Rebuilt, Remanufactured or Used Parts ... Which Do I Use?

You're faced with a major auto repair such as an engine, transmission, or differential replacement. Your service provider asks you, "Do you want rebuilt, remanufactured, or used parts?" The price differences are significant. To make an educated decision, you first need to know how these three solutions to the same problem compare. And secondly, which one is best for your situation?

First, let's identify the differences between these three choices.

Rebuilt Parts

If you choose rebuilt parts, the rebuilder will use your vehicle's old part and replace just the worn components. If your vehicle's old part cannot be rebuilt because it is too worn, he/she will use a part from another vehicle (referred to as a 'core'). If a core is used, than he will replace only what is needed in the core. For example, if an engine is rebuilt, maybe just the bearings and piston rings need replacing (the original crankshaft, pistons, and connecting rods would be used). This approach, in lieu of using new or remanufactured parts, usually saves the customer money.

There's just one glitch. Mechanical wear is relative. Before rebuilding, all of the components within the unit are equally worn. After rebuilding, some of the components are new, and some are 'used.' Although the 'used' components still function and do not need replacing, they are worn to some degree. Such factors as heat stress and cracks, as well as other factors, cause wear that is invisible to the human eye. Consequently, other problems could crop up later, resulting in premature failure of the 'repair.'

Remanufactured Parts

What is a remanufactured part? The term remanufactured usually (not always) refers to a part that, for all practicable purposes, has been completely remanufactured to the standard of a new part. Using a remanufactured engine as an example, mechanical tolerances have been restored either by re-machining, or by installing the necessary mechanical inserts to restore original mechanical tolerances. Either way, the engine meets the standard for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tolerances, durability, and quality. New pistons, connecting rods, rings, bearings, camshafts, lifters, and oil pump are installed. All related bearing surfaces are restored, and the upper half of the engine, such as the cylinder heads, are rebuilt. Usually the only component from the old engine that is used is the body (or casting, usually referred to as a 'core'). And this part is only used if it is in top-notch condition, to assure longevity of the service. These same rules apply to other remanufactured auto parts, whatever they may be. You will find that remanufactured auto parts usually carry a longer and stronger warranty, covering parts and labor for longer periods of time, compared to rebuild parts.

Used Parts

What about used auto parts? Let me start with a well known Latin expression, "Caveat Emptor." Translation? "Let the buyer beware." YES, used auto parts have their place in auto repair. And NO, I am not discouraging the use of used parts. BUT, be careful when buying them!

When selecting a salvage yard from which to purchase used auto parts, look the place over! Is it clean and well organized? Are the parts in order and sheltered from the environment? (Too many times I have seen delicate electrical components laying out in the weather and then picked up off the ground and sold to an unsuspecting customer.) What kind of cars does the salvage yard have in its inventory? Late model, import, or old clunkers? There's nothing wrong with a good mix of all of the above. However, if the yard is loaded with outdated rust buckets, move on! There are many respected salvage yards that take pride in their businesses and in serving their valued customers. And be especially careful when buying certain used auto parts, specifically engines, transmissions, differentials, hydraulic units, and electrical parts.

They are subject to the environment and can rust and wear away internally where you can't see it. Look for a salvage yard that has an organized dry storage building on the premises, with everything neatly stacked and categorized. In addition, I like to see an up-to-date computer system used to cross reference parts. And I also like to see the salvage yard connected to a network of salvage yards via computer across either the region or nation. This is especially helpful if you need a hard-to-find part for a particular year, make, and model.

In selecting used parts, ask about the warranty and the return policy. Also, watch the way in which the part(s) is removed from the vehicle. I've seen yard attendants use oxygen-acetylene torches to remove parts that should have been removed with wrenches and hand tools. I've also seen yard attendants use forklift trucks to carry parts across yards, and then drop them in front of the facility, denting and/or damaging the part. Am I condemning salvage yards? No, just the 'chop shops.' Ask around, you'll find out who they are.

So what should you use? Rebuilt parts, remanufactured parts, or used parts? When selecting auto parts for an effective auto repair, first determine exactly what plan you have in mind for your vehicle. To keep it long term? Mid term? Or to "get by" until next spring when you replace it? For most of us who do not work on our own vehicles, it is our service advisor's job to determine what we need based on our plan for the vehicle. Our responsibility lies in communicating this information! Only then can he/she find the right parts for an effective repair based on our budget, needs, and goals. When I was a service manager, I always asked my customers a lot of questions. Who drives the car? How often? Will the car be expected to make long trips frequently or periodically? Is it your son or daughter's car and are they going to college? All these factors come into play to help you make a wise repair decision. So make sure that you have a trusted advisor leading you through such significant repair decisions and ...

'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'

Check out Our Autos Repair Blog and Read More from Tom:

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