useful life. In fact, Purkey says, there is very little difference between a remanufactured item and a new item.

“If I took one of my remanufactured units from the box and put it next to a new one, you couldn't tell the difference because they have all the same parts,” he says.

“Everybody has their own spec and that's why I would lean to [original equipment providers],” AIMS's Lewis says. Lewis suggests sticking with known suppliers when making a purchase. “It would be based on the reputation of the supplier,” he adds. “If you're buying from a person who is not as [reputable], you may have problems. But if you buy from us, you're probably buying your last product. The smartest thing to do is find the best brand and stick with it.”

A TRULY GREEN PROCESS

Remanufacturers also proudly point to the green factor of their product. “Remanufacturing has been around for a long time,” Jones says. “We've been doing it for 25 to 30 years. It's the ultimate form of green manufacturing.”

According to Jones, the remanufacturing process for alternators and starters recycles between 50 and 75% of the parts and uses just 30% of the energy that it takes to build a new product. “A lot of companies that focus on sustainability are missing an opportunity” by not buying remanufactured products, Jones says.

In addition to local reman shops, Jones says, OEs are facing increasing pressure from offshore providers, which may offer new alternators or starters at a cost similar to that of a remanufactured product. The trouble with that, he adds, is the quality may not be the same, so while the product is new, it may be inferior to a remanufactured unit. “In most cases, the offshore one, which is a private label product, won't live up to the OE's product,” Jones says. “In fact, we've never tested one that has met our standards.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEBSITES:

Purkey's Fleet Electric
www.purkeys.net

Denso
www.densoheavyduty.com

Delco Remy
www.delcoremy.com