Bottom Line
Remanufacturing entire trucks

by Bill Siuru

Many owner-operators rely on remanufactured alternators, starters and even complete engines. Research by international marketing consultants, Frost & Sullivan, shows the market for remanufactured Class 6, 7 and 8 truck engines was over $94 million in 1998 and is expected to grow immensely in the future. Part of this growth will come about because of higher truck prices as manufacturers face the tougher emissions regulations that go into effect in 2002. Therefore, many owners are likely to opt for remanufactured engines to extend the lives of existing trucks.

The Frost & Sullivan research indicates that the source of replacement engines has shifted from rebuilts in machine shops to OEM engine makers that remanufacture them. The complexity of modern engines has made rebuilding more difficult for smaller operations. Also because of today's longer warranties, defective engines are more likely to be returned to engine makers.

The future is here. Freightliner is already remanufacturing complete trucks. Freightliner's new Legacy Class of Class 8 conventional trucks uses major components from 1992-93 Class 8 cabover trucks. The Legacy Class combines a brand new cab and chassis with a remanufactured Detroit Diesel engine, remanufactured Eaton transmission and rebuilt Eaton rear axles. The engine, transmission and rear axle components all are reclaimed from the used cabover and restored to new-truck condition.

For Freightliner, the Legacy Class helps solve the problem of the large number of used COE trucks Freightliner will take in on-trade over the next few years. The remanufacturing process begins when a used cabover is dropped off at a Freightliner SelecTrucks used truck center. From there, it is trucked to Columbus, OH, for disassembly. Engines, transmissions and rear axles are removed from the truck and sent to different remanufacturing facilities.

Engines go to a Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing Corp. facility in Cambridge, OH, where they are totally disassembled, baked to remove grease and corrosion, and refinished with a steel shot blaster. After the parts are cleaned and restored to their original gray finish, every piece is inspected and any areas out of spec are reworked to bring everything back to blueprint tolerances. The engines are re-assembled with remanufactured injectors, pistons and rods. A DDEC III engine electronics package is also added. According to DDC, there is virtually no difference between a remanufactured engine and a new engine. The Legacy Class's 11.1-liter, Series 60 DDC engine is rated at 350 hp with a remanufactured 365-hp version optional.

The Eaton RTF-13609A 9-speed transmissions are remanufactured by Eaton in Kalamazoo, MI, to the same specifications and tolerances as the day they first rolled off the assembly line. Since the Legacy is offered with an optional 13-speed overdrive transmission, some of the 9-speeds are converted by changing the back box. The Eaton DS402 rear axles are rebuilt by DDC Remanufacturing in Tooele, UT. After disassembly to the smallest nuts, bolts and washers, individual parts then are baked to remove grease and road salt and subjected to various cleaning and welding processes. They are then restored to factory spec, re-painted and re-assembled with new bearings, nuts, bolts, washers, studs and plugs.

Remanufactured engines, transmissions and rear axles are shipped to Freightliner's Mt. Holly, NC, truck manufacturing plant. In Mt. Holly, they meet up with the new steel cab and chassis. The Legacy Class is built on a 112-inch wheelbase with a cab from the Freightliner FLS 112. Finally, the new Legacy Class trucks are delivered back to dealers.

Any remaining parts from the original cabover are sold off. Cabs, starters, electrical components, steering gears, fan clutches, fuel tanks and aluminum wheels are either sold as used parts or remanufactured for retail sale. The company plans to produce 600-800 of these remanufactured conventionals in 1999.

The Legacy Class is engineered as a true Freightliner production vehicle, assembled to factory standards on the Freightliner assembly line. The Legacy carries a comprehensive warranty. Powertrains are covered for two years/200,000 miles; cab structure and hood for three years/300,000 miles; and frame rails for six years/750,000 miles. A full coverage warranty extends for one year/100,000 miles.

Freightliner may broaden the program to remanufacture other used trucks in the future. To make it work, however, it has to start with the same kind of trucks with the same kind of components. According to the company, co-mingling components complicates the remanufacturing process and loses economies of scale. Freightliner plans to search the nation's truck inventory for other candidates for remanu-facturing and they don't necessarily have to be cabovers. Down the road, ten-year old Freightliner conventionals may be a suitable choice for remanufacturing.

This article was researched and written by William D. Siuru, Jr., PhD, PE, a technology journalist who resides in Colorado Springs, CO.