CrossDrilledRotors.ca Official Blog

  • Disc Brakes Work Better. So Why Don’t More Trucks Have Them?

    Disc Brakes Work Better. So Why Don’t More Trucks Have Them?

    Shorter stopping distances could lead to an evolution in heavy-duty brakes.

    The brake maintenance habits of truck fleets have been under scrutiny for years, but truck fleets and owner/operators are now faced with a larger decision regarding brake systems.

    Dana Corp.’s Jim Clark is rather blunt in his assessment of disc brakes. “They’re a better animal,” he says, comparing the designs to their S-cam counterparts. Quite simply, trucks equipped with disc brakes need less room to stop.

    Still, proponents of disc designs haven’t had much luck convincing North American fleets to adopt the equipment. About 98% of heavy-duty wheel ends are equipped with the more affordable S-cam components. Bendix, for example, has a mere 60,000 air disc brakes on North American roads, compared to the 7 million that its parent company has installed on European equipment.

    But the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may be ready to offer an important boost to disc designs, openly suggesting that it will ask for a 30% reduction in allowable stopping distances for trucks when it hands down an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making in late May.

    Such distances would require steer axles to be equipped with either larger S-cam components or disc brakes, and a growing interest in the latter choice could lead to the need to stock a wider proliferation of heavy-duty parts.

    “This new rule is going to define stopping distances, and that’s going to define the brakes that we use,” Clark said, during a recent seminar held by the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association.

    Sixty percent of steer axles incorporate 15-inch S-cams, compared to 37% that use 16.5-inch designs, said Paul Johnson, senior director of ArvinMeritor’s North American brake business. And the different sizes translate into differences in stopping power.

    Tractor-trailers with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 52,000 lb. currently need to stop from speeds of 60 mph within a distance of 355 feet — a requirement easily met by either size of brakes. However, problems emerge if the allowable distances are shortened to 248 feet. Trucks equipped with 15 x 4 brakes on steer axles will only meet the requirement by a margin of about four feet, compared to those with 16.5 x 5 designs that will stop within 206 feet.

    “Manufacturers want a 10% margin,” Clark said, suggesting that smaller designs may no longer be offered as a vehicle option once the shorter distances become a reality.

    But the bigger S-cam brakes will come at a cost in the form of additional weight — a 12% increase in lining volume translates into an additional 74 lb. — and that could eliminate one of the traditional arguments against disc brakes, which tend to be 50 to 100 lb. heavier than 15 x 4 drum designs when they’re attached to steer axles.

    Disc designs are seen as the brakes of the future. ArvinMeritor has promoted their use since the 1980s. Bendix has announced that it will also produce them domestically by the end of 2004, after spending about $3 million U.S. to retool a plant in Frankfort, Ky., that will be capable of building 120,000 units per year.

    “We view this product as the future of braking in North America,” Bendix air disc brake product line director Tom Wladyka said during the announcement. “Manufacturing air disc brakes here allows us to meet anticipated demand.”

    While Bendix’s plans to build domestic designs were made well before NHTSA began to talk about shorter stopping distances, such an announcement could pique interest in the disc-based technology, Wladyka says.

    Those who buy motor homes and fire trucks have already shown a willingness to pay a premium for the parts because of their better performance characteristics. Disc designs can maintain stopping power as brakes heat up, while drum brakes can face a problem known as brake fade, when hot drums expand beyond the reach of friction material. Meanwhile, a steer axle equipped with disc brakes will shed almost 10 feet from the minimum stopping distances enjoyed by those equipped with 16.5 x 5 S-cam designs, says Clark.

    Buyers wary of problems with earlier designs may also be encouraged to look at the latest generation of products. Ventilated rotors are more robust and will run cooler than their predecessors, says Bendix principal engineer Rob Plantan. “And the pads are much better, too.”

    Manufacturers, meanwhile, should be comforted by the fact that the anticipated stopping distances can be met with technology that’s already available on the market. In comparison, the introduction of in-cab warning lights for trailer ABS systems forced them to design multiplexing systems that could carry signals along existing power lines, rather than requiring an all-new connection between tractors and trailers. And the U.S. had to abandon plans to mandate anti-lock brakes in the 1970s, when unproven technology wasn’t able to meet the requirements.

    Jobbers would simply face pressure to stock a growing proliferation of the related parts, suggests Dale Holman of Truck Watch Services, a Georgetown, Ont. company that specializes in truck brakes.

    Disc designs may incorporate fewer components than their S-cam counterparts, but they’re still evolving, Holman says. Early models have already been updated several times, and he expects further revisions once the trucking industry embraces them, and introduces the equipment to a wider range of operating environments.

    “[Sourcing] the common stuff usually isn’t a problem, but there are already some exotic parts out there,” he says. “They were putting in one design and then changing it up. Some stuff was only on the market for a year.”

    A shift to disc designs could also require changes to components other than brakes. The mounting of air chambers that feed disc brakes can interfere with steering arms and tie rod ends on some North American suspension designs, Clark notes.

    Some fleet managers also remain wary about brake-related maintenance needs that they’ve never had to face. Disc brake pads may simply drop into place when they need to be changed, for example, but most disc designs require hubs to be removed before rotors can be replaced. Multi-piece rotor assemblies, which can be pulled out without removing hubs, can be costly.

    Regardless, the larger S-cam designs or disc brake packages appear to be the most obvious options to meet the shorter stopping distances. Different slack adjuster lengths can increase stopping force, but they would lead to adjustment problems and a number of performance issues, Johnson says. Larger brake chambers would require more space on wheel ends, and wider shoes that can extend brake life don’t add to available torque.

    Manufacturers will still have an opportunity to test an array of new designs or approaches before the proposed rules become law. The NHTSA announcement will be just the beginning of a process to solicit industry comments, even though it’s a key step in developing the U.S. regulations that are usually mirrored in Canada. “There are going to be a lot of questions,” admits administration spokesman Jim Britell, calling on the industry to explain why it likes or hates any aspect of the proposed rules.

    Mac Bradley, a Volvo Trucks engineer, suggests that it’s also going to be important to investigate maintenance and inspection programs — and NHTSA has indicated that it also plans to do just that. Some 18% of brakes were ruled out of service during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Operation Air Brake inspection blitz in 2003; 13% were out of service because of adjustment problems.

    “Can better maintenance and inspection programs be equally and more important?” Bradley asks. Perhaps more important: “Are we focusing on the right issues?”

  • Drum Brakes and Dumb Mistakes

    Drum Brakes and Dumb Mistakes

    In a shop environment, this situation would have been a profit killer for sure, which is another reason why I'm so impressed with techs that can turn the so-called easy jobs like brakes, suspension and alignment fast enough to make real money. Sometimes, even the easy stuff, isn't.

    In the thirty years that I’ve been messing around with cars and light trucks, I’ve accumulated what I like to think is a good working knowledge of light vehicle repair. Some came honestly, like learning about the importance of bolt torque by blowing the engine in my mother’s Datsun 1200, some by the back door, like combining three Austin Mini’s (the original, small one) to make one vehicle that could be registered three different ways. This week, however, I had a head scratcher that drove me crazy enough to want to describe it here. See if you can relate. My winter beater and general parts/cottage supply/lawn tractor hauler is a clean 1990 Dodge Grand Caravan, 3.3L V-6, A-604 Ultradrive, etc. etc. It’s ugly as sin, but it works, and it’s simple enough that I generally do the little things myself, just to stay sharp. This week, it was rear brakes. Regular readers know that I like drum brakes and firmly believe that for the average driver, they’re all you really need are simple to service and are cheap. The rears on the Dodge in question are the classic Bendix ‘Duo-Servo”, which means that you can do the job in your sleep, with a hangover. And because I like to do brakes about once every ten years, I elected to replace everything from the backing plate out. I assembled everything, backed in the adjuster, repacked the wheel bearings, tapped in a new grease seal, offered up the drum and … it wouldn’t fit. Recheck the adjuster screw. Yes, it’s all the way in. Try again. No way. This time I check to see if I’ve inverted the primary and secondary shoes. No problem. I then check the drum I.D., which is within spec, and the thickness of the shoe linings, which were also fine. The parking brake was fully off and not seized. Still the drum won’t go. What do you do? Perplexed, I tore the entire system down and started again, assuming some kind of assembly error. This time I’m slow and careful, checking the manual as a precaution. Still the drum won’t fit. Anger/frustration and bewilderment set in. I’ve done this hundreds of times before, on everything from Imperials to M.G. Midgets, so how can I be stumped on a Chrysler minivan? The next step was to check the part numbers on the name-brand replacement parts. Drum, shoes and hardware kit are the right numbers. Comparison with the old parts show them to be the same. The situation can’t be happening, but it is. A couple of sips of one of Molson’s better products and I attack the problem anew. This time, armed with more light and with a better attitude, I notice that the shoes aren’t both touching the upper anchor pivot at the same time, even with the adjuster backed off completely. Closer inspection shows that the parking brake strut is holding the shoes apart slightly. It’s in the right way around and it’s forked into the shoe webs correctly, but still the shoes are jacked outward. Digging into the garbage can, I retrieve the small, flat coil spring that keeps the strut from rattling. The replacement part uses spring wire that’s at least twice the thickness of the original, so the coils bind when the shoes are compressed inward. Not by much, but the combination of new shoes and a new drum left not enough clearance to put the lot together. No, I wasn’t going nuts, but I was let down by a name-brand aftermarket part that was well-made, but just didn’t fit correctly. I’m not going to name the company, because I can’t tell if this is a one-time or systemic problem, but it did teach me a lesson or two about doing the simple jobs. One is that you can’t get complacent, no matter how easy the job looks. The other is to trust your instincts. I should have assumed that I put it together correctly in the first place, rather than rebuild the brake again, wasting time. In a shop environment, this situation would have been a profit killer for sure, which is another reason why I’m so impressed with techs that can turn the so-called easy jobs like brakes, suspension and alignment fast enough to make real money. Sometimes, even the easy stuff, isn’t.

  • Audi Explores Carbon-Composite Brakes

    Audi Explores Carbon-Composite Brakes

    German carbon-graphite composites manufacturer SGL Carbon AG and Audi have signed a cooperation agreement on carbon-ceramic brake discs (CCB). According to SGL Carbon, the firm will receive a low doub...

    German carbon-graphite composites manufacturer SGL Carbon AG and Audi have signed a cooperation agreement on carbon-ceramic brake discs (CCB). According to SGL Carbon, the firm will receive a low double-digit million Euro amount for technological and manufacturing developments as well as for the planning of automated mass production. Both parties have the option to expand production through a joint venture at a later date. The technology was developed by SGL Carbon in the ’90’s and was developed for mass production with Porsche. Carbon-ceramic discs last much longer than metal discs, and may last the life of the vehicle in some applications. In the interim, Audi will introduce carbon-ceramic discs to the market within the scope of a long-term supply agreement. The discs will be supplied by the existing SGL Carbon production facilities in Meitingen, Germany. Audi has introduced its new Audi A8 W12 Quattro with CCB technology, shipping the flagship sedan with the new brake discs from autumn 2005 onwards at customer request.

  • Ceramic brakes move to mainstream aftermarket acceptance

    Ceramic brakes move to mainstream aftermarket acceptance

    Consistent braking, OE formulations and complete kits make ceramic-based brakes a natural fit for technicians

    Brake repair and maintenance is the bread-and-butter of every independent service shop in Canada. And over time, the needs of Canadian drivers has slowly begun to change the nature of what kinds of aftermarket brake material and technologies are being asked for when they roll their vehicles into the bays for a brake fix.

    Today’s car owners are looking for aftermarket brakes that are as good as or better than the original OE brakes that came with their vehicle the first time it rolled off the lot. That means the replacement brakes must provide a consistent braking force, and most importantly, not be noisy when the vehicles rolls out of the bay at the end of a brake replacement job.

    That is why ceramic brakes are becoming such a hot item amongst independent service providers and makers of aftermarket brake pads and parts. Since the early 1990s, vehicle manufacturers, first with higher-end vehicles but soon in an ever growing number and range of passenger vehicles, began to replace conventional semi-metallic brake pads with ceramic-based pads and discs in order to address issues of noise, dust and wear. The aftermarket soon followed, rolling out aftermarket ceramic brake products to meet that growing demand.

    Kenneth Selinger, director of marketing and product development for the aftermarket and OES division of Akebono Brake Corp., North America in Elizabethtown, Ky. said the move to ceramic brakes was also driven in North America by the growing use of ceramic brakes on Asian vehicles, something that was quickly noticed by North America’s Big Three auto makers.

    “The Big Three benchmarked all the Japanese car manufacturers and they saw those Japanese manufacturers using ceramic pads on all their vehicles and the high level of customer satisfaction with Japanese braking systems. And when (the Big Three) dove in deeper, looking at what delivered that customer satisfaction, they saw a preponderance of ceramic friction materials being used not only on the luxury and high-end vehicles, but also on their mainstream vehicles.”

    The main difference between ceramic-based brakes and semi-metallic is that ceramic brakes contain no steel fibers. While steel provides a great deal of strength and is an excellent conductor of heat away from the rotor, it also made the pads quite noisy. Over time, that steel also caused the brake rotors to wear quickly. Ceramic materials and formulations allow the brake to produce less wear on the rotor and can handle brake temperatures and eliminate a great deal of noise.

    According to a Frost & Sullivan report on ceramic and other friction products, ceramic friction is expected to grow significantly by 2011, with a 60 per cent increase in revenues from 2005 where ceramics held a 38.2 per cent market share in the U.S.

    “Last year, 2006, was the first year that ceramic replacement pads, as a category in North America, surpassed semi-metallic pads. Semi-metallic pads, since the early 80s have been the dominate material of choice,” added Selinger

    OE formulation key to making successful aftermarket brakes

    “Carbon Ceramic brakes today offer longer rotor life and less noise and than those of non-steel and semi-metallic friction, without the harshness of depleting the rotor life prematurely and causing excessive dust on wheels,” said Charles Pariano, manager of North American aftermarket sales with AISIN World Corp. of America in Torrance, Calif. “Noise and dust are important issues, but safety is key to replacing like for like materials on today’s vehicles. People expect safe and quiet braking systems and don’t like to get their upgraded wheels dusty either.”

    Eric Dussault, vice-president of Alco Brakes in Loretteville, Que. added a key selling point for ceramic-based brakes are the consistent braking over the life of brake. Ceramic brakes will perform well from the first time the brake is applied to the 500th time that brake is applied, he added, which is something consumers are looking for when they put on new brakes. They don’t want to come back to a shop saying that the brakes are not working as well as they did the first time the brakes worked to stop the car.

    Another key selling point which technicians should emphasize to potential brake customers is that today’s aftermarket ceramic replacement pads are equal to OE ceramic brakes, featuring identical formulations and designs. This can put a customer’s mind at ease knowing the product going into their vehicle is not in any way inferior to their original brakes. And today’s aftermarket manufacturers have a wide-range of vehicle-specific formulations as well.

    For example, AISIN’s aftermarket ADVICS line of premium brakes are made to meet OE specifications and to provide a consistent braking performance, as well as low noise and low dust. AISIN’s Pariano added that some higher-end vehicles roll off the assembly line with ADVICS brakes on them now.

    “Replacing friction when needed with matched friction is important.” Pariano continued. “ADVICS ceramic pads are available for a variety of Asian import models.”

    Akebono Brake Corp.’s popular ProAct and Euro ceramic brake are optimized to better control for noise, vibration and wear. The pads are also post-cured and heat-scorched to ensure a better braking effectiveness right out of the package and chamfered and slotted for better fit and control.

    “The thing that is unique about our products is that we take our OEM technology, in its purest form, and we apply that to our aftermarket products. So our ProAct pads and Euro pads, which are 100 per cent ceramic, have our validated OEM technology, undiluted. We have over 26 unique ceramic friction materials in our aftermarket program, and we are adding to that.”

    Don’t forget the hardware

    One of the biggest reasons that independent service providers have for comebacks is the use of old hardware when installing the new brakes. All of the major aftermarket brake manufacturers include with their brake pads kits that will have the necessary replacement hardware or parts needed for a brake service, and make the maintenance and replacement of brakes easier and more efficient.

    For example, Akebono’s ProAct brakes comes with precision-fit bracking plates to help reduce noise and a high-temperature resistant moly lube, and such things as wear-sensors and drop-in kits.

    “We provide every single component so that (a technician) can simply take the product out of the box, bolt it onto the car and hand the keys back to the customer,” added Selinger.

    Not a tough sell

    Sometimes the biggest issue car owners will have ceramics is cost. Many will look at the price and balk, often asking why the technician is recommending such pricey technology in the first place. Why not go with other brakes they may ask, ones that are cheaper?

    “When an installer approaches a customer, I would recommend they try to understand what the customer’s primary concern is,” Selinger said. “If the vehicle is one that they are getting rid of soon and just doing due diligence on maintenance, then maybe a ceramic pad is not for them. But if the customer is maintaining the vehicle over the long term, surely they want to have trouble-free braking performance. So if the installer can focus in on the key features and benefits of ceramics pads then the sale should be easier.”

    Pariano added that while ceramics certainly have a slightly higher cost, the “inconvenience of noise, squeal and dust are significant reasons to replace their brakes with carbon ceramic pads for safety and peace of mind.”

    Brake Installation tips

    Know what the customer wants to sell brakes properly

    There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ brake solution on the market. Independent service shops should ask what the biggest concern a customer has. If it is noise and dust, ceramic is a good choice. If the vehicle, however, is being used for such things as heavy towing or deliveries of heavy objects, a semi-metallic
    pad is likely preferable.

    Use good torque

    Disc pads should be tight in the caliper and the caliper should be torqued to the housing.

    Flush the brake fluid

    Brake fluid should be flushed when replacing hydraulic brake components. ABS units should be bled separately.

    Pressure sensors

    Tire pressure sensors may need to be reset or recalibrated after a brake job.

  • Better Brakes

    Better Brakes

    Premium components can lead to happier customers and higher profits.

    Eric Dussault continues to be astounded by consumers who squawk at the price of premium brake components. “A lot of people will pay $100 to $150 for a hood deflector, but they still want to pay $25 to $30 for their brakes,” bemoans the vice-president of Alco Brakes in Loretteville, Que. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”

    Indeed there is — and most of it involves the need to educate customers (and some shop personnel) about the differences that exist.

    Premium brake components are undeniably more effective than their value-priced alternatives. When Oshawa, Ont.-based ACDelco tested seven different types of friction material on the front brakes of a Chevy 2500 traveling at 45 km/h, stopping distances varied by as much as 90 feet. Cheaper hardware will invariably lead to noise-related complaints, while inferior rotors can lead to an array of heat-related damage.

    The differences are leading a growing number of installers to introduce customers to premium products, suggests Rick McCoy of Aisin World Corporation of American in Woodstock, Ont. “The pendulum is swinging back toward quality. Mechanics have had enough of re-doing the job.”

    But just how do you identify a premium component? Warranties aren’t necessarily a guarantee of quality, he says as an example. “Some of the least-expensive [suppliers] are saying, ‘We have a lifetime warranty’ and hoping you lose the receipt.”

    The choice often comes down to sticking with trusted brands, and finding options that are designed for specific vehicle applications.

    Several factors will set premium products apart from their counterparts, notes Brian Fleming, director of marketing for Affinia Canada Corp. in Mississauga, Ont., which markets Raybestos brakes. Premium designs, for example, are more likely to match or improve upon the fit, form, function and performance characteristics of Original Equipment components. “Premium products — especially today — represent more than a part and box. It comes with marketing support and coverage to ensure you don’t have a lost sale,” he adds.

    The offerings can also lead to higher profits. All too often, shops focus on profit margins in terms of a percentage, but fail to consider the higher dollar figures associated with premium components.

    “Do the math,” Fleming says. “How many dollars are you taking to the bank?”

    FIT THE NEED

    Every brake component can be selected to meet a specific customer need.

    Consider lines of value-priced brake pads, which may incorporate three different chemical formulas. In comparison, premium lines can include more than a dozen formulas that offer different characteristics relating to wear, fade, performance and weight, Fleming says.

    The proper choice simply involves asking a few questions.

    “It’s the counterman’s job, or the garage’s job, to ask people what they are doing with the vehicle,” Dussault says, noting that the aggressive action of a Carbon Metallic offering may be needed to effectively stop a pick-up truck that’s pulling a boat.

    An entry-level brake package may be able to stop that same vehicle, but the related temperatures can run as much as 200F hotter, adds Don Ninni, a technical product support and training specialist with ACDelco.

    Morse Automotive Corp. in Chicago Ill. recently released the Morse Elite disc brake pad that use a Vulcanized Silencing System (VSS) and an OE-style shim design that are made to provide better durability and noise dampening, and includes the Comprehensive Unimold attachment system that is made to prevent delamination of the friction material from the backing plate.

    Yet the heaviest payloads in many of today’s pick-up trucks come in the form of a car stereo and an extra-large double-double from Tim Hortons. In these cases, customers who buy expensive rims may opt for ceramic offerings, because of the lighter dust and quieter braking action that’s traditionally associated with the material.

    “They want a truck that’s going to stop and feel like a car, and have the same sort of pedal feel,” Fleming says.

    But Jack McGrail, Robert Bosch’s director of product management – brake products in Mississauga, Ont., warns against any thought that one material will solve every issue.

    “There’s no one perfect material,” he says. “It really depends on the person’s driving style. What’s important to them? What kind of vehicle do they have? Things like that. A lot of companies are going out and saying ceramics are the cure-all. That’s not entirely true.”

    The choice of premium components is also particularly important when working on vehicles equipped with advanced stability and traction systems, Ninni adds. “ABS and traction control or suspension reaction are mapped for specific braking decelerations.”

    HEED THE HARDWARE

    The focus on premium products shouldn’t end with the friction material, either. Brake pads with stainless steel shims will tend to run quieter, for a longer period of time, because they resist corrosion. By way of example, McGrail suggested that a rubberized shim will begin to rust in two to three years.

    Many comebacks can be traced to friction material that was installed using old hardware, Fleming adds. Premium friction providers are helping address this issue by including hardware in every box. Affinia, for example, includes everything from abutment clips to bushings. Akebono Corp. in Framington Hills, Mich. adds hardware including wear sensors and drop-in kits.

    There’s simply no need to re-use old material.

    Another hardware-related improvement can involve pre-assembled components.

    Friction-ready calipers come complete with sliders and pins, include the proper lubricant, and have been assembled to meet exacting tolerances, says Ninni, suggesting that the use of these calipers can shave hours off the time needed to complete a brake job.

    “Most folks wouldn’t try to sell a caliper [as part of a traditional brake job] because, by the time you do the other stuff, the costs outweigh what they see as the benefit,” he says. Yet skipping that step can lead to excessive noise, which is one of the top reasons for comebacks associated with brake-related service.

    “There’s nothing worse than spending $1,000 on brakes and having a squeal.”

    DON’T FORGET ROTORS

    Premium rotors remain one of the most overlooked options in today’s brake jobs, largely because of a ready supply of cheap offshore alternatives that began to emerge about 15 years ago. A value-priced offering may cost as little as $10, compared to $70 for its premium counterpart.

    Independent research conducted for Bosch recently found that about 36 per cent of North American brake pad sales could be considered premium. In contrast, only 27 per cent of rotors fell into the same category.

    Offshore designs have improved, McGrail says, noting how the suppliers of many brand names are offering their own entry-level products made in China.

    Indeed, an entry-level rotor may meet the needs that relate to fit and function, but the associated venting can make a difference in the component’s ability to displace heat. The metallurgy of some rotor designs has also been chosen to match specific friction materials, so the wrong choice can lead to excessive noise.

    “The rotor is going to take mechanical energy and convert it to heat and hopefully expel it,” Ninni says. If the related heat isn’t transferred from parts attached to the hub bearing, you’re going to see other damage, such as rubber boots on the suspension end that turn brittle and crack.

    “The real guy making the decision 90 per cent of the time is the installer,” Fleming says, referring to where the process needs to begin. “The consumer doesn’t get into the brands or the technology.”

    “There’s always going to be a place or need for a value-line product, [but installers] have got to stop thinking that the price is the way they’re going to get more business.”

  • Can You and Your Brakes Take the Heat?

    There is little doubt that brakes represent one of the most active markets in the industry. Given the stiff competition in the segment, there also should be little surprise that much of what is being sold in your store today is manufactured outside of fortress North America. Given the sensitive issue of safety surrounding these parts, though, what are the implications for jobbers faced with constant price wars, quality questions and the need to guard against sub-par or dangerous parts?

    First the good news

    The continuing growth in Canadian vehicle populations is sustaining the demand for replacement brake system parts in this country. The demand for brake pads, rotors, and calipers is particularly strong, since all new vehicles are equipped with at least two, and possibly four, disc brakes.

    As the majority of automobile manufacturers employ disc-braking systems, demand for premium and ceramic brakes is also expected to remain on the rise in Canada. Satisfied Brake Corporation vice-president Ian Braunstein says he is encouraged by the use of more ceramic pads, but also notes the problems associated with the boom in the business. “There is sometimes a misconception, when it comes to ceramics, that any ceramic pad will always be better than an organic or a metallic,” he says. “Today, there are a lot of economy ceramic pads that are selling at a lower price, so at best you’re going to compromise performance. Of course, the worst-case scenario is that an economy ceramic is inadequate for the job, causing excessive dust, unacceptable noise and vibration, or even compromised safety.” In this case, Braunstein suggests jobbers stick to their OE specifications. “What jobbers need to keep in mind is that they still have to be OE-specific. If the OE is a semi-metallic, then it can absolutely be replaced by a quality grade semi-metallic; and if you want to upsell them to an aftermarket ceramic pad, you must be certain that it will surpass the OE part in quality and performance.”

    Now the Not-So-Good News

    Rising raw material costs and increased competition from overseas suppliers has served to make the production of brake components more difficult for North American manufacturers. While the increase in oil prices, steel, and other components has added to production costs, manufacturers are hesitant to raise their prices, as it would make them less competitive against foreign competitors, who are at an advantage due to their lower overseas labour costs. “To counter these costs, companies are moving their production sites to Asia and Latin America to take advantage of lower labour expenses,” explains Frost and Sullivan research analyst Stephen Spivey.

    Satisfied Brake Corporation, for example, has begun working with and even establishing its own facilities in China, which Braunstein says is a business reality in today’s global market, but he notes that it needs to be done cautiously. “To do it properly, you have to control the process across all of your product lines, to ensure overall quality control,” he says. Honeywell, manufacturer of the Bendix line of brakes, has a similar global reach when it comes to its modern manufacturing process. “Bendix manufactures parts in the USA, China, Brazil, Germany, France, Australia and Thailand,” says Jay Buckley, technical training manager for Honeywell Consumer Products Group. What’s more, Buckley says, all of those plants are Honeywell-owned and QS9001-certified, which helps to monitor and ensure quality.

    One issue noted by Canadian representatives is the sheer number of new competitors that appear to be little more than marketing and sales agencies. “All of a sudden we’ve seen many of these so-called brake companies bringing their product in and simply marketing it for an overseas manufacturer,” says Braunstein. “It’s opened a real grey area in technology, because a lot of these new manufacturers have only been in the brake distrobution business for a few years.” It’s undoubtedly a safety concern; Braunstein insists that very high quality parts can be built in Chinese facilities, but it requires significant investment by the parent company, both in training and infrastructure.

    Unfortunately, not all North American distributors play on the same contentious level, and as a result it has, in some automotive sectors, caused some of the same corporate disasters that have been suffered recently by massive multinationals like Colgate and Mattel. A highly germane case out of the United States pointedly illustrates the dangers of poor product research. A company out of New Jersey, Foreign Tire Sales, was involved in importing Chinese-made tires and then rebranding them for domestic sale. It has since been forced to recall some 450,000 tires after they began experiencing tread separation problems. According to preliminary reports, it appears that the manufacturing company in China unilaterally decided to cut back on, and in some cases stop using the appropriate gum strips, which are critical in holding the tread in place. As a result of the ordered recall, execs with the importer have indicated that they will have no choice but to declare bankruptcy, as they simply can’t afford the mandatory recall.

    While many jobbers feel they are not significantly affected by the recent spate of recalls, what many don’t appreciate is that, like it or not, you are intimately associated with the products you sell, and in some instances, can be severely affected both personally and financially if there is a catastrophic flaw in a part you have sold.

    One important measure to ensure overall quality and avoid such unpleasantness is to make sure you fully investigate the testing methodologies used by manufacturers with whom you are considering doing business. Ensuring that the products you sell are adequately tested should go a long way in ensuring that quality, reliable parts are being sold to your customers. “We test aftermarket parts to the same SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standards as we use for Original Equipment friction testing, and our aftermarket products meet all DOT and SAE standards for performance, wear, and durability,” says Buckley. At Satisfied, Braunstein says the firm’s testing will most accurately reflect real-life conditions. “We’ve embraced relevant testing standards,” he says. “The D3EA (Dual Dynamometer Differential Effectiveness Analysis) testing method simulates real driving conditions, and it is very vehicle-specific.”

    In the end jobbers simply have to start doing some of their own research into their suppliers’ practices, as a precautionary measure. Making sure you’re selling the best and safest product possible does not have to be a difficult or threatening venture; but it requires some homework. As Buckley advises, “With the proliferation of parts coming in from low-cost regions, it is extremely important for jobbers to deal with known brand names that they can trust.

    “The first question that should be asked when selecting a supplier is how it protects the buyer in a liability case. It’s important to have an idea of how a supplier intends to stand behind its products.”

  • BRM Releases Honing Tool For Brakes

    Brush Research Manufacturing (BRM) has released a ball-style honing tool, the Flex-Hone that allows rebuilders and service shops to give gives brake cylinders and rotors a smooth, “non-directional” finish that eliminates braking noise and extends service life.

    The Flex-Hone uses abrasive globules called “dingle berrie,” mounted to nylon filaments to de-burring, plateau hone and deglaze, and to easily remove microscopic metal shards and fragments. BRM also makes a special line of these ball-type hones for use on brake system rotors.

  • North American Brakes Aftermarket: Sales of Brake Caliper and Hydraulic Components to Benefit as Consumers Keep Their Vehicles Longer

    North American Brakes Aftermarket: Sales of Brake Caliper and Hydraulic Components to Benefit as Consumers Keep Their Vehicles Longer

    Research and Markets has announced the addition of Frost & Sullivan's new report "North American Brakes Aftermarket: Calipers and Hydraulic Components" to their offering.

    Research and Markets has announced the addition of Frost & Sullivan’s new report “North American Brakes Aftermarket: Calipers and Hydraulic Components” to their offering.

    This service analyzes brake calipers and hydraulics in the North American automotive aftermarket. It includes unit shipment and revenue forecasts, pricing analyses, distribution channel analyses, market share analyses, and industry challenges. The base year is 2009. Forecasts are provided from 2010-2016, and historical data is provided for 2006-2008. Calipers are segmented into Loaded, Semi-loaded and Unloaded product lines. Hydraulics are segmented into master cylinders, wheel cylinders, brake hoses, brake cables, clutch master cylinders and slave cylinders. There are two companion services connected to this research. They are North American Brakes Aftermarket: Rotors and Drums and North American Brakes Aftermarket: Friction Parts.

    This research service titled North American Brakes Aftermarket: Calipers and Hydraulic Components provides unit shipment and revenue forecasts, market drivers and restraints, distribution channel analyses and market share analyses. In this research, Frost & Sullivan’s expert analysts thoroughly examine the following markets: automotive brake calipers and hydraulic components.

    Sales of Brake Caliper and Hydraulic Components to Benefit as Consumers Keep Their Vehicles Longer

    The current economic environment is encouraging people to keep their vehicles longer and driving growth in the North American brakes aftermarket. Demand for durable brake components such as calipers, master cylinders, and hoses will also increase in the coming years, reversing a longstanding downtrend for many parts in this category. The result will be increased competition that drives some suppliers out of the market. The decline in vehicle sales has a corresponding effect on average vehicle age; today, the average vehicle age in the United States is about 9.5 years, notes the analyst of this research service. In two years, the average U.S. passenger vehicle will be over 10 years old, putting more vehicles in the prime replacement period not only for routine maintenance parts, but also for many long-lasting components such as hoses and master cylinders. These growth rates may not seem impressive on the surface. However, for some of these components, it is the first time since Frost & Sullivan began tracking the category that suppliers expect any growth at all. Unit shipment demand for semi-loaded calipers will increase by 3.7 per cent annually. Demand for master cylinders will grow at a rate of 0.3 per cent annually. Total manufacturer-level revenues will increase by 3.1 per cent each year from 2009 to 2016.

    To take advantage of this opportunity, suppliers must carry all makes and models coverage. This includes approximately 3,650 calipers, 3,650 brake hoses, and 3,525 additional hydraulic components. Suppliers that cannot provide the entire product line are unlikely to win business with large distributors, limiting their ability to compete in this category. The high number of parts that the aftermarket requires makes it difficult for suppliers to plan production, manage inventories, reduce costs, and meet all customers needs in a timely manner, says the analyst. The high bargaining power of larger retailers and warehouse distributors (WDs) puts pressure on suppliers to cover all vehicles, maintain fill rates of at least 92 per cent, and offer the best price to win the distributors business.

    Distributors usually source calipers and hydraulic components from different suppliers rather than from a single vendor because they require distinct specialization. As a result, suppliers should specialize in calipers or hydraulics rather than trying to sell all components together, or by distinguishing themselves as a remanufacturer or a re-packager offering sourcing, assembling and labeling services to a full-line brakes company. There are opportunities for suppliers to create niches in this market, such as developing a cost-effective line of new calipers to compete against the remanufacturers that currently dominate the category or focusing on high-performance upgrades rather than standard replacement parts. Suppliers can differentiate their products or services to develop competitive advantages.

  • Research and Markets: North American Brakes Aftermarket – Sales of Higher-priced Brake Pads Poised to Drive Growth in the North American Friction Parts Aftermarket

    Research and Markets: North American Brakes Aftermarket – Sales of Higher-priced Brake Pads Poised to Drive Growth in the North American Friction Parts Aftermarket

    Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/f596b3/north_american_bra) has announced the addition of Frost & Sullivan's new report "North American Brakes Aftermarket: Friction Parts" to their offering.

    Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/f596b3/north_american_bra) has announced the addition of Frost & Sullivan’s new report “North American Brakes Aftermarket: Friction Parts” to their offering.

    This service analyzes brake pads and brake shoes in the automotive aftermarket in the United States and Canada. It includes unit shipment and revenue forecasts, pricing analyses, distribution channel analyses, market share analyses, industry challenges, and market drivers and restraints. The base year is 2009. Forecasts are provided from 2010-2016, and historical data is provided for 2006-2008. Within brake pads, the market is further segmented into Good, Better and Best product lines, and by material type into semi-metallic and ceramic/NAO. There are two companion services connected to this research. They are North American Brakes Aftermarket: Rotors and Drums and North American Brakes Aftermarket: Calipers and Hydraulic Components.

    This research service titled North American Brakes Aftermarket: Friction Partsprovides unit shipment and revenue forecasts, market drivers and restraints, distribution channel analyses, and market share analyses. In this research, Frost & Sullivan’s expert analysts thoroughly examine the following markets: automotive brake pads and shoes.

    Sales of Higher-priced Brake Pads Poised to Drive Growth in the North American Friction Parts Aftermarket

    The North American friction parts aftermarket, which includes brake pads and brake shoes, generated manufacturer-level revenues of US$1,383.2 million in 2009. Increasing vehicle age, which puts more cars and trucks in the prime replacement period for brake components, and newer vehicle applications that require more expensive parts will drive future growth. Friction parts will generate steady growth for manufacturers and distributors in the aftermarket, with demand for premium pads and shoes growing at the expense of low-priced products.

    As production has shifted away from North America, an increasing number of distributors, installers, and vehicle owners are willing to pay for higher product quality, better warranty terms, and reliable customer service rather than for a low-priced replacement part.

    Once regarded as a high-performance upgrade, manufacturers now position their best lines as the new industry standard, notes the analyst of this research service. Companies that compete mainly on the basis of price leadership have lost market share over the past two years, even in a poor economic environment. In response to the markets current quality focus, suppliers must carefully align the pricing of their good, better and best line-up to support the value of their premium offerings.

    Strong private-label competition from leading distributors threatens the brand value of traditional manufacturers. Most retail and wholesale customers promote their own in-house brands at the expense of traditional suppliers, which have invested large sums to build brand loyalty. This trend diminishes the power of manufacturers to enhance their value, since the companys name is no longer on the product.

    Private-label brands such as NAPA, Carquest, Duralast, and Brake Best account for about half of friction parts sales in the aftermarket. That hurts traditional aftermarket brands such as Raybestos, Bendix, and Wagner, and forces manufacturers to compete with their own distributors.

    Manufacturers must be prepared to position and defend the value of their brands against low-priced alternatives. They should focus on superior product quality and customer service so that distributors, installers, and vehicle owners will pay more for a recognized brand. Suppliers still cannot afford to overlook the opportunities in private labeling. However, the profit margins are lower in this market segment. Manufacturers are unlikely to survive over the medium to long term if their customers are not willing to carry the companys own brand, which allows it to recover the cost of developing, testing, marketing, and supporting its products.

    To drive growth, the aftermarket should identify and attract customers that have deferred the purchase of a new vehicle or maintenance of their existing car or truck because of the current economic recession, says the analyst. Suppliers must also be able to demonstrate that their products will reduce service comebacks and drive repeat business. The best market entry strategy for manufacturers is to become a second- or third-line offering to warehouse distributors (WDs), carrying leading brands such as Wagner, Raybestos, and Bendix that serve area installers/technicians.

  • Proper Hub Unit Removal and Installation Keeps Wheels, Brakes, Other Parts Working Longer: Timken

    Properly removing and installing hub unit bearings can not only enhance the performance and longevity of hubs, but will also benefit the axles and wheels.   Hub Unit Bearing Removal1. Begin by raising the vehicle up and removing...

    Properly removing and installing hub unit bearings can not only enhance the performance and longevity of hubs, but will also benefit the axles and wheels.
    Hub Unit Bearing Removal
    1. Begin by raising the vehicle up and removing the lug nuts and the wheel.
    2. Remove the brake caliper and rotor. The caliper should be supported and not hanging freely.
    3. Next, the axle nut needs to be removed using an axle nut socket. The vehicle manufacturer’s instructions should be used to determine proper nut replacement.
    4. If possible, disconnect the ABS sensor wire from its mating connector point. This is usually located in the wheel well or on the chassis frame. Also, disconnect the sensor wire from the clips that are used to properly position the sensor wire in the wheel frame. Before removing, be sure to make note of the current orientation and positioning of the sensor wire and bearing.
    5. Remove the bolts that attach the bearing to the steering knuckle. A puller may be needed to remove the hub assembly from the knuckle. Be careful not to damage the knuckle or axle shaft.
    Hub Unit Bearing Installation
    1. First, insert the new hub assembly into the steering knuckle. Check the positioning of the splines on the axle shaft as the hub assembly is inserted into the knuckle. Carefully position the two components so the splines are not damaged during the installation. Never force the hub assembly on the shaft and never hit it with a hammer or other tool.
    2. Next, torque the knuckle-bearing mounting bolts to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification using a torque wrench. Don’t use an impact wrench because it does not reliably use the proper torque.
    3. If possible, connect the new ABS sensor (comes already attached to the new bearing) to its mating connection point and clips in the wheel well and frame area.
    4. Install the axle nut. Tighten the nut to the vehicle manufacturer’s torque specification using a torque wrench. Again, an impact wrench is not recommended.
    5. Replace the brake rotor and brake caliper. All components should be clean of debris and burrs.
    6. Replace the wheel and torque the lug nuts. Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations regarding torque specification and re-torque requirements.

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