A Closer Look

The Balancing Act

Click here to download the PDF version

Engineering is a balancing act. To achieve product leadership at a competitive price, the design and manufacturing of every component must be precise and all parts must function in harmony. Any change in vehicle design can affect the other components in the system.
To meet customer expectations – always our priority – our Delco Remy parts must perform flawlessly within their system under all conditions.
But what happens if something changes in the vehicle design that causes problems with our Delco Remy starters and alternators?
The Easy Fix
The modern vehicle is an engineering marvel of interacting technologies. Manufacturers work to improve performance and durability, while dealing with increased environmental and emissions regulations.
When manufacturers change vehicle architectures to control emissions and meet regulation, many times the oil temperature rises, which increases the temperature under the hood. It’s usually easier and far more cost-effective to fix the problem at the component level rather than redesign the engine.
These changes are not stumbling blocks for us. We are proud of our collaborative culture, and consider ourselves partners with our customers. We see changes and improvements as opportunities to engineer our solutions into the vehicle.
The Heat Is On
Recently, we saw returns on a starter that has been used on many vehicles for almost 10 years. On the returned parts, the lip-seal and the O-rings were hard and brittle, which allowed the motor to fill with oil. There are only two things that could cause rubber to degrade like this: high heat or sunlight. Since the starter was not exposed to the sun, it had to be high heat.
This problem, like so many other engineering challenges, was bigger than the part itself. It was destroying a starter every 1000 engine hours, which would make the vehicle unreliable in the long term and result in a very dissatisfied customer.
Our extensive tests determined that our starter met the original program specifications. The starter itself was not the problem; the application had changed. Still, since we understood the problem, we knew we could solve it and help the customer.
We produced a starter with the same specifications and size, added multiple heat-sensing thermal couples in various locations, and took it to our customer’s proving grounds for evaluation. The results were undeniable: the oil temperatures around the starter greatly exceeded the capability ratings for the type of rubber in use.
After extensive testing and validating, we changed the rubber material composition, and it was perfect for this application. The change in price to our customer was insignificant. Any changes to the engine itself would have added devastating manufacturing costs – pricing the vehicle out of the market.


Our rotating electrics do not function in a vacuum. They are part of a sophisticated system of interrelated components. The performance of the vehicle depends upon the overall architecture of the systems and their successful interactions. This is why our first priority is customer responsiveness.

One Size Never Fits All
We encountered a similar system problem when a few starters were returned with leaking ball seals in the nose housing. The tests indicated that the rubber seals did not respond with the same compression set and rebound factor that they did in 2008 when the initial validation was completed. We surmised that the chemistry of the oil had changed, causing the problem with the seals.
We also determined that the gasket between the starter and the bell housing was not sized correctly. Had it been a precise fit, oil would not have reached the rubber seals.
Our engineers collaborated with our customer to redesign the gasket and rubber material composition so the more-effective oil could be used.
It’s What We Do
It’s a simple concept: at Remy, it’s about delivering collaborative, creative solutions for our customers. We consider every relationship a partnership, an opportunity to share our knowledge and resources with customers’ engineering groups.
At the early design stages, we can help engineer the electrical system around their engine design and system requirements.
Our business is as complex as the modern vehicles we help produce and it’s based on collaboration between vehicle companies with complementary areas of expertise. We believe the days of “it’s not our job” should be behind us. At Remy, those days never existed.