Keeping up with quality
VIC OLIVER discusses the pros and cons of buying and fitting alternative parts to a vehicle
Truck and bus operators in South Africa have a wide selection of alternative parts that they can purchase, which are often a lot cheaper than the genuine replacement parts.
I have no problem with the use of alternative parts, but caution operators to examine them well to ensure that they meet the quality standard of the original parts, that they have been approved by the vehicle original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and have a South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) marking.
Using alternative parts that have not been approved by the vehicle manufacturer can jeopardise the vehicle warranty, especially when original fuel and air filters have been replaced with alternative parts.
Many truck and bus manufacturers also stipulate that if a vehicle is on a maintenance contract with the manufacturer or the dealer, only genuine replacement parts may be fitted.
Insurance claims can also be rejected if a vehicle is in an accident and it can be proved that an inferior alternative part was fitted to the vehicle, which failed in operation and was the cause of the accident.
Normally insurance companies are happy with the use of alternative vehicle body parts provided that the quality is good. They often encourage operators to use approved alternative or second-hand parts in an effort to reduce the repair costs on vehicles that are outside their warranty period.
The durability and quality of the alternative part also has to be taken into consideration.
A good example of a non-genuine, poor-quality part, which was fitted to a truck and failed within a few months and had to be replaced with a genuine part, is a right-hand cab door.
The original door had been damaged in an incident where the outside mirror of the vehicle had hit the outside mirror of an oncoming truck on a dark narrow road one night. The impact was so severe that the entire door was damaged beyond repair.
The non-genuine door was fitted and, from the outside, looked like a perfect match. However, it was not long before the door started to disintegrate, due to the very weak interior door structure that could not support the mirror bracket.
Special caution has to be taken when buying replacement parts that have a direct effect on the safety of the vehicle. Poor-quality brake drums that contain insufficient chrome and copper are available in South Africa, for example.
Insufficient chrome in the steel results in the lack of hardness, which, in turn, reduces the life of the drum. Insufficient copper in the steel results in a very poor heat dispensation of the brake drum, which causes it to overheat and crack.
Clearly, the original saving that may have been gained from the purchase of the cheaper brake drum is completely lost when it fails and has to be replaced. Plus, the safety of the vehicle is put at risk by using these inferior brake drums.
Vehicle downtime is a major cost factor affecting the profitability of the company. Serious thought therefore needs to be given to the money that can be saved by the purchase of the cheaper alternative part, compared to the saving that can be derived from operating a more-efficient, durable and safe vehicle that has been maintained using good-quality, approved alternative or genuine parts.