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Do Diesel Builders Need Installation Bays?

Because of weight and size of their creations, diesel engine builders can be faced with some unique challenges.

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Because of weight and size of their creations, diesel engine builders can be faced with some unique challenges. In addition, specialized tooling is often needed to properly machine and install seals, wear sleeves, injector cups, liners, cylinder block decks and cylinder heads. This is why you often see that diesel engine builders specialize in one brand of diesel engine.

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Being “branded” also allows builders to become fluent to the proper specifications that a particular engine will require. For example, if you were to install new cylinder liners you would need to know the proper height of the liner in relation to the cylinder deck in order to know how much to cut the counter bore for the liner height. You will also need to know how to properly set up the gear train and timing of the engine components such as camshaft, injection pump and idler and drive gears. These are all necessary steps to protect the reputation of your business and offer a warranty to the customer.

But, are there opportunities beyond the rebuild – such as removal and installation of the engine?

This has been an ongoing debate for quite some time and seems to have a range of opinions and emotions about more money or more headache. With the complexity of today’s diesel engines, there are a few things to examine and consider which direction would benefit your shop. A rebuilt engine is only as good as the rebuilder and the installer. In my experience, having the opportunity to do both rebuild and install does present some challenges, but also offers solutions.

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There is nothing better than having someone bring you an engine to rebuild that has already been removed from the vehicle. From there the job is pretty straightforward. Tear the engine down, measure and examine the damage or problems, and then machine, repair and reassemble.

But of course, there are numerous occasions where the engine is given back to the customer and then the phone starts ringing with problems. After a few phone conversations, the truck is brought back into the shop to determine what is going on and why the rebuilt engine isn’t running right. Here are some examples of some situations that you might have encountered if someone else handles installing the rebuilt engine.

Customer complaint: Engine reinstalled in the truck and started, but there is a lot of noise and smoke under the hood and the engine doesn’t make much power.

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Rebuilder explanation: The truck was returned to the shop – inspection showed that the exhaust and intercooler piping was not properly sealed to the turbo causing exhaust leaks and boost leaks with low engine power. Repairs were made and engine runs fine.

Customer complaint: Installed the rebuilt engine and there is a lot of white smoke out of the exhaust pipe and the truck will not move under its own power.

Rebuilder explanation: When the engine was rebuilt, the customer kept the injection pump because he wanted to send it off and have it rebuilt. The customer stated that he knew how to properly time the injection pump and would install into the new engine upon installation. The truck was brought into the shop and inspection showed that the injection pump was not properly timed. Re-timed injection pump and the engine ran fine.

Customer complaint: The check engine light is on and there are several trouble codes being logged into the ECM. Engine is not running very well.

Rebuilder explanation: Truck returned to shop and revealed that some sensors were not plugged up and fuel leaks were present. Same situation happened because customer had removed the injectors before bringing the engine to the rebuilder and had randomly stuck the injectors back into the cylinder head. The customer didn’t realize that the injectors had a fuel trim code that was programmed into the ECM for proper fuel calibration. The fuel trim codes had to be programmed into the ECM for their corresponding cylinders in order to properly fuel the engine.

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These are just a few examples of situations where there was more than meets the eye to the rebuilder. In each scenario, the engine was rebuilt properly, but because of underlying issues with the install, the quality of the rebuild was in question. If given the opportunity, the only sure way to insure integrity is to remove, rebuild and reinstall.

But, performing as a “one stop shop” for the customer can present new challenges. Here are a few things to take into consideration that will be needed if you are considering pursuing this venture.

Shop Space – If you are going to remove the engine from the vehicle, adequate shop space will be needed. You’ll need an area big enough for the vehicle to be brought in and torn down and to house all of the components removed from the engine. Keep in mind that depending on what type of vehicle you are dealing with, the vehicle may have to stay in the bay until completed.

Manpower – Removing an engine from a vehicle often takes the efforts of two people. This can require several things from helping remove heavy accessories to helping raise and lower the engine or chassis to remove or install the engine. Keep in mind, you’ll want qualified personnel who have extensive knowledge of diesel engines, components and functions.

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Lift and Overhead Crane – Some mid-size trucks will require you to take off the entire cab to access the engine for removal from the frame while over-the-road trucks demand the use of an overhead crane to remove and install components such as the cylinder head and other parts. This could also involve bigger jacks and jack stands to accommodate more weight. Safety first.

Special Tooling – In addition to what you may already have, the list of tools that you need can be very broad. Tools that come to mind are special wrenches for the fuel system, or for assemblies such as fan hubs as well as for tight places with hidden bolts on various components. This is in addition to various sockets and extensions and some specialized sockets for regulators or actuators found on modern diesel engines. This also includes electronics such as a scan tool with some heavy-duty capabilities, which could cost as much as $10,000 and up. And, of course, there are always other specialized diagnostic tools used for certain components of the engine.

There are two ways to look at an installation opportunity: Number one; this is an opportunity to increase your profit because someone has to remove and install the engine – why shouldn’t it be you? Having an installation bay also ensures that the engine is running correctly and that all systems are “go” when the customer picks it up. There are numerous scenarios other than what was mentioned earlier, but at least you will have the full capability to stand behind your product. If you do all the work and have a great reputation then it is easier to guarantee.

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On the flipside, Number two; keep the business adventure focused. If you specialize in rebuilding and installing engines be careful about becoming a general repair facility. I’ve seen this too often, when acquiring special tools and personnel leads to being able to diagnose and repair. This can be a great option but make sure that you can do both.

You don’t want to end up taking on several general repair jobs and miss out on the total rebuild, where the most money could be made.

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