Featured Article: Buy new or redo?

Max Kvidera | April 01, 2010

Betts says determining whether to repair or rebuild or replace comes down to cost. “If you can’t save 25 percent over the cost of a new part, you may not want to buy the rebuilt part.”

Dolce notes that one of your biggest cost items is your tires, and the best way to get more mileage and save money is to recap your casings. When tires in any of the three positions wear down to around 5⁄32nds, it’s time to recap. He recommends “cold caps” – where the temperatures of the casing and the new tread are the same when they bond – at $150 to $175, over “hot caps,” which are better suited for low-speed applications, at half the price. “Recap your own casings, not someone else’s,” he says.

Owner-operator Lenny Bower uses oil analysis to help him decide when to overhaul his engine or make other significant repairs.

Other components that can be rebuilt are brakes, steering mechanisms and suspensions. Measure brake shoes and drums to decide if they need to be replaced, Dolce says. If you can avoid scoring of the drums and use your existing shoes, you’re many dollars ahead.

A good core is key to rebuilding electrical parts like the alternator and starter. Using a diagnostic tool costing $1,200 to $1,500, you can check the amperage to see if the components are drawing too much. If you can head off the premature deterioration of the starter’s core, Dolce says, you can buy a rebuilt unit for $750 or less, about half the cost of a new one. “If it gets three-fourths the life of a new starter, it’s worth doing,” he says.

Choosing to replace

Owner-operator Gordon Bow usually believes new is better. If he’s having a brake job done, replacing springs or repairing a transmission or differential, everything will be new.

“When it comes to a transmission or differential, nowadays most are going to get 750,000 to a million miles,” Bow says. “I would not put in new parts and new bearings in half of it and not do it all. If there’s any doubt in my mind that any part of that housing isn’t going to hold a bearing snug, then I would go brand new, especially if you’re going to keep the truck” for another 500,000 to 750,000 miles.

But it’s not always an open and shut case with Bow, especially with an engine. Once he put a new engine in an aging truck that was later totaled in an accident. The insurance settlement was for $7,000. “I didn’t feel I could afford a new truck or wanted a truck payment, but in the long run I would have been better off getting a truck and payments,” he says.

After the accident, he bought a new truck. Within six months, he says the new truck with new technology and better fuel economy was “pulling me out of the debt of the old truck and being out of work for three months.”

When deciding what to do with components such as the turbo, air compressor, alternator and air dryer, Lenny Bower will usually opt to replace with new. “Cheapest isn’t always your best value,” he says. “You can recore radiators, but these days you can buy brand-new for what you spend to take it out and wait a day or two to have it recored.”

When it comes to alternators or starters, Betts doesn’t recommend rebuilding. “There’s minimal savings with the rebuild and you’re getting a warranty with new parts,” he says. “Determining value depends on the component cost, longevity of the parts, warranty and how long you’re going to own the truck.”

Owner-operator Bow says repairing items one at a time costs more in the long run. Instead of replacing a single liner or piston, spend the extra few hundred dollars and replace all six pistons. “You start putting new parts against old parts in an engine, and the good one is going to take more of the load than the other five,” he says. n

Deciding factor: Cost per mile

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