Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quality is worth the price

One of the things I've learned over the course of a lifetime is never cheap out on parts when you are fixing your car. Cheap parts die. Use OEM-quality or better parts, always.

This applies whether you're talking about brake pads (avoid the AutoZone etc., use high-quality NAPA or OEM pads), water pumps, or car batteries. The Autozone-quality stuff simply doesn't last, if it works at all. (Most of NAPA's stuff, on the other hand, is good stuff). So when I detirmined that the battery in my pickup truck was dying, I went to the store and said, "I want the best battery you have."

And they pointed me at this. Exide Select Orbital,

Now, when I did the same exercise for my KLR, I ended up with a Yuasa AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery, with no free acid. If I drop my KLR, no big deal -- there's no vent hose for anything to leak out of -- and because it is completely sealed with gas recombinant technology (except for venting if overcharged), it can never run out of water. And it has better CCA and drain amps than the normal flooded cell battery. But it looks like Exide has taken the same basic technology even further. My Yuasa has normal parallel plates. The Exide spirals its plates, to make them even less succeptible to warping and shorting, and to further decrease internal resistance. And the battery's chemistry means it'll keep a charge for a year with no problem.

I didn't believe the dealer when he told me that I didn't need to charge the new battery -- how could that be? I mean, the battery had probably been in his back room for months, right? So I put it on my battery tender and watched the voltage. The battery tender's little CPU stepped up the voltage until it hit 13.8 volts, decided that hmm this battery is already fully charged, then stopped, dropping back to float. Crap, this means that I can leave my truck sitting there for a month without starting it and still be able to start it because this battery doesn't self-discharge like regular batteries! (And yeah, sometimes I do leave my truck sitting there for a week at a time, especially in the summer, because hey, summer is motorcycle-ridin' weather around here!).

So now my pickup cranks right up (the old battery had a cell with a slow short in it and after that cell drained overnight would only barely crank the truck), and I won't have to buy a battery for another six years (the old OEM battery only lasted three years). For that kind of quality, twice the price of an OEM-quality battery would be a bargain. And yeah, twice the price of an OEM quality battery is pretty much what I paid -- but I get a helluva lot of peace of mind for that price, because now my battery is something I don't have to worry about for a long, long time.

Quality. Try it. You might like it. And avoid that cheap Autozone crap, unless you intend on selling the car within the next couple of weeks. It just doesn't pay to go cheap when you're fixing your car. I'm sure The Fixer would agree.

- Badtux the Mechanic Penguin

PS: When applied to things like schools, government services, etc., the same applies -- quality costs. Ya gets what ya pays fer. America cheaps out on its government compared to every other modern industrial nation, and gets the government it pays for -- one that doesn't work well.


  1. When I worked as the mechanic's assistant at recycler owned by my buddy's father and uncle, I was surprized to notice that NAPA delievered all the parts to his son John (the only mechanic and my boss). Knowing NAPA was good shit but expensive, I didn't think a small, family owned recycling business could stay afloat because of the costs.

    I asked John about it and he said, "After I came home from the NAVY and worked for the family, I told the old man, 'Look, either you want me in the shop fixing shit with the quality yet expensive parts NAPA will deliver either here, the office, at the yard, or whereever I'm at or you want me on the road to AutoZone 2-3 times a week for cheap shitty parts which I'll pour the savings into my gas tank anyway only for you or Uncle Ronnie to scream at me on Friday at 5PM for getting nothing done. That'll force me to work 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday each just to get all the vehicles fixed and ready by Monday so the process will start anew all over again. Having to work on the weekend will make my wife and kid bitch because I'm never around except to fuck, eat, and sleep. I guarantee you I'll only tolerate it for about 6-8 months ... and you know Firestone calls me with an offer every month to save their asses by coming to work for them for less hours and money. So, by the 7th call, Sonya will tell me to take it or serve me with divorce papers. Your call, Dad. You're the boss. I only turn the wrenches. When you make your decision, tell Sonya instead of me."

    When that rant reached Ronnie's ears, it was boiled down to, "John wants a NAPA account or he'll quit in 7 months." By 2PM that same day, the office called John confirming the NAPA account and he's been turning the wrenches there ever since (5-6 years now).

  2. I never skimp on my tires or brakes, ever. As inconvenient as it may be for the car not to go, it can be fatal if doesn't stop when you want it to.

    Thanks for the battery info.

  3. This is another way poor people get screwed. They can't come up with the money for parts that will last or buy new appliances that last and require less maintenance.

    As long as the Wal*Marts of this world keep talking about price, the people who buy their crap are getting screwed.

  4. Napa is using their past reputation to sell high priced chinese junk. I ordered a napa clutch at the local store. This clutch kit cost 344.00 and was about 90.00 higher than other places but I thought the quality would make up for it.

    I got the kit yesterday and it proudly had on the box, "made in china." I took it back and happened to find a made in usa clutch for a lot less at another place.

    Napa is using their past reputation to sell overpriced chinese junk now. Not the first time I have noticed it either.

    They used to be good without question but are worse now than any discount store.


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