Join the Car Talk Community!

I recently needed a new alternator for my Chevy When...

RSS
Dear Tom and Ray:



I recently needed a new alternator for my Chevy. When I
asked about getting a "rebuilt" alternator, it was
recommended that I purchase a "remanufactured" alternator
instead. There is a substantial price difference (the
remanufactured one is more expensive). Are there any other
differences, other than the extended warranty on the
remanufactured? Or, is this just a way to get more money for
the same old thing by using a "new and improved" name? --
Jean

RAY: Even though "remanufacturing" sounds like a far more
thorough process, it's actually exactly the same as
"rebuilding." The terms are interchangeable, Jean. But that
doesn't necessarily mean the two products are.

TOM: According to Scott Parker of the Automotive Parts
Rebuilders Association, a "rebuilt" or "remanufactured" part
is one that has been disassembled, cleaned, examined for
what parts need to be replaced, fitted with those parts, and
reassembled. And if the final product meets or exceeds
original specifications for the product, the APRA considers
it "rebuilt" or "remanufactured."

RAY: Now, that doesn't mean that all rebuilders or
remanufacturers use that process, or that every part called
"rebuilt" or "remanufactured" meets or exceeds ANYTHING.
Like any other product you buy, some are well-made, and some
are cheap junk. And how do you know the difference? You make
an educated guess based on price, warranty and most
important, reputation.

TOM: Your mechanic should be able to tell you about the
reputation of a given rebuilder or remanufacturer. He's
probably put their parts in other people's cars and knows
what their failure rate has been.

RAY: Price, all by itself, doesn't tell you much. But in
more cases than not, you get what you pay for. So if a deal
sounds too good to be true, there's probably a good reason
for it. An especially cheap part may have been shoddily
rebuilt, rebuilt with inferior parts, or simply
spray-painted and stuck in a box.

TOM: And the length of warranty tells you something about
how much confidence the rebuilder or remanufacturer has in
his part. It tells you how long he's willing to stand behind
the product and replace it if it fails.

RAY: So if I were you, Jean, in this case, I'd lean toward
the "remanufactured" alternator. Not because the name is
more impressive, but because I'm skeptical of a cheap price
and a "5/50" type of warranty (five minutes or 50 feet from
the garage entrance).

TOM: Just make sure your mechanic will also do the REPLACING
under the warranty. It doesn't do you that much good if your
"remanufactured" alternator dies, and your mechanic simply
hands you a new one and says, "Here you go; it's covered by
warranty ... the installation instructions are in the box."

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login / Signup
Support for Car Talk is provided by:

Donate Your Car,
Support Your NPR Station

...and get a tax break!

Get Started

Find a Mechanic


Go



Submit