The aftermarket is one of the most valuable resources for power steering rebuilders. In order to find the parts you need at the right combination of price and quality, aftermarket manufacturers often provide a plethora of options. However, there's one glaring place where the aftermarket is lacking when it comes to replacement parts: heavy duty power steering hard parts.
Today, we'll discuss why the availability of heavy duty hard parts is relatively limited, as well as the common best practices for finding the replacement parts you need.
Commonly Replaced Hard Parts
When you inspect a heavy duty steering gear that comes into your shop for damaged and broken parts that need to be replaced, you'll most often check the case, as well as the input and sector shafts. Especially if the vehicle was in a wreck or accident, those input and sector shafts are often bent or cracked beyond repair, due to their vulnerable exposed position in the system. Unfortunately, when you have to scrap one of these parts, they're not easily found in the aftermarket. But why?
Why Is Availability Limited in the Aftermarket?
The aftermarket has always been a little behind when it comes to developing heavy duty parts. Considering that the industry was already playing a game of catch-up, the relative age of the steering units coming into your shop today makes it even more difficult to find the correct parts for older applications. Part of this delay is due to a cycle in which the OE manufacturers cover the most recent applications, but it's cost-prohibitive for aftermarket manufacturers to produce replacements. However, as the OEMs move on to newer units (and stop producing parts for older ones), those parts are few and far between on the market. While the OEM covers the part, rebuilders rely less on the aftermarket, but when the OEM moves on, the aftermarket isn't prepared to service those needs.
Avenues for Replacing Hard Parts
Considering today's rising core fall out rates, replacement parts are generally available in alternative ways, even when they're not readily supplied by aftermarket manufacturers. The best way to stock up on replacement hard parts for heavy duty steering systems (especially for larger rebuilders), is to salvage usable parts from units that have been replaced instead of rebuilt. When you part out broken units, having a stock of those spare parts can come in handy (and save you a lot of time and money) should the same unit show up in your shop again.
However, the option to stock up on parts might not be accessible for smaller rebuilders. In that case, one of the best ways to find the hard parts you need is to build relationships with these larger rebuilders. When many small rebuilders can't find the replacement part they need, they'll reach out to the larger businesses who might have a spare shaft or other component somewhere in their stock. Aligning your shop with larger rebuilders can often gain you access to their salvaged stock. When your last resort is investing in an entirely new steering unit, building and using rebuilding industry connections is certainly a more resourceful option.
Looking forward, aftermarket manufacturers are likely to begin serving the heavy duty steering market more expansively, especially as truck manufacturing becomes a more global industry. However, the development of aftermarket development process is a slow one, so while you're waiting, we encourage rebuilders of all sizes to be conscious of the wealth of replacement parts that can be salvaged from otherwise unusable units.