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AutoZone and crap from China


FastWoman

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A precautionary rant:

I've been a proponent of lifetime-warranted AutoZone parts, provided they are easy enough to change out. The alternator in my '78 280 is a good example. The swap is fast. I'm on my 3rd AZ alternator now, but it was cheap and easy.

I'm really starting to question the wisdom of this plan, though. My Saturn's radiator tank cracked, so I got an AZ lifetime warranted radiator. After changing out the radiator (very cheaply constructed in China), I was STILL losing fluid at about the same rate, but I never could find a leak in the driveway. It turns out the radiator had a drain plug whose threading was slightly too small for the threading in the drain hole, so it popped loose, and it would pee fluid sometimes on the road (but not in my driveway). Gah! This was a tooling problem on their part -- dyes were not machined to the correct thread sizes.

Not wanting to replace the radiator, I shamed the AZ people into lending me a tap, so that I could enlarge the threading to 10mm x 1.25 and put in a bolt. (My tap sets were in another city.) After re-threading the hole, I discovered that the Chinese tap had been horribly machined and had some horrible burs in it that buggered up the threading as I tapped it. The result? The bolt wouldn't hold either. So I ended up replacing the radiator under warranty -- another 2 hr of my time down the drain. I checked the plug very carefully before taking the new radiator. It did snug up firmly, so I guess they corrected the dye problem.

Lessons:

1. Never trust a Chinese cutting tool!

2. Never trust a Chinese cutting tool!

3. Chinese workers don't give a @$%. That was 2 out of 2! The re-tap would have worked, but I was doubly condemned to failure.

4. Never use a Chinese part if it takes longer than a half hour to replace.

5. Probably stop using Chinese parts altogether. (Is this some sort of a Chinese plot to waste American time and resources?)

6. And once again, never trust a Chinese cutting tool! (Imagine if I had been using the thing to chase some threads in my cylinder head!)

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When I worked at Nissan customers would balk at the price of a replacement alternator / starter ($300 or more) and ask if they could go buy a $99 one from Autozone and have us install it. We refused. We would only install:

A) OEM Nissan

B) NAPA, 2-3 year warranty

C) original alternator or starter, rebuilt.

It was a labor thing. The AZ alternator/starters typically lasted less than 90 days. They had less than half the copper (wiring, coils) in them of an OEM device. Of COURSE they were going to wear out faster, and it was OUR techs who would get to replace them over and over.

As for Chinese tools, I have a hierarchy.

My ratchets are Snap-On, my air tools are mostly Ingersoll/Rand. Lifetime Warranty.

My Gear wrenches are either Snap-On, Mac, Gear-Wrench, or other WITH A WARRANTY.

My sockets / wrenches are generally Craftsman. Again, WARRANTY.

Pry bars, jack stands, creepers, stuff that doesn't matter is Chinese, comes from Harbor Freight. (Although now I'm wondering about the wisdom of trusting those jack stands...)

The Chinese stuff simply uses inferior metal, that's been poorly machined. Look at the "Stainless Steel" BBQ grilles at Home Depot! They're all RUSTED!!!! They can't even put a reasonable amount of chrome and vanadium in their Stainless steel! Chinese light fixtures don't even use enough copper to make good electrical contact with fluorescent bulbs!

Autozone, O'Reilly, Pep Boys, these folks sell cheap Chinese c.r.ap to consumers who don't know any better and whose time isn't worth anything.

What's your time worth?

Edited by Wade Nelson
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I just try to buy chemicals there - oil , degreasers , etc and get my 20% discount. Gaskets are cheap and they usually can get Felpro.

Don't buy Dorman hardware, all their steel rusts quickly.

If I can wait, I order from Rock Auto which gives you a choice of manufacturers .

Nissan stuff is the best for parts that take lots of abuse.

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I bought a china made hand fuel pump for transferring fuel when I took the gas tank out and it was made of plastic far too soft, almost like it was made with that cheap throw away plastic they make mardi gras trinkets out of for anyone who has been there. It fell apart during the first use, poorest quality thing I ever bought. I also made the mistake of getting a harbor freight dent puller and the hook on the end broke off almost immediately. Other things from harbor freight have worked for me though.

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I have had good luck for most harbor freight things. However, I usually only by crap that I intend to abuse from them.

Also, my Napa doesn't get much business from me as their hours are way too short.

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When I worked at Nissan customers would balk at the price of a replacement alternator / starter ($300 or more) and ask if they could go buy a $99 one from Autozone and have us install it. We refused. We would only install:

A) OEM Nissan

B) NAPA, 2-3 year warranty

C) original alternator or starter, rebuilt.

But isn't an AZ alternator a rebuilt OEM? Not rebuilt well, maybe, but it still has the same copper windings and such, right?

FAIW, I replaced a GM alternator on our boat (Chrysler 318 inboard engine with a reversed bracket for the alternator, so that it would spin the right direction) with a rebuilt unit from Advance Auto. It was $35 with exchange, which both delighted me and caused me considerable apprehension. That alternator held up under the most hostile imaginable service (salt air environment with heavy condensation every night) for 5 years until I sold the boat. So it wasn't a bad rebuild at all.

It was a labor thing. The AZ alternator/starters typically lasted less than 90 days. They had less than half the copper (wiring, coils) in them of an OEM device. Of COURSE they were going to wear out faster, and it was OUR techs who would get to replace them over and over.

...

Autozone, O'Reilly, Pep Boys, these folks sell cheap Chinese c.r.ap to consumers who don't know any better and whose time isn't worth anything.

What's your time worth?

Ah, therein lies the rub. While I agree with you, photography, web design, and graphic design aren't exactly booming fields. Pay is good when I can get it, but in all honesty, I have way too much free time to replace Chinese crap. So the better question (for me) is how much frustration is a part worth.

In all honesty, I thought the Saturn radiator was a 30 min or 1 hr R&R, based on what I read on the Saturn boards. However, what I read was wrong. The biggest headache is that the AC condenser coil is mounted directly to the radiator, the two cannot be removed together without disconnecting freon lines, and there is almost no room to get to the condenser coil mounting screws. Uncharacteristically BAD design for that company! Anyway, it's about a 2-3 hr R&R, and I would have gone with a non-AZ part considering.

I think I'll be buying more NAPA regardless.

BTW, I'd reconsider those HF jack stands, Wade! I had a weld break loose on an old Chinese jack stand, not that it dropped a car or anything. Chinese might generally be fine for this item, but HF sells the bottom rung of Chinese goods.

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A lot of SnapOn tools are made in China now. Betamotorsports got started welding specialty automotive hand tools for a SnapOn supplier. USA made for 50 years and then the MBAs took over at SnapOn. Price and inventory pressure from the MBAs forced the manufacturer to build in China because my $25 an hour rate to weld the parts was 800% higher then the rate in China.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are a WalMart nation and its one reason I now work mostly on Porsches instead of Datsuns. Unfortunately the Datsun folks squeeze a penny pretty tight.

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But isn't an AZ [AutoZone] alternator a rebuilt OEM?

No, it is not. Again, sometime compare an OEM starter or alternator with an Autozone unit. It weighs less than half as much because it has far fewer copper windings in it. It is a cheaply made piece of junk. It will require MORE horsepower to put out the same amperage because, with less copper, it's less EFFICIENT than a properly made (or rebuilt) alternator.

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Good luck in your quest to avoid buying Chinese made "stuff". I needed a drill press a few years back, so I went to every store in central Indiana looking at drill presses. Every one was made in China. I could buy a really expensive Chinese drill press, or a Harbor Freight Chinese drill press those are the options. I ended up buying the top of the line HF unit, and it has held up fine to my limited use. My experience has been similar on every item that I have researched. The "good" tools are made in Mexico. The Cheap ones in China.

Personally, I am a skeptic on the claim that the parts store alternators and starting motors are somehow made with fewer windings. Every rebuilt unit that I have ever purchased from Advance Auto, O'Reily, or AutoZone came in a case that said Hitachi, Delco, or some other OEM brand. What fails are the diodes, brushes, or bearings. They aren't re-wound during the rebuild process. Now whether or not they fully test the windings before they replace the worn parts, that is a valid question.

A couple of years ago I had to replace the starter in my Chevy truck. None of the parts stores sold a rebuilt unit for it. The starter that all four of the local parts stores carried was a brand new Remy brand unit, which is the OEM part. (Made in Mexico, just like the part at the G.M. dealers.)

That being said, I would much rather have a brand new Nissan part than a rebuilt part of questionable origins. However, I don't always have the time, or the money to go that route, especially since the closest Nissan dealer is over an hour round trip from my house.

I have had trouble with radiators from parts stores. Even when they don't leak, they often are missing cores. Generally for a radiator the best bet is to take it to a reputable radiator shop. They don't charge that much really, and normally the end result is much better.

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IMO, the only way to avoid buying "Chinese" stuff is buy a used item. You will still need to take the time to find a good-condition item. That way, no matter where it was made (hopefully it was years ago) the purchase is now benefiting the local economy. that way I can say I never buy an Asian import (I always buy a New Ford car) because my Datsun has changed owners so many times that it no longer benefits anyone in Asia, except maybe the aftermarket parts people and a few small parts I get from the JY (which still benefits local businesses.)

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The reality is that a Ford car probably has a Mazda transmission along with a lot of other foreign parts. The platform for the car was probably developed with another auto maker and many products that say "Made in USA" have parts that were produced overseas. There was a study a while back and I believe it was Toyota that had the claim to the most American made car from their domestic plant because they had the highest percentage of parts made in America. Even if you buy from a domestic company it may not be owned by Americans so the money could end up off shore anyway. It is very hard to know because companies don't advertise this sort of information. Like Walter said many products are not even produced in the US any more. Many dirty manufacturing processes have gone over seas because the EPA, OSHA and DEHC have higher compliance costs than China which has a horrible history as an industrial polluter. It is the reality of the today, give it 20 years and it will change again. Nothing is static...

Charles

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Not only that, I saw an interview with a GM executive that told the interviewer how GM now has 11 manufacturing plants in China, and is allowing Chinese companies to buy the GM facilities in the U.S.A....

OTOH, I tried to get my '97 Escort into an import show, claiming that it was a Brazilian-made rally car! LOL

Edited by TomoHawk
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If AutoZone is buying crap from China - they can just as easily buy crap from any number of different Countries - including the US.

If AutoZone wanted to buy top quality products from China they could. Apple seems to be able to - my Mac, iPod, iPad and the iPhone are all made in China. Wonderful products all with very high quality.

Harbor Freight buys perhaps the best quality 42", 13-Drawer Roll Cabinets that I could find - for anything under $900.00. Then they put them on sale for $349.00. Low price and high quality.

Quality is defined by the Customer. If an inexpensive set of screw drivers from Harbor Freight meets your needs - then by Dr. Deming's definition - they are of good quality. They may be inexpensive, but they are not based solely on price - cheap junk.

FWIW,

Carl B.

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Quality is defined by the Customer. If an inexpensive set of screw drivers from Harbor Freight meets your needs - then by Dr. Deming's definition - they are of good quality. They may be inexpensive, but they are not based solely on price - cheap junk.

Ahhhhh, Dr. Deming.............someone had ISO 9000 training.

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Ahhhhh, Dr. Deming.............someone had ISO 9000 training.

LOL - Hi Bart - yes, and beyond that for Manned Space Projects.

However my interests in Dr. Deming has more to do with his work in Japan for the Japanese Auto Industry among others. Deming and Juran actually. Amazing guys.

FWIW,

Carl

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  • 3 weeks later...

A lot of the stuff in Chinese poo. Mainly in the isles. Everything behind the counter should be OEM supplier or remanufactured parts. Same with anyone else.

I don't see why a company in China would just so happen to make an alternator for some random Datsun. Or a radiator for some random saturn. There should be plenty left over from over manufacturing, wrecked cars and junked cars.

If you are on your third alternator, maybe you have a larger electrical problem? Or just have bad luck with parts.

My friend who is a big time Bimmer guy always buys the most expensive replacement parts. Yet he still had three water pumps go bad on him in just a few thousand miles.

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  • 1 year later...

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