Beware of buying imported used engines

When it comes to buying an engine for a vehicle, the cost implications associated warrant taking the time to do your homework.

Pieter Niemand, Director of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), says it’s important to remember that no matter what you call them, second hand, reconditioned or pre-owned engines are all used engines. “A low mileage engine with an excellent warranty is what you should be looking for,” he suggests.

However Greg Brink, National Chairman of the Engine Remanufacturers Association (ERA), warns buyers that the purchasing of used imported engines is most certainly not Proudly South African. “I say this because unlike the repair and remanufacturing process in South Africa, imported used engines do not support other local manufacturing industries and their distribution networks and buyers should be aware.”

He says that the direct result of this has seen the closing of manufacturing plants locally and the consequent loss of jobs and skills. “We have also seen the closure of many engine remanufacturers and machine shops and those that have survived are generally employing up to 50% less staff. The interesting thing is that consumers continue to be duped by claims that these are all low mileage engines hand picked for there pristine condition, or in some cases, the consumer comes away believing they have purchased a new engine. This is not the case,” says Brink.

He believes that if this was true the importers would be prepared to sell their goods with a guarantee in line with the Consumer Protection Act which is six months on goods being sold. “The majority of these engines are, as far as we can ascertain through web searches and market intelligence, sold with only a start-up warranty which means that if the engine starts and runs once installed, the supplier of that engine has no further liability.”

Brink says that in the few cases found where the terms of the warranty are for a longer period, there are other conditions included such as: the vehicle must be physically returned to the supplier for inspection otherwise the longer warranty is nullified.

In all cases, however, the supplier accepts no liability for any costs incurred by the vehicle owner and or the workshop that is fitting the engine. “That means that the buyer is at risk of having to pay more than once to have the engine removed and refitted as well as paying twice for things like oil and oil filters used in the process.” Niemand says this leaves the consumer vulnerable, having to bear the full burden and risk of these additional costs, which need not necessarily be the case.

Refunds are also excluded in warranties as a possibility of redress for the consumer who needs to return the engine in the event of a successful warranty claim so that it can be exchanged for another engine.

Brink says that while suppliers of these engines are quick to make unsubstantiated claims about their products, saying fitting such an engine will increase a vehicles resale value, they do not inform consumers of more mundane legal requirements. “This could include, for example, going through the process of obtaining a Police Clearance Certificate for the engine and either having the vehicle micro dotted or having the micro dots confirmed so that the vehicle particulars can be updated on the national vehicle database. Often no mention is made of the cost or effort required to comply with these legal requirements and the buyer is rather informed that fitting these engines is the most convenient way to get their vehicle back on the road,” he says.

Niemand says the general rule of thumb is that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is and encourages buyers to rather ‘go local’ and speak to local engine remanufacturers first before going the imported used engine route. “We have many reputable remanufacturers in the country that will ensure the engine is physically up-to-scratch and meets our legal requirements. Buying an engine is a big investment so make sure you understand what you are getting, down to the fine print, before going ahead with the purchase. Also ensure that you use a properly accredited MIWA shop. In this way you will not only have warranty protection but you will also have access to recourse in the unfortunate event of something going wrong,” he concludes.

ERA is actively engaging with the Department of Trade (DTI) and Industry and International Trade Administration Council (ITAC) to find ways to address the challenges regarding used imported engines.