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Low price or good quality?

The remanufactured part that arrived for this old Jeep was defective right out of the box.

The remanufactured part that arrived for this old Jeep was defective right out of the box.

People have always shopped for bargains, but I suppose you could credit today’s low-price, big-box store concept that is a magnet for bargain hunters to Sam Walton. His creation, Walmart, spearheaded the trend. As a result, I wonder if he’s changed the way all of us consumers now think. We seem to always concentrate on finding the lowest price, rather than wondering if we can get service or help with a purchase. For those of us that live in small towns, it’s common to hold off on a purchase until we make a day trip into the city so we can buy it at the lowest possible price in one of those warehouse stores.

Of course, often getting what we want is only possible if we do travel to the city. Small town merchants don’t—and just can’t—carry large inventories.

Online shopping has added fuel to the low-price fire, even for auto parts. Some big parts suppliers have tailored themselves to the online buyer, and they’ll ship practically any part out to you via courier. Although, finding a way to accept a courier delivery when you have a rural address can be another story, entirely!

Last week I happened to be in need of an auto part. I went into my local auto parts store to order it. The generator crapped out in my old CJ5, and there was really no rush to get a replacement, other than I was missing some great weather for evening trips with the top down.

After a wait, the store supplied me with a remanufactured replacement generator. The price tag was only $190. Far less than I expected, so my inner bargain hunter felt satiated.

Now all I needed to do was take a quick slide under the Jeep to bolt it on and hook it up so I could get back on the trails and enjoy the nice cruising weather. After installing it, I touched a lead to the field terminal on the regulator to polarize it. When I did, I got a pretty strong spark, much stronger than should have occurred. My multimeter confirmed things just weren’t right after a voltage test; the generator wasn’t charging.

After double checking my wire connections and doing a little head scratching I went to start the old Jeep for another voltage check, only to find the battery stone dead. The leads and the generator body were hot enough to cook a gilled cheese sandwich. After a few more tests, a mechanic friend and I came to the conclusion the internal field coils were shorted to the generator body.

I know auto parts stores aren’t fond of taking back electrical components, because many of them can be damaged by improper installation. So I wasn’t looking forward to convincing the store manager the part was faulty. But when I walked up to the counter and explained the problem, the clerk said, “That’s the third one this week”.

Say what?

Since the generator was in a box marked “starter” I’m sure he was referring to other types of rebuilt components from that auto electric re-manufacturer. There can’t be that many generators still in use around here.

So I started to wonder why a rebuilder would be sending out a stream of defective, newly remanufactured parts. Don’t these guys do a quick test to ensure the things work? The obvious answer is, apparently not. But why not?

Dropping the parts in a test rig for a quick check before they get packed in a box and sent out the door to a customer couldn’t take all that long. I know mistakes happen, but why wouldn’t testing each finished part be a standard policy? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe it is and that’s where an additional mistake occurred.

Hopefully, this company doesn’t think competing in the low-cost parts market means saving manufacturing costs by skipping the testing step. If it is, the old adage, “you get what you pay for”, may be coming back to bite us. Having my old vehicle tying up space in the shop waiting for a working part isn’t saving me any money or time.

Scott

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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