Turn of the Wheel: Automotive Parts Rebuilders Association (APRA) CV and Rack Clinic
By Mark Veldhuis
Once again the Automotive Parts Rebuilders
Association (APRA) CV and Rack Clinic held May 4-5 in Chicago,
was a huge success.Rich Lovely of Powerline, Inc., Roebuck, SC,
and chairman of the APRA clinic did a fantastic job recruiting
speakers and handling the many program details.
The topic on grinding did not seem as heated
as discussions that have been held on this issue during past meetings.
It could have been that previous grinding opponents have accepted
grinding as a fact of rebuilding life.
Two of us from Fred's Driveshaft had an opportunity
to sit in on a task force that was organized to study the grinding
issue. The first goal of the task force was to establish hardness
depths of six different manufacturers of OEM CV joints. Both new
and worn joints will be sent to an independent laboratory for
testing. This method will ensure that there is no bias in the
study. The task force has no intention of endorsing any method
of rebuilding. Its objective is to provide unbiased facts pertaining
to case hardening.
In my opinion, this is an idea that will allow
everyone to decide for themselves what is allowable and what is
not. Most of you who read this column know that Fred's has been
grinding successfully for many years. Perhaps after the laboratory
data is in, the issue can be put to rest once and for all. Stay
tuned to future Turn of the Wheel columns.
During the clinic, a very informative presentation
was made by Chris Hayes, a pollution prevention technical assistant
with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Her job is
to visit companies and inform them how to clean-up their operations
according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.
Hayes made it very clear that we could all get in a lot of trouble
if we don't keep our noses clean with the EPA. Anyone that is
building more than 20 axles a day has a considerable liability
with the cleaning fluids alone. If you think you are exempt because
you use Safety Kleen or a similar service, guess again.
According to Hayes, if you produce the waste,
you are liable for the waste forever. It doesn't seem fair that
if someone gets paid to haul off your sludge or waste water and
later does something illegal with the waste, you are responsible.
But those are the facts. I guess it's just another example of
our great government in action.
We are considering having a company similar
to Hazardous Waste and Research Center visit our plant. We have
already experienced the pleasure of an EPA audit. Actually, the
EPA was very helpful and just showed us some of the problems we
had. We corrected these, and the inspector returned to review
his recommendations. Of course, we made him promise to be our
friend first and he did help us comply.
We may even go as far as to follow the guy
that hauls off the sludge to see that he is not dumping it in
the Everglades or a similar unsuitable place. I am scared by the
government mainly because I am the JCO (Jailable Corporate Officer,
a term that Hayes said that I just had to use here) at Fred's.
We are more than happy to comply with the rules and regulations.
But in my experience, these can be interpreted by the inspector
almost anyway he sees them. Hopefully, you have already started
to make sure you are doing the right thing. CV rebuilding has
been described to be as the messiest automotive rebuilding process
known. After all, each axle has a minimum eight ounces of grease
and dirt that must be removed and disposed.
Several other issues were discussed, one of
which was cage windows. The window is the most important factor
in stopping the clicking noise, and I think most rebuilders can
agree on this point.
When there is slop between the ball and the
window, the joint clicks. However, when the ball is too tight
in the window, the rolling action of the ball becomes a sliding
action. When the ball is sliding across the races in the joint,
galling may occur, which will dramatically reduce the life of
the joint. How can the window be too tight? For us who are grinding,
we can simply make the fit too tight. Measurement is the only
way to assure correct fit.
I was surprised to hear of builders forcing
in balls that were .300 oversize into standard cages to tighten
up the fit. When this method is used, the cage will wear out fast.
In some cases, the stress on the window will cause the cage to
actually crack. Measurement of any rebuilding procedure is the
best possible way to insure consistency of the product. There
are some gauges available to measure any one of three components.
If you are using the "If-it-feels-good-then-it-is-good"
method, you are most likely seeing a large percentage of defect
return. Most installers opinions vary as what a good joint is.
Some want it so tight that it can't be moved by hand. Others say
it should flop around like a limp wrist.
You should know enough about your product
to be able to tell the installer confidently that the product
in his hand will work without fail. If measuring throughout the
entire process is used, the confidence level in your product will
increase along with sales.
Skip Rullis, from CV USA, Saratoga Springs, NY, provided
an informative and humorous presentation. Rullis provided a number
of charts of studies from over the years that basically said CV
grinding was OK, but we as a grinding company had a point to make.
In his summation, Rullis brought up something that some of us
miss when looking at the big picture. When we rebuild a CV axle,
no matter what method, what we are really doing is providing the
vehicle owner with a choice of product. The rebuilt axle, if rebuilt
with any integrity, will last for at least half the life of the
original axle at about 1/3 the cost. We are offering value in
our product. We are not saying, in most cases, that we expect
this unit to outlast the OEM axle. We expect this unit to work
long enough to live up to the expectations of the vehicle owner.
which is about 30,000-50,000 miles.
When the OEM builds the axle, they are looking
for a joint that will last through the warranty period, somewhere
between 50,000 and 70,000 miles. If our reman axle lasts for an
additional 40, 000, then the vehicle will have around 100,000,
which is the point many people start to shop for a newer vehicle.
If we build a great product, in many cases it will be able to
last as long as OEM and never fail the original owner.
We had seven guys from our shop attend the
clinic. After the meetings ended, we discussed what was the most
important thing we learned there. The technical information was
great. The new products presented to us are going to make our
work easier. However, the guys in our group agreed the most important
issue we learned is that we are not alone in the CV world. Often,
we get to thinking that our problems are special.
Talking to others about problem-solving techniques
and ways we address problems was bar far the most important time
spent at any seminar. When we are in the company of other CV rebuilders,
the feeling is one of cooperation rather than that of competition.
In fact, it is exciting to me to be a part
of such a fast-growing segment of the rebuilding industry. We
realize that we are involved in a large market. Some even say
the automotive and truck parts rebuilding is as big as the steel
industry. We supply products that not only provide us with a living,
but serve our customers with a money saving alternative to new
parts. Not to even mention the environmental issues. This is big
stuff, and I'm glad to be around.
Most of the companies represented in Chicago
were small-to medium rebuilders doing less than 10,000 axles monthly,
although two of the Big Guys were there. Maybe it's time to realize
we all have more to learn than we do to hide. There is enough
business out there for all of us. Most of the rebuilders are having
a hard time keeping up with production.
In fact, during a break in the program, I
was among a group of about 10 rebuilders who each said that they
could sell everything that they produced. My question is why does
the price keep falling? Are we allowing a few large rebuilders
to set our profit margins?
During one of the sessions, some numbers were
thrown out to the group, and it's estimated that somewhere between
eight million and 16 million axles would be on demand annually
before the first of the next century. If the big guys produce
200,000 axles monthly collectively, (and I think that number id
high) that would leave more than 400,000 units for all of us smaller
rebuilders, assuming eight million is the annual number. There
are a lot of axles being produced, and more will be on demand
in the future. Keep up the quality and the sales will follow.
Following up on the last article, (April,
1996, pages 22-23) I heard from some rebuilders that the largest
problem they had by far was the Chrysler axle pulling apart. At
Fred's, we attach a paper warning note around each Chrysler axle,
informing the installer about the inherent problem. But this doesn't
solve the problem. As you know, when it does come apart, it destroys
the ?? joint. Those tripod kits are expensive, and we lose big
time. In some cases, by installing another manufacturer of the
axle - Citroen vs. GKN vs. Saginaw, the apparent problem is correct.
Go figure. If we could come up with a sure-fire way to solve the
problem, it could save the industry thousands of dollars in repair
costs and labor. If you have developed a way to solve this problem
and would like to share this idea, let me know. You would be a