Replacement parts – Aftermarket vs OEM

Confused is how I would describe the feelings of some sweeper and scrubber owners. They know that machine is going to break down, it is a matter of when. And, ultimately the question will arise – Do I use OEM parts? Well, I will delve into those unanswered questions in this article.

First of all let’s define the term “OEM.” As this term is broken down, it represents Original Equipment Manufacturer. So, that piece of the original equipment that you bought is made by the manufacturer. And, this term is used in many different industries not just sweeper and scrubber. This term is used in the forklift industrial market, in regards to front end loaders in the construction industry. There may be OEM names familiar to you and not so much. There are names such as Caterpillar Lift Truck, which should be familiar, then Gravely Tractor that might not be so familiar. But as far as the sweeper/scrubber OEM’s, some of the names would include Windsor, Clarke, Nobles, Nilfisk-Advance and Minuteman PowerBoss. Of course there are many others. Moving on let’s describe the term “OEM parts.” So these are parts that the OEM’s sell. In an easy answer, yes. But are all parts they sell OEM parts. In my opinion the answer is no. I have always had two avenues of thought about this answer. 1. OEM parts are parts made by an OEM for their equipment and could include body parts, frame parts and that sort of item. Also included are parts made by other companies bought by the OEM specifically for the application of their equipment and for a specific purpose. A special molded P7 non-skid tire would be considered an OEM part. A 500×8 pneumatic tire that is readily available on the open market is not an OEM part but what I call an OEM replacement part. Another item such as a 12v horn is again one of these such items. Yet another item would be a hydraulic motor. Equipment manufacturers are no different than any other company, they have to make a profit. These companies will send bids out on parts they use on their equipment as any other company would. You see, OEM’s sell replacement parts for their own equipment as well. These are multi-use non-specific parts that they go back to a manufacture of that product. At least this is my definition which differentiates the two kind of descriptions. At this definition, some may disagree.

This term “quality” is in the eye of the beholder. I see quality as a multi-facet resource of one’s company offerings. In other words, one can sell quality parts but lack customer service, has a rude sales force and has a one-word company description: arrogant. Then, there is the company that has great customer service, competitive pricing but their parts just don’t seem to last. Quality to me is all of the above: 1. Great customer service, 2. Knowledgeable sales group that genuinely care about the customer and 3. Parts that work and meet or exceed their function and last. And, by the way, the price is great. That’s quality.

Let’s talk about examples of parts with quality. Example: Sheet metal parts, such as main brush doors, hopper doors, rear squeegee assemblies that have either been reversed engineered with the tolerances being tightened up or specially fitted and tested on original machines or both. What this means is that you will receive a better fitting part than the OEM original part. I know for a fact that many OEM manufacturers allow for tolerances to be plus (+) or minus (-) .020 to .030 thousand of an inch or more. We can hold tolerances + or – .005 thousand of an inch. Simply put, some of the aftermarket parts being made today have a higher standard than even the OEM part. Consequently, the ease with which the part installs out performs the OEM. And best of all the price is less expensive.

Reliable distribution
As with some long time sweeper manufacturers, they have, through the years, refined their distribution network. However with that being said, most of the manufacturers only have one parts warehouse in the USA to draw from, so the sweeper that broke down in California has to wait for parts from North Carolina. Yes, the next day air shipment is always viable, but is it cost effective? Are you going to pay $200 for freight for that part to fix a sweeper that you charge $150 to sweep a parking lot. Doesn’t make much sense. How about dealing with an aftermarket company with the ability to ship from seven warehouses just in the USA. So that part you need in California is actually stocked in California for the next day need at ground freight. By doing your due diligence you can find an aftermarket parts company that fits this bill and you will find one out there.

Warranty & support
I will grant you that 30 or 40 years ago warranty was an afterthought from those parts companies. It wasn’t generally brought up as a topic, because the customer felt that getting the parts at a discounted price was enough. Today, the aftermarket parts people match or even exceed the OEM’s warranty policy. Many customers are often impressed with which these companies ease their minds when a problem may arise. So, those bad warranties are a thing of the past in most cases. But again, check out the company you are about to buy your parts from and see how the warranty policy pertains to your situation.

In closing, it is not enough just to save money on aftermarket parts today, but with which the efficiency of the entire parts purchase experience occurs. The aftermarket companies have 1. Competitive pricing, 2. On-line ordering, 3. Ease to pay, 4. Rapid shipping, 5. Quality parts that last and 6. The overall ease to do business. Aftermarket vs OEM parts – you make the call!

Thanks for reading.

Creamer’s Corner is a monthly conversation with Hi-Gear’s Mike Creamer giving you advice, technical assistance, brand comparisons and on the job stories on repairing, maintaining or replacing your sweeper/scrubber. For your comments or questions, please e-mail Mike at

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