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Repowering, Rebuilding, and Remanufacturing

Charlson Smith2

Today, the concept of sustainability is both a ubiquitous and welcome concept that has affected not only modern industry but also most aspects of life in the 21st century. Businesswise, doing more with (much) less is now not so much a competitive advantage as it is obligatory, and the manufacture of diesel engines is certainly not exempt from this trend.  Lean production and waste reduction go hand-in-hand to increase productivity and profitability while lessening the environmental impact of engine construction from a given plant or manufacturer as a whole.  In this case, everyone’s a winner; cost savings can be reinvested into the company as well as passed on to marine engine customers, but what’s more is that customers can continue to reduce their own expenses and environmental footprint by adopting a similar mindset of sustainability.

Cat® marine propulsion engines are designed to perform for many thousands of hours before requiring an overhaul.  Realistically, a yacht with typical usage will enjoy many years of use before service of this magnitude is required, and as mentioned in previous OnboardOnline articles, making use of S•O•SSM fluid analysis can help captains and engineers determine exactly when a rebuild is needed.  Eventually when oil and fuel consumption begin to rise with a set of engines, Cat dealers offer a host of options to meet the maintenance requirements of these powerplants. Should space allow underneath the engines’ oil pans, an in-frame overhaul is the obvious choice to bring the engines into their second lifecycle. On the other hand, many yachts are built with engine “rooms” that could more accurately be described as engine crawl spaces.  In these cases, the removal of the engines from the vessel is often required if pistons or crankshafts need servicing.  Whatever the case may be, taking advantage of products from Caterpillar’s remanufacturing division (Cat Reman) can make engine overhauls both swift and economical while at the same time keeping environmental impact to a minimum.

Cat2Remanufacturing engines and components is nothing new to Caterpillar – the first remanufacturing plant opened in Bettendorf, Iowa, in 1973 to renew 1100 series engines (an ancestor of the venerable 3208), and over the past 40 years the operation has expanded to 17 facilities in seven different countries to support over 6,000 products. Many engines from a variety of manufacturers can be rebuilt. However, Cat engines and most Cat engine components are designed with rebuilding and/or remanufacturing in mind from the outset.  This isn’t limited to the oversized crank bearings and pistons or new liners; in fact, that’s just the beginning.  

Below are commonly offered items from Cat Reman, all of which feature a same-as-new warranty:

  • Generators

  • Short and long blocks

  • Cylinder heads

  • Air compressors

  • Alternators and starters

  • Crankshafts

  • Cylinder packs

  • ECUs

  • Flywheels

  • Fuel injection pumps and governors

  • Oil coolers

  • Turbochargers

  • Unit injectors and fuel nozzles

  • Water and oil pumps

Should a customer have an engine component that needs replacing, he can obtain one of the aforementioned parts at a fraction of the price of a new part.  All that’s required is the “core”, or the old part.  From here, the dealer considers four criteria when granting a “core charge” (money back to the customer in return for the old part):

  1. The component isn’t visibly cracked, broken, or welded;

  2. The part is fully assembled and complete;

  3. The part has no non-operational damage such as mishandling, excessive rust, corrosion, or pitting;

  4. The component is a genuine Cat part.

Cat3All in all, Cat Reman offers generous core acceptance with simple criteria. Consider fuel injectors from a Cat C18 engine as an example.  The customer requests that the dealer replace all six injectors, and in turn the dealer ensures that each injector’s body isn’t cracked, the plungers haven’t been scavenged out of the injectors, the injectors don’t look like they’ve sat at the bottom of a harbour for the past year, and that they are in fact Cat injectors.  Should the customer decide to have the engine completely overhauled, the examination of other engine components would occur in the same manner. 

Again, depending upon the style and construction of the boat, overhaul times will vary but the customer can be assured of parts that are same-as-new Cat quality backed by the same warranty as new parts.  Vessels that are constructed such that engines can be easily removed can have their powerplants simply swapped out with a remanufactured short or long block much like a swing engine would be used, but this doesn’t preclude owners of vessels with harder-to-access engine rooms from enjoying the cost savings of remanufactured parts.

With both a good cylinder block and adequate headroom, vessels with closer quarters can effectively have their engines “zeroed-out” or rebuilt to like-new quality.  Rather than sending a worn cylinder head to a machine shop and waiting for it to be machined and checked, customers can swap out their core for a genuine Cat Reman head that’s undergone magnetic particle inspection, had the latest engineering changes, and finally pressure tested.  Remanufactured crankshafts, too, are scrutinized to ensure proper surface finish and roundness.  After pistons and cylinders are removed, new “cylinder packs” can make the task of replacing reciprocating components quick and easy, as Cat Reman preassembles the piston, connecting rod, liner, and rings, which has proven to reduce overhaul time by up to 25 per cent.  Reman injectors, oil coolers, electronic control units, turbochargers, and pumps are similarly examined and rebuilt to ensure the highest quality parts go onto remanufactured engines. 

Owners and operators of yachts, workboats, and anything else working on the water expect a long life out of their significant investment in diesel engines; after 16,000 hours, for example, a tug operator wouldn’t simply scrap his main engines because it would be a major waste of money. By the same token, disposing of common engine components that are designed to be remanufactured is a waste.  With same-as-new warranties, there’s simply nothing to lose by making frugal purchases of quality engine parts that have been rejuvenated for a second life. 

For more information about Cat Reman, visit


Growing up in the Gulf Coast town of Pass Christian, Mississippi, Charlson Smith has been a mariner all of his life.  While on summer break from the University of Mississippi, he would spend his time operating a 65’ Donzi sportfisher out of New Orleans, Lousiana, the coast of Mississippi, and Port Everglades, Florida. Upon earning his MBA from Ole Miss, Charlson joined Caterpillar Marine Power Systems as a marketing representative.  His office is at the Marine Center of Excellence in Greenville, South Carolina.  He can be reached at or (864) 370-6505.

For more than 85 years, Caterpillar Inc. has been making progress possible and driving positive and sustainable change on every continent. With 2011 sales and revenues of $60.138 billion, Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The company also is a leading services provider through Caterpillar Financial Services, Caterpillar Remanufacturing Services, Caterpillar Logistics Services and Progress Rail Services. More information is available at: . 

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