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What is Remanufacturing?


APRA strongly supports a nation-wide policy – DESIGN FOR REMANUFACTURING™ – to increase public awareness of the necessity and the benefits of the design and manufacture of automotive parts that can be safely and efficiently remanufactured. Some important facts about remanufacturing and its environmental benefits are discussed below.

What is Remanufacturing?

A properly “rebuilt” automotive part is the functional equivalent of a new part and is virtually indistinguishable from a new part. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required that such parts be labeled as “rebuilt” so that they are not mistakenly accepted as new.

For all practical purposes, remanufacturing automotive parts is very much like assembling new parts except that many of the components are taken from used parts, especially the housing. In remanufacturing, the part must be completely disassembled, cleaned and examined for wear and breakage. Worn out, missing or non-functioning components are replaced with new or rebuilt components. Electrical parts frequently need rewinding or rewiring. After all work is done, the part is reassembled and tested for compliance with performance specifications.

Rebuilt parts are readily available through auto parts stores. For most vehicle makes and models these stores keep a supply of rebuilt parts in stock so there will be no delay in servicing the vehicles of owners who use them. In fact, it is interesting that an examination of the inventory of almost any automotive supply store will reveal that a majority of parts in stock are rebuilt. The parts stores and warehouses, of course, always offer a choice of new or rebuilt parts. However, a rebuilt part normally costs 50% to 75% of the cost of a comparable new one and customarily carries the same warranty. As a result, the use of rebuilt products has increased steadily for those items that are rebuildable. Rebuilt parts enjoy a major share of the market.

Rebuilt parts are also available for heavy duty equipment such as bus and truck fleets, farming equipment and construction equipment. In these markets, rebuilt parts are often the quickest and most satisfactory solution to getting a vehicle back in operation. In addition, for many heavy duty applications and for many older automobiles, rebuilt parts are essential to proper maintenance, because new parts many be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.

Is there a difference between “rebuilt” and “remanufactured”?
Within the automotive industry itself, there is considerable debate about the differences between the terms “rebuilt” and “remanufactured.” Some feel that while there may be no difference, “remanufactured” is a more appropriate term, because it portrays the sophistication to which the industry has grown. Others prefer the term “rebuilt”, because it more accurately describes the process of restoration of a used part. The bottom line is, the terms can be used interchangeably and mean the same thing.

Remanufacturing businesses come in all sizes. There are many small, custom rebuilders who perform on-vehicle work and operate with a half-dozen employees. There are also large rebuilders with more than one plant working on a production-line basis. They employ hundreds of people and restore thousands of parts to their like-new condition. Regardless of their size, or whether they are called rebuilders or remanufacturers, the final result is essentially the same: A quality job results in a quality product.

The Environmental Edge

Remanufacturers have been “recycling” for more than 80 years. It all began during World War II when the tremendous need to reuse automotive and truck parts gave birth to the industry. Natural resources were scare during wartime, and many of the resources we did have were going to the war effort to build planes, ships, tanks, etc. Rebuilding used parts met the demand for quality replacements.

The remanufacturing industry helps the environment in a number of different ways:

  • Energy Conservation: Automotive and truck parts are kept out of the resmelting process longer because of remanufacturing. As a result, millions of barrels of oil or comparable forms of energy are saved.
  • Raw Material Conservation: Remanufacturing gives a product numerous lives instead of just one, thereby saving raw materials. Rebuilders annually save millions of tons of natural resources such as iron, aluminum, copper, etc.
  • Landfill Space Conserved: Landfills are spared the dumping of millions of tons of iron, aluminum, copper, etc., because of the monetary value the industry places on cores. This “core charge” ensures parts are returned to be rebuilt.
  • Air Pollution Reduce: Once again, keeping parts out of the resmelting process benefits the environment by reducing the air pollution that is generated by resmelting.

Scientific Studies Highlight Benefits

Studies have been performed which conclude that:

  • About 50% of an original STARTER is recovered in the remanufacturing process. This can result in annual savings in the U.S. of 8.2 million gallons of crude oil from steel manufacturing, 51,500 tons of iron ore, and 6,000 tons of copper and other metals.
  • Rebuilt ENGINES require 50% of the energy and 67% of the labor that is required to produce new engines.

Studies by the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, demonstrated that:

  • The yearly energy savings by remanufacturing worldwide equals the electricity generated by five nuclear power plants or 10,774,000 barrels of crude oil which corresponds to a fleet of 233 oil tankers.
  • The yearly raw materials saved by remanufacturing worldwide would fill 155,000 railroad cars forming a train 1,1100 miles long.

The Future of Remanufacturing

As people grow more and more concerned about the environment, we must seek public policies that will encourage even more remanufacturing. There are enough social and environmental benefits to justify remanufacturing. Imagine the added benefits to society if EVERYTHING we buy could be remanufactured, from small appliances to lawn mowers. Also, imagine if products were originally designed to be rebuildable and not disposable…

What’s in a Name? ... Remanufacturing Terms and Definitions

Original Equipment (OE):This term refers to those parts usually marketed through new automobile dealers. They are normally marked with a name or logo associated with the vehicle manufacturer. However, not all original equipment parts are manufactured by vehicle manufacturers. Many are made for the vehicle manufacturers by independent companies who often sell the same part under their own label.

Although "original equipment" usually means new parts, the term can also refer to rebuilt or remanufactured parts sourced from OE cores. Therefore, the term refers more to the origin of the part rather than its condition. The vehicle manufacturers normally promote “original equipment” heavily, implying that such parts, because they are exact duplicates of the ones which came with your car, will work best and give longer service.

Customarily, new “original equipment” parts carry the highest price tag, and rebuilt or remanufactured “original equipment” parts cost more than similar parts which are not original equipment. Your buying decision should be influenced by whether the price of an “original equipment” part represents the best buy or whether another part, which would prove just as satisfactory, can be purchased for less.

New replacement parts and rebuilt parts are in most instances, equal in quality to “original equipment” parts. Other grades of parts may cost considerably less but are usually not of equal quality and may not provide satisfactory performance.

New Equipment: The term “new” describes exactly what it means—a part which has never been installed or used. However, it is not necessarily “original equipment.” Not all new parts are made by the vehicle manufacturer. Many new replacement parts of good quality are available from independent manufacturers and are interchangeable with original equipment parts. In fact, many new replacement parts are identical to original equipment parts, because the same manufacturer makes them for the vehicle manufacturers. The only difference is that the vehicle manufacturer markets the part under its own logo while the independent manufacturer cannot do so.

To ensure compatibility, the independent manufacturers of these parts furnish appropriate information to indicate the vehicle and model on which they will function properly. The cost of these parts is generally equivalent to original equipment parts of similar quality.

Recycled Parts: This classification is probably the least understood and the most abused in the current marketplace. Outside the automotive industry, the term “recycled” implies that the item has been restored to its original condition or is a new product manufactured from used materials. Thus, aluminum cans, glass bottles and newspapers are all “recycled” into new products. This is NOT the case with recycled automotive and truck parts.

The term is generally used by auto salvage and scrap yards to describe a part which has been removed from a scrap vehicle and resold with little or no work performed on it. As so used, it really refers to a “used” part. While originally associated with body parts such as doors. fenders, windshields, etc., it is now also being applied to moving parts such as engines, transmissions, starters and water pumps.

Some recycled parts are superficially cleaned, boxed and sold in stores. But no mater what claims the seller may make about the part, the fact is that it is still an unrepared, used part whose continued serviceability is uncertain. It is not “recycled” as the term is commonly understood for most other products.

Due to their relatively low price, recycled parts are an attractive purchase, and it is certainly one way to make your vehicle operational again. However, such parts should be purchased with the understanding that they have not been restored in any substantial way to assure their future reliability.

Repaired Parts: This is an imprecise term. Essentially it means that the part has had enough work done to it to make it operational again, but it has not been “remanufactured.” Because it has not been fully disassembled or tested, the causes of the problems with the part may not have been fully corrected.

Restored/Reconditioned: These terms are used more often when referring to parts for antique or classic vehicles rather than for parts for general automotive use. They are generic terms, implying that the part has been restored or reconditioned to be close to its original condition.

Modified Parts: These parts have been physically changed to perform or function differently from a similar new or rebuilt part. Typically, these parts are used by those car enthusiasts seeking an increased level of performance or styling from their automobile. However, the term can refer to any part which has been changed and would apply to parts illegally altered to avoid governmental safety or environmental regulations.

Used Parts: This is a part that has been subjected to previous use on a vehicle and is not new. Nothing has been done to repair it or correct any problems it may have. Therefore, its useful life and degree of serviceability are unknown. As a result, its cost is generally less than parts of proven quality, such as new and rebuilt parts.


In the final analysis, the equipment owner must make the final decision on what kind of part is desired. With owners keeping their vehicles longer and longer and with sales prices on new cars skyrocketing, this decision should reflect the reliability and cost effectiveness of the part over the long run. Market studies show that remanufactured auto parts are capturing a greater share of the total number of aftermarket parts sold. Thus, buyers seem to be making their decision on what offers the “best buy” and still receiving a quality product.

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