Which to buy and Which to Avoid
When it comes to providing a customer with parts, quality is one of the top items on the menu sometimes even ahead of cost. After all, if the customer has to come right back to have the same part replaced again, they won’t be happy!
If quality is the number one concern, cost is it close second. Often there is the opportunity to buy a part for much cheaper from a no-name manufacturer, but how good is it? Sometimes it might work just right, but often times it won’t, and sometimes it’s not even the same part!
Now just because apart is from China doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. There are a ton of Chinese-made 5.9L Cummins cylinder heads out there that have been running just fine for thousands of miles. The key here is while the raw castings are done in China, the machining can be done here in the U.S. which really helps in achieving quality tolerances.
Probably the most common made Chinese part that should be avoided are turbochargers. Chinese or “Ebay” turbos are crazy popular with groups like The LS crowd but they should be avoided on diesels because of these engines’ high pressure ratios. Turbocharged LS and other gas engines usually will run in between 5 and 15 psi of boost pressure, but for a diesel life starts at about 20 and goes up from there. Not only do these Chinese turbos have quality control issues, they also just aren’t designed for 40 lb of boost. With s-300 and s-400 based Borg Warner turbos starting at under $1,000, the Chinese turbos simply aren’t worth it.
An item worth mentioning is that you might not be getting the product that you think you are. Chinese manufacturers realized that certain hot selling turbos were popular in search items so they started using similar names for their product. A “GT35” turbo for instance might not be made by Garrett, or even the same size. Always double check the turbo’s inducer size, and make sure it’s the one you’re looking for.
Next to turbochargers, intercoolers are probably the second most popular China-based item tailored towards diesels. Here the results are mixed. Intercoolers aren’t incredibly complex, so as long as they fit and don’t leak boost they can last. The issue here is that some trucks like Duramax’s have a very tight fit, and more than a few hours of labor involved. If the casting is off by just an inch or two, it could hit the radiator or numerous other items.
Another piece on the “probably not” list are air filters. There are intake kits all over eBay as well as universal conical filters. These both may be enticing choices, but unfortunately many of these filters aren’t designed for the rigors of diesel air filtration both in filtration and in airflow. With most intake kits coming in at under $400 in virtually any size filter at under $100 it’s better to just buy quality products.
In closing we’d have to say that most Chinese parts should be avoided, but definitely not all of them. Talk to other friends and shops to see which items will actually last (or fit) and base your buying decisions from there!