Will-fit parts: There are no guarantees

A will-fit part, by its own definition, will fit. But the key point is, will it work?

It seems to make a lot of sense to take a long, hard look at using non-OEM replacement parts on lift trucks. After all, when breakdowns occur, everyone wants to get the unit up and running as fast and as inexpensively as possible. But the fallacy of a will-fit, non-OEM part is that there is no guarantee that it meets the engineering specifications set by the manufacturer.

A will-fit part, by its own definition, will fit. But the key point is, will it work? A will-fit part almost always looks the same, installs the same, and at first blush, may even work the same. "However, that's not always the case," says Chuck Moratz, CLARK's Vice President of Truck Operations. "It's the internal workings that make the difference. Take filters as an example. Anyone can put together a filter that looks just like a Clark filter."

There's no way to tell the difference, even if you hold them side by side. The box will say that it contains the same amount of filtering media, and that it meets minimum standards, but the key is the type of filtering media that is used. The paper is the difference. With a Clark filter, you know it meets the specifications set out by Clark, while the other may only meet the very minimum specifications.

For example, Clark and its filter manufacturer recently completed testing a hydraulic filter for Clark lift trucks. The testing represents weeks of laboratory testing and two years of test track work. It measured the filter's dirt-holding ability, clean filter pressure drop, filter integrity, hydraulic fluid compatibility, burst pressure, element flow fatigue, element end-loading capacity and end cap construction.

These tests resulted in an exclusive state-of-the-art hydraulic filter that assures contaminants will be effectively controlled. That means greater equipment reliability and overall lower operating costs from less unscheduled downtime. "There are no assurances like that with will-fit filters," Moratz points out.

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Put the brakes on will-fit failures

You can run into real trouble when you use will-fit parts. "Although will-fit shoes look exactly like CLARK brake shoes, the bonding that holds the pad to the shoe can prematurely come loose, resulting in loss of braking power," says Moratz.

Although the pads show little wear, the failure took the lift truck out of service. The cost of the downtime far exceeded the minimal difference in the cost of the CLARK brand brake shoes. While the brake shoes offer a dramatic look at what can happen with low-cost will-fit products, other will-fit components can cause more elusive problems. Electric lift trucks, with their high-tech components, are especially vulnerable to sporadic problems that in the end are often traced to will-fit replacement parts.

OEM logic boards maintain control

"Will-fit control or logic cards are classic examples," says Mark Dyster, CLARK's Engineering Product Manager. "We have often seen erratic operation with will-fit cards," he says.

"If there is a voltage spike or heating in the card, the operator will see erratic operation or failure. Consider the damage an erratically operating lift truck can do, and the slight price difference doesn't make sense. Using will-fit parts is a risk management issue." Dyster says will-fit controller or logic cards are not duplicates of OEM boards. Instead, they mimic the actions required, using similar hardware and software that may not operate correctly under certain conditions.

"The software and hardware look similar, but are different. It is like a reflection in the mirror; it's not a true picture of the real thing." Often, users attempt to diagnose electric lift truck problems, replacing a will-fit board with another will-fit board and the same problem surfaces. Therefore, they surmise it's some other component. They replace other parts although they are not faulty, increasing repair costs.

"In the end, when a service person is finally called in, the logic board is replaced with an OEM board and the problem disappears. Even though the will-fit logic board looks and fits like the OEM board, the tolerances under which it is produced are much wider than the OEM board," Dyster says. That difference in tolerance is very important in electronic applications. "It's these tight tolerances that save the bacon," he adds.

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Problems spread like a virus

Another common electric lift truck problem results from using non-OEM battery connectors to charge batteries. These connectors look very similar to the original equipment, but the contact tips and retaining springs are less resilient. After extended use, they fail, says Glen Wood, CLARK product service manager for electric lift trucks.

"When these springs and contacts begin to fail, they cause arcing that damages contact tips. This causes incomplete charging and heat buildup, which greatly affects battery life. And once one contact tip on a battery, truck or charger is damaged, it will damage any other contact that is connected to it," Wood says. "We often see cases where will-fit connectors have been used, and over time, the entire fleet needs new connectors. That's why using OEM connectors is so important. It can save you money in the long run, especially in fleet operations."

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It's all in the connection

Wood offers one other tip that can save lift truck operators headaches. When adding electrically powered accessories to Clark lift trucks, use Deutsche-type connectors as opposed to other connector types. Clark uses the Deutsche-type connectors because they easily withstand the rigors of industrial lift truck operation; others can not. "You can get a kit from your Clark dealer that carries tooling and an assortment of pieces to put together the proper connections needed for accessories.

"It's a simple way to assure you have the parts you need. It will likely save you money in the long run with less downtime and unexpected maintenance costs due to failed accessories," he says.

Compelling reasons for CLARK components

These are just a few examples of how will-fit parts can affect lift truck operation. Often, the price difference between a CLARK brand part and a will-fit component is negligible,and when you add in unscheduled or unplanned downtime due to premature failure, the cost structure quickly favors CLARK brand parts.

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