Bottom Line
All parts are not created equal
Especially when you throw refurbished ones into the mix. Here are the top 10 parts you're better off buying new.

By Jeff Barker, Land Line contributor

Let’s face it; components in trucks see hard use over a long period of time. They often need to be replaced because of normal wear and tear.

In many cases, it is shortsighted to buy the cheaper refurbished parts instead of spending a few more bucks to avoid problems down the road.

There is justification in rebuilding engines and driveline components. However, you’re better off replacing other items with new parts – especially if you’re going to hang on to the truck for a long time.

You can reduce your chances of being stuck somewhere waiting on a tow truck or road service by spending a few more bucks now instead of a lot more later.


Air dryers should be replaced every 12 to 18 months. Although rebuilt units are available for a lower price, any warranty offered is generally for a much shorter period of time than on a new air dryer. You also run the risk that internal corrosion and rust could go unnoticed during the remanufacturing process. That can result in debris being forced into air passages throughout the rest of the truck’s air system.


It has been a tradition for many shops to send alternator cores out to be rebuilt. Rebuilders are out to turn a profit and will replace only internal items they find defective instead of every wear item. That means you could end up with a “refurbished” unit failing a few months later because of a rotor shaft bushing or a fried diode block.

If your alternator has any age on it at all, or you recently replaced your truck’s alternator – especially with a refurbished one – then it would be beneficial to buy another new one as a spare to carry with you.

3 A/C

If you’re going to deal with the trouble and expense of repairing the air conditioning system in the first place, then do it right the first time with a new A/C compressor. While truck air conditioning systems are more reliable than they used to be, the most common weak link is the front seal on the compressor. The heat from the engine compartment causes them to fail. A refurbished compressor often has components out of tolerance, which increases the chance of failure.


The air compressor has both engine oil and coolant flowing through it when the engine is running. If coolant starts to leak into the engine’s crankcase and goes undetected, you can kiss the engine rods and main bearings goodbye.

It’s best to go with a new part so this is less likely to happen. Also, as high as the labor bill is to replace this item, it makes sense to do it right to begin with.


Pancakes anyone? It used to be a normal practice to just replace the air brake chamber diaphragms, commonly referred to as “pancakes.” Not now. Rust and internal corrosion, not to mention parking brake springs that weaken over time, are just a few of the reasons to replace the entire brake chamber. Besides, it’s not safe to disassemble a brake chamber so don’t even think about it. Get new ones.


Brake drums are not expensive to purchase new, so don’t even bother getting them resurfaced. When you increase the inner circumference of the brake drums by “turning” them or buying turned drums, the brake shoes won’t make full contact, which reduces braking power.


Brake valves often fail because of internal corrosion. Replace with a new part.


Friction discs and pressure plates in clutches are not rebuilt as often as they used to be. But, beware, some are still out there on the market. If the truck that the rebuild core came from was used in a rough environment, the clutch could fail again, and soon. For example, the center hub of the friction disc could separate from the outer area, leaving you stuck on the side of the road. Also, the springs in the pressure plate may not be strong enough and could result in your clutch slipping prematurely. Buy new, as tow bills and clutch jobs are not cheap.


Like an air compressor, an internal seal failure on a water pump could cause coolant to end up in the engine’s oil. Water pumps on the new emission-compliant engines require

a lot more labor to replace. Take a look at the water pump location on a post-10/02 Detroit Series 60 or Cat Acert engine with dual turbochargers. The location and labor charges dictate that it’s best to go with a new water pump.


When safety is on the line, who would want to go cheap on a windshield wiper motor? Whether you have an electric or an air wiper motor (the latter being more common on older trucks built through the mid-1990s), go with a new part.

In the end, make your decision not solely on the cost of the part, but also on longer life expectancy and performance. LL

Jeff Barker is an OOIDA member and a former certified diesel mechanice. He can be reached