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Spare parts overpricing - anyone familiar with the concept? Answered

I recently had the joy of getting one of the machines I use at work fixed.
We already knew a valve was no longer working but I did not expect the source to be a motor with a gearbox on it.
I kept the faulty part to check the internals - just out of curiosity.
Now mind you that after little online I sear I found all the components of this drive:
1. A Mabuchi RS-555 motor - priced at under $10
2. A 3 stage planetary gearbox with a sproket for a chain drive - all up and in top quality around $250 with much cheaper options available...
3. A mounting plate - just an aluminium square with 4 holes in it.
4. A standard connector plug with 6cm of cable.

Even if I consider that there are only 2 manufacturers for this sort of machinery wordwide I fail to see how a price of very close to $1000 is justified for this part.
But let's not brag about politics but design instead:
The gearbox is totally over-engeneered for the task and could deliver about 15 times the torque required to moved the valve even if it would be blocked.
And against the technicians assurance the drive failed because of us forcing it to be used to often (ROFL) I had to realise the culprit is the design and way it is put together.
Despite being all hardened steel there was basically no grease left inside the gearbox, I was not even able to turn it from the motor side by hand!
As it is a fully sealed unit I highly doubt the grease just disappeared because most of the metal parts were bone dry, the rest only had a smidge of grease hard like wax left on it.
And although the motor has a similar laser engraving than a real Mabuchi motor of the same type it has no ball bearings and judging by the free space bushes of only 4mm lenght, maybe less.
One broke off, the other still had about 2.5mm left.
I could argue the dry gearbox caused a constant overload of the motor, which is evident by the thermal marks on the rotor but I never had a motor with te brushes broken off the metal clip holding them.
The next day I reported my findings to the boss and he said he might have another one somewhere from a previous repair and wanted me to check it as well.
Needless to say the faul was identical.
This system is being replaced on average every 18 months at a total cost of close to $1500.
One third of this is for labour, other spares and general service but the amount for the motor drive is always a sting.

Now to really funny part:
After my boss had a long and frustrating phone call with our service company it turns out we not allowed to use any parts other then what the manufacturer supplies.
Ok, truth told, we are of course allowed to do so but if the service company notices non-genuine parts they have to report it and this automatically cancels our service agreement with the manufacturer.
Only one company produces the stuff, only one company in the country has the service contract with them - you see the circle? LOL
I found a supplier that could offer a similar motor drive that would only require the original mounting plate and sproket.
Priced at just $300 and with a 2 year warranty it sounds tempting especially if you consider that is only for the gearbox and the motor has 3 years.
Of cours we won't do it and have to suck it up, so just for laughs a few other spares for this machine that I found in old bills and their price on Ebay for the same part or one of better quality on the right:
Various microswitches:                                  25 - 88                       0.20 - 4
Temperatur sensor:                                              129                       1.20
Temp sensor with 30cm heat proof cable:       149                       3.50
Stainless steel sheet metal screw:                        6.50                 0.40 if ordered more than 10
Main switch (simple flip):                                        99                      1.20
Stainless steel screening fliter:                             114                      8.30
And that is just for the mechanical and electrical stuff, if I would go into the plumbing with little stainless steel parts and ruber seals some here might end up with sore muskles from all the laughing...

Do have similar equippment that could be serviced better for a fraction of the cost but can't because of similar restrictions?
Mind you that I am not talking about warranty stuff here as the machine is far over this already...
If someone wants to see how much damage a broken off peice of carbon will cause in the long run let me know.
But be aware that I already cleaned away most of the black dust before you complain it looks too clean - I did not want that stuff everwhere ;)


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4 years ago

My employer is required to buy items that come from very specific sources. US made, priority for shops that are veteran owned or employ people with disabilities.

I can buy a pack of ink pens for the price that they spend on 1.

You end up with $100 hammers and $600 toilet seats.


4 years ago

"Let the buyer beware" is an old adage. It's been estimated that constructing a car from OEM parts gets you the same car...for three times the $$$. Parts generally need to be priced higher to pay for inventory costs, etc. Just how much higher is the question.

Of course, with this internet thingie, it's sometimes possible to find parts MUCH cheaper. That's often hit-and-miss, though. And ebay/amazon prices are extremely variable for the same item.

Availability is extremely variable, too. I rebuilt a 1985 Tecumseh carburetor last year for about $15 USD in parts. Had it been a newer model, an entire replacement carb would have cost only $14 (my older one could be found for ~$90).

Cost/availability brings up some real ethical questions. We've been remodeling a house since July last year, and have literally been to (or researched) almost every supplier -- from Home Depot/Lowe's/Menards/Lumber Liquidators/supply houses/etc., all the way down to dollar stores. One thing is obvious -- if you can't afford to buy in quantity (or don't have transportation), the worst prices will be at the dollar/discount stores (like $5 for a single CFL bulb, vs four LED bulbs for $6.50 at a supply house).


4 years ago

I think this is something of a common occurrence, companies' see the spare parts market as a license to print money and rip people off.

You may have also noticed that if you take what is effectively the same product, you can price it differently depending on its intended market. For example, I can buy 100 baby nappy sacks that are fragranced for £0.50p, yet 60 un-fragranced dog poo bags are £1.65, both are bio-degradable.

And as an example of brand difference, when a friend needed a replacement part for his Land Rover (I forget what the part was) it was priced extortionately by the lovely people at Land Rover. Knowing that his Land Rover is using a re-badged Ford engine, he found the same part marketed for another vehicle with the same engine was a third of the price.

I'm often surprised by what can be considered legal in the name of capitalism.


4 years ago

Comrade, is that not the basis of free market economy and capitalism that makes the world such a wonderful place to live?


4 years ago

TLDR*, my uncle had to replace something in his car. I think it was some type of cheap hose or something for the radiator...

On Amazon (they dont ship to his location), the part he was looking for costed around $30 (I think), but he was charged over $300. For what? Just some plastic.

*ᴬⁿⁿᵒʸᶦⁿᵍ ᶦⁿᵗᵉʳⁿᵉᵗ ᵗᵉˣᵗ