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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Publisher
6/19/24 3:56 p.m.

I’m sorry, but this column is an unserviceable assembly. You see, modern magazines are really complicated, and when a column like this happens, it’s just not feasible for mere mortals like us to open them up and fix them. Instead, we’ll need to replace the whole page as an assembl…

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ClearWaterMS
ClearWaterMS HalfDork
6/19/24 4:57 p.m.

i'm suprised you didn't touch on right to repair and the concept that owners of items should have the same access to diagnostic data, tooling, and spare parts that professionals do.  

this issue doesn't just affect expensive german sports cars but things like farming tractors, cell phones, and a host of other things.  

theruleslawyer
theruleslawyer Reader
6/19/24 6:17 p.m.

It seems that more and more its being done to thwart home and 3rd party repair all together. If they don't repair anything its probably a lot easier to side step any legal requirements.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/19/24 6:35 p.m.

If it's an unserviceable assembly, Porsche also doesn't have to stock spare parts - only complete assemblies. From a parts department standpoint, I can see the appeal.

It could very well be that Tom has access to the same tooling and spare parts that the Porsche pros do.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Publisher
6/19/24 6:40 p.m.

I thought about getting into right to repair, and am clearly an advocate for it, but just didn't have the space in this column destined for print to do it justice. I'll cover it in detail in the future. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
6/19/24 7:34 p.m.
ClearWaterMS said:

i'm suprised you didn't touch on right to repair and the concept that owners of items should have the same access to diagnostic data, tooling, and spare parts that professionals do.  

this issue doesn't just affect expensive german sports cars but things like farming tractors, cell phones, and a host of other things.  

You assume that professionals have that information too.

Getrag is notorious for not selling repair parts and not even providing service information like tolerances, torque specs, anything. Replace as assembly.  The third party people who rebuild them must be inventing their own specs to be able to do what they do.

 

Audi didn't sell engine block components for some of their V8s.  If it needed bearings, there were no part numbers other than a shortblock.  If it needed rings... well to be fair the rings lasted longer than the coated aluminum bores so this was unlikely.

 

Fiat take this to the extreme.  Wiper switch is bad in your Dodge Dart? It's only sold as a steering column assembly.  Need stabilizer links for your Promaster? The only part number is a stabilizer bar assembly.

 

JimS
JimS Reader
6/20/24 1:45 a.m.

Talking extremes. Many years ago I had a Massachusetts Chevy parts dept tell me they couldn't sell me a serpentine belt for my z28. It had to be installed by their service dept. Went to a parts store and got the belt. 

bOttOmfeeder
bOttOmfeeder New Reader
6/20/24 9:20 a.m.

Many times the manufacturer doesn't release a separate part because it's installed at the factory as an assembly (a hose that's pre installed by a supplier on a water pump).   They would need to release a new prints for the hose and the pump.   Every release costs money and smaller parts don't justify the cost of a separate part.   

ClearWaterMS
ClearWaterMS HalfDork
6/20/24 9:38 a.m.
bOttOmfeeder said:

Many times the manufacturer doesn't release a separate part because it's installed at the factory as an assembly (a hose that's pre installed by a supplier on a water pump).   They would need to release a new prints for the hose and the pump.   Every release costs money and smaller parts don't justify the cost of a separate part.   

I don't know that I fully understand this line of thought.  any assembly that isn't machined from a single piece of material is made up of parts.  In order to make any assembly today you have to have instructions and documentation on how to make said part.  A turn signal stalk for example that contains current carrying metal, etched plastic, etc. wasn't made from a single piece of material... do they not have cad diagrams for those?  Did the manufacturer not likely outsource the creation of the plastic / wire / etc.  

sure the automotive manufacturer purchased an assembly from a supplier, but that doesn't exempt the supplier from the same rules/requirements but that supplier didn't "replicate" the thing out of thin air, it was assembled from parts/pieces.  
 

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
6/20/24 9:46 a.m.
ClearWaterMS said:
bOttOmfeeder said:

Many times the manufacturer doesn't release a separate part because it's installed at the factory as an assembly (a hose that's pre installed by a supplier on a water pump).   They would need to release a new prints for the hose and the pump.   Every release costs money and smaller parts don't justify the cost of a separate part.   

I don't know that I fully understand this line of thought.  any assembly that isn't machined from a single piece of material is made up of parts.  In order to make any assembly today you have to have instructions and documentation on how to make said part.  A turn signal stalk for example that contains current carrying metal, etched plastic, etc. wasn't made from a single piece of material... do they not have cad diagrams for those?  Did the manufacturer not likely outsource the creation of the plastic / wire / etc.  

sure the automotive manufacturer purchased an assembly from a supplier, but that doesn't exempt the supplier from the same rules/requirements but that supplier didn't "replicate" the thing out of thin air, it was assembled from parts/pieces.  
 

Right, but take the water pump assembly.   Fiat says to supplier, make us part number XX that's designed like this: 

  • (1) housing
  • (1) impeller shaft
  • (1) seal
  • (1) impeller
  • (1) impeller shaft
  • (1) bearing
  • (1) washer
  • (1) nut
  • (1) hose
  • (2) hose clamps

Now, they only have to stock XX.   I would assume that every individual part costs at least $10,000 to separate by the time you count people's salaries to manage converting the internal part numbers to the external (XX) format, manage logistics about how many to have on hand, where to store them, where to ship them, etc., etc.   I'm sure they've figured out the $$ number of overhead for every part.    Look at it over 5 or 10 years, how long will you have to sit on hoses until it becomes a problem (storage?), etc., etc.   None of that is profit.   If you're selling, say, just hoses, that might only make your company 10-20k after 10 years.    That's not nearly enough profit to satisfy the stock holders, to which you have a legal obligation to maximize their profits.

Not defending (or agreeing with!) the practice, but I can absolutely see how they're arriving at their decisions.   They like money and it doesn't hurt them a bit if you have to order a $500 water pump assembly for $10 hose.  

ClearWaterMS
ClearWaterMS HalfDork
6/20/24 10:02 a.m.
WonkoTheSane said:
ClearWaterMS said:
bOttOmfeeder said:

Many times the manufacturer doesn't release a separate part because it's installed at the factory as an assembly (a hose that's pre installed by a supplier on a water pump).   They would need to release a new prints for the hose and the pump.   Every release costs money and smaller parts don't justify the cost of a separate part.   

I don't know that I fully understand this line of thought.  any assembly that isn't machined from a single piece of material is made up of parts.  In order to make any assembly today you have to have instructions and documentation on how to make said part.  A turn signal stalk for example that contains current carrying metal, etched plastic, etc. wasn't made from a single piece of material... do they not have cad diagrams for those?  Did the manufacturer not likely outsource the creation of the plastic / wire / etc.  

sure the automotive manufacturer purchased an assembly from a supplier, but that doesn't exempt the supplier from the same rules/requirements but that supplier didn't "replicate" the thing out of thin air, it was assembled from parts/pieces.  
 

Right, but take the water pump assembly, right?   Fiat says to supplier, make us part number XX that's designed like this: 

  • (1) housing
  • (1) impeller shaft
  • (1) seal
  • (1) impeller
  • (1) impeller shaft
  • (1) bearing
  • (1) washer
  • (1) nut
  • (1) hose
  • (2) hose clamps

Now, they only have to stock XX.   I would assume that every individual part costs at least $10,000 to separate by the time you count people's salaries to manage converting the internal part numbers to the external (XX) format, manage logistics about how many to have on hand, where to store them, where to ship them, etc., etc.   I'm sure they've figured out the $$ number of overhead for every part.    Look at it over 5 or 10 years, how long will you have to sit on hoses until it becomes a problem (storage?), etc., etc.   None of that is profit.   If you're selling, say, just hoses, that might only make your company 10-20k after 10 years.    That's not nearly enough profit to satisfy the stock holders, to which you have a legal obligation to maximize their profits.

Not defending (or agreeing with!) the practice, but I can absolutely see how they're arriving at their decisions.   They like money and it doesn't hurt them a bit if you have to order a $500 water pump assembly for $10 hose.  

just offering a compromise.  If a company is unwilling to offer parts individually, they have to offer the intellectual property that enables others to do it for them.  If you're not willing to warehouse each hose, bearing, etc etc.  Make the specs and configurations for each of those readily available and allow the aftermarket to decide if they want to make those parts.  

I think if a company was forced with either making available their IP or warehousing all of those parts, they would find ways of partnering with other companies that can do it for them.  This could create a whole cottage industry of companies that have the ability to machine and warehouse these parts and in exchange for them offering those parts for the larger manufacturer they get to be the exclusive re-manufacturer ensuring the opportunity to ensure these assemblies don't end up in land fills.  A perfect example of this working is the cell phone repair places that are able to support small shops by offering the ability to repair consumer electronics that manufacturers refuse to repair.  

The last benefit of this to the manufacturer is that they would be able to stop manufacturing parts/assemblies faster once the high volume purchaser was done with them.  I.E. if the company making fiat water pumps has a partner that handles repair/warehousing/etc. they can anticipate the number of NOS parts they have to manufacturer after Fiat is done /w that assembly and not have to warehouse nearly as many, keep the tooling available to manufacture them later.  

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
6/20/24 10:04 a.m.

Two examples of this:

Non-serviceable outer CV Joint assemblies that are held on with a concealed/captured spring clip.  I figured out you can knock them off with a pipe.  

On my boat, the u-joint for the lower unit failed (Volvo Penta SX-M.)  It's not serviceable.  The whole driveshaft is one part # and includes the bevel gear, which would require setting backlash and shimming and cost about $900.  I was able to cobble together parts from a Mercruiser to replace the u-joint and yoke assembly because those are sold as individual parts for about $100.

zordak
zordak HalfDork
6/20/24 10:06 a.m.

Back in the day every local repair garage had a spark plug cleaner, commutator turner and other equipment to rebuild parts instead of just swapping them out. Filing points was common. Heck you could get parts to rebuild a fuel pump. It just got cheaper to make things as a non repairable part.

Ranger50
Ranger50 MegaDork
6/20/24 10:29 a.m.

In reply to ClearWaterMS :

To further the analogy, DR body ram pickups you can't or couldn't replace a column bearing if it went bad, you had to buy the whole column. If you boogered up the steering shaft within the column, you bought a column. You could still buy the switches and the like because those were made by yet another company, so you could intercept for parts replacement, yet dcx would receive whole columns to install on the assembly line. Basically I believe that magna, I assume here, was given a design envelope to adhere to as in bolt spacing and mounting and told to make it work with the other parts farmed out to another company(ies). I'm sure it still needed verification data, but still largely free reign to make it work for what dcx wanted to spend.

Compare that to the column schematics for my 97 f250... ford allowed to be buy every part within the column seperate. And I mean every part. But on the flip side, I remember at one point working the parts counter, if a heater core or evaporator went out in a focus, you had to buy the whole unit, as nothing was serviceable inside because the box was sonic welded shut, iirc.

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
6/20/24 10:40 a.m.
ClearWaterMS said:

just offering a compromise.  If a company is unwilling to offer parts individually, they have to offer the intellectual property that enables others to do it for them.  If you're not willing to warehouse each hose, bearing, etc etc.  Make the specs and configurations for each of those readily available and allow the aftermarket to decide if they want to make those parts.  

I think if a company was forced with either making available their IP or warehousing all of those parts, they would find ways of partnering with other companies that can do it for them.  This could create a whole cottage industry of companies that have the ability to machine and warehouse these parts and in exchange for them offering those parts for the larger manufacturer they get to be the exclusive re-manufacturer ensuring the opportunity to ensure these assemblies don't end up in land fills.  A perfect example of this working is the cell phone repair places that are able to support small shops by offering the ability to repair consumer electronics that manufacturers refuse to repair.  

The last benefit of this to the manufacturer is that they would be able to stop manufacturing parts/assemblies faster once the high volume purchaser was done with them.  I.E. if the company making fiat water pumps has a partner that handles repair/warehousing/etc. they can anticipate the number of NOS parts they have to manufacturer after Fiat is done /w that assembly and not have to warehouse nearly as many, keep the tooling available to manufacture them later.  

And they do, to a certain extent.   There's even companies that do it 3rd party (like Monroe & Associates).   There's just no incentive ($$$) for the OEM to do any more than the legally required minimum about parts availability, and they genuinely do not care about how much the assembly costs you vs. an individual part.  The problem is public companies are all doing the same math, and it's more profitable in the short term to practice excessively LEAN manufacturing practices and not warehouse parts. 

This means that you're stuck with smaller and smaller companies holding the bag as far as all of the warehousing, fixturization, and manufacturing, which means that you, as the end customer, have to find sources of these smaller tiers of suppliers for parts.  That's the responsibility of your parts store, how many times have you ordered from Rock Auto or Advance and gotten the real OEM part for your assembly?   That's this in action.

But yeah, the emphasis on your argument is the second paragraph (highlighted).   The devil is, as always, in the details.   What level of support are you forcing a private (i.e., non-government) company to provide?  All CAD models?  Prints?  All CAD with MBD?  Assemblies with tolerances?  Assembly instructions?  Test procedures?    Of course, how are you going to protect said OEM's intellectual property when this HAS to be distributed.   Who does the apply to?  Companies that have their HQ here?  All companies that want to sell cars here?  How do you level the playing field so Ford isn't burdened when Porsche isn't, etc.  

I don't like it either, but ya gotta feed those shareholders...

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
6/20/24 10:44 a.m.

The real lesson, I think, is that the design engineers at OEMs are using McMaster, MSC and Fastenal just like the rest of desk jockey CAD/CAM guys.  Unless it's a custom casting, common parts are going to be available out of the parts catalog, and car guys have to learn to use 'em just like they can use a Ford parts catalog.  Unless we force the OEMs to provide individual parts, there's no incentive for them to do so unfortunately.  Exactly as the story states :)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/20/24 11:21 a.m.

A viewpoint from (slightly) inside: a lot of our Flyin' Miata parts are assembled from components manufactured by a bunch of different suppliers. We're effectively two companies, an assembly/kitting company and a retail shop. Parts for the kits are ordered as-needed then assembled. If someone does something like lose a machined component or somehow jack it up, we don't necessarily have spares on the shelf and those small production runs tend to have a long lead time. The alternative is to keep extras of everything on the shelf all the time and we do some of that, but setting things up so that the customer can order a part that's not usually sold to the public is high effort - is it worth it for a part that might sell solo every two years?  There's no easy answer as to where to draw the line.

There's also the challenge of parts that we source complete from outside sources. Say, an exhaust system for an NA Miata. They're split into two pieces so they can be shipped more easily. We don't even have a part number for the two pieces separately because they come together from the manufacturer and they're manufactured together. If someone damages one piece, do we take apart a complete kit (which renders the rest unsellable) to sell it? We have done that, and it leads to a huge pile of partially stripped kits that have been sold off for less than their cost and eventually gets scrapped. Since the part numbers for these things don't exist, you basically end up with a pile of dusty boxes hoping that someone will remember what's back there. And every five years, it all goes in the dumpster.

We do still do our best to supply weird spare parts, but it's very high effort compared to normal business operations. And invariably, people complain about the cost because we all know the only acceptable cost for something is the value of the raw materials.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
6/20/24 11:34 a.m.
zordak said:

Back in the day every local repair garage had a spark plug cleaner, commutator turner and other equipment to rebuild parts instead of just swapping them out. Filing points was common. Heck you could get parts to rebuild a fuel pump. It just got cheaper to make things as a non repairable part.

Back in the day, you also had to service all of those parts semi-annually or at least annually.  Now cars only service one of those parts at 100k miles- so it makes little sense to have a warehouse full of parts ready for use when the rate of replacement has gone down significantly.

Parts have gotten so good that stocking parts to fix them makes a lot less economic sense.  

Add that to the time to replace vs. repair.  Someone figured out that they were paying more money to have a part serviced under warranty than it would be just to replace the entire part.  When the OEM is paying for it, that matters a lot.  That has inevitably lead to more and more replacement assemblies than repair kits.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
6/20/24 11:38 a.m.

One other thing about "right to repair"- nobody is stopping anyone from taking the box apart, figuring out what is wrong, and fixing it.  You have the right to do that on cars.

What's missing is help from the OEM.  I'm not sure they are required to help you fix the parts, but they are not preventing you from doing it.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/20/24 11:59 a.m.
alfadriver said:
zordak said:

Back in the day every local repair garage had a spark plug cleaner, commutator turner and other equipment to rebuild parts instead of just swapping them out. Filing points was common. Heck you could get parts to rebuild a fuel pump. It just got cheaper to make things as a non repairable part.

Back in the day, you also had to service all of those parts semi-annually or at least annually.  Now cars only service one of those parts at 100k miles- so it makes little sense to have a warehouse full of parts ready for use when the rate of replacement has gone down significantly.

Parts have gotten so good that stocking parts to fix them makes a lot less economic sense.  

Add that to the time to replace vs. repair.  Someone figured out that they were paying more money to have a part serviced under warranty than it would be just to replace the entire part.  When the OEM is paying for it, that matters a lot.  That has inevitably lead to more and more replacement assemblies than repair kits.

We had an LS3 crate engine replaced under warranty by GM because it made a squeaking noise. Best guess was a damaged cam bearing. They shipped us a new crate and told the dealership to scrap the bad one. It had about 50 miles on it.

A few years later, that engine resurfaced because nobody could bring themselves to throw it away for a while. I basically bought it from the junkyard, still on the crate and sealed up the way we'd returned it. I found the problem was a tab on the aluminum rear main seal retainer making light contact with the crank. It probably would have machined itself clear in short order, but it was the work of a few minutes to knock down the tab and reinstall - of course, it would have been an engine-out job.

From GM's point of view, this makes sense. They were pumping out new LS3s by the millions at that point. It wasn't worth tearing down an engine, troubleshooting the problem and then reassembling it so it could be sold as a used part. Making it a "remanufactured" engine didn't make a lot of sense either. For them, the best option was just replace the whole thing.

From my point of view, I wasn't paying for my time. I didn't have the option of a new LS3 for the cost that GM pays for it. It was worthwhile for me to dig down and find out what was wrong, then fix it. Even if it had been cam bearings, I would have been ahead. The fact that the engine had been opened up and resealed wouldn't have mattered, and I had no warranty and didn't expect one.

Both points of view make sense, but one of them will drive you nuts :)

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa MegaDork
6/20/24 12:04 p.m.
alfadriver said:

One other thing about "right to repair"- nobody is stopping anyone from taking the box apart, figuring out what is wrong, and fixing it.  You have the right to do that on cars.

What's missing is help from the OEM.  I'm not sure they are required to help you fix the parts, but they are not preventing you from doing it.

They are preventing you from doing so.

No one cares about tearing down a hydraulic pump, finding the offending seal, replacing it and sending it.  You can find dozens of shops capable of doing that in any big enough city.

Manufacturers are actively preventing 3rd parties from getting into the software side of things to fix E36 M3.

ClearWaterMS
ClearWaterMS HalfDork
6/20/24 12:22 p.m.
alfadriver said:

One other thing about "right to repair"- nobody is stopping anyone from taking the box apart, figuring out what is wrong, and fixing it.  You have the right to do that on cars.

What's missing is help from the OEM.  I'm not sure they are required to help you fix the parts, but they are not preventing you from doing it.

this just isn't true.   Look at John Deere as a  perfect example of a company that had to be sued before they allowed its customers to fix their own equipment with 3rd party parts and service providers:


https://www.bbc.com/news/business-64206913

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/20/24 12:30 p.m.

Yeah, the Right To Repair discussion (as in John Deere and friends) is very different from unserviceable design/unavailable parts. John Deere was actively blocking people from working on their machinery. Talk about not understanding your customer base!

wae
wae UltimaDork
6/20/24 12:43 p.m.
alfadriver said:
zordak said:

Back in the day every local repair garage had a spark plug cleaner, commutator turner and other equipment to rebuild parts instead of just swapping them out. Filing points was common. Heck you could get parts to rebuild a fuel pump. It just got cheaper to make things as a non repairable part.

Back in the day, you also had to service all of those parts semi-annually or at least annually.  Now cars only service one of those parts at 100k miles- so it makes little sense to have a warehouse full of parts ready for use when the rate of replacement has gone down significantly.

Parts have gotten so good that stocking parts to fix them makes a lot less economic sense.  

Add that to the time to replace vs. repair.  Someone figured out that they were paying more money to have a part serviced under warranty than it would be just to replace the entire part.  When the OEM is paying for it, that matters a lot.  That has inevitably lead to more and more replacement assemblies than repair kits.

I suspect it's also not just the cost of the initial fix but also reducing the chance of a come-back.  Theoretically, the factory-constructed assembly has less chance of failing than the field-repaired assembly where you've got less control over the repair process.  For something like a rubber hose that may not be as valid, but I could totally see why a manufacturer wouldn't want the dealer techs to tear down an engine or a transmission.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
6/20/24 1:25 p.m.
ClearWaterMS said:
alfadriver said:

One other thing about "right to repair"- nobody is stopping anyone from taking the box apart, figuring out what is wrong, and fixing it.  You have the right to do that on cars.

What's missing is help from the OEM.  I'm not sure they are required to help you fix the parts, but they are not preventing you from doing it.

this just isn't true.   Look at John Deere as a  perfect example of a company that had to be sued before they allowed its customers to fix their own equipment with 3rd party parts and service providers:


https://www.bbc.com/news/business-64206913

 

The rules for off road tractors and on road vehicles are very, very different.  What John Deere is doing is illegal for cars.  

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