TechnologyHeartbeat Archive

Turbochargers aren’t Brake Pads

30. November 2022

For ten years now, Motorservice subsidiary INTEC France has made a name for itself repairing defective turbochargers. In the process, not only has it carved out a valuable niche for itself, but it has also fostered greater sustainability and helped to conserve resources. NTEC France: Making defective turbochargers as good as new

3,500 turbochargers are reconditioned every year at INTEC.

About two years ago, the specialist company moved to the locations of its parent company, Motorservice France, at Genas near Lyon, systematically expanding its operating radius. “Repairing defective turbochargers is no minor matter. After all, it’s a component that’s subject to extraordinarily heavy load strains. This requires comprehensive expertise,” declares Régis Serrano. The 52-year-old French engineer joined MS France – then known as KS Motorac – in 2007. Meanwhile, he has also been responsible for sales and marketing at MS Motorservice International, its German parent company.

As far as Serrano is concerned, the brand remains a potent symbol of quality around the globe: “When I’m on the road visiting customers, in North Africa, for instance, they all think of me as ‘Mister KS’. They instantly recognize the blue boxes our spare parts come in, and know they can trust them.” Reason enough for the seasoned manager to offer turboloaders in the same trusted packaging. Increasingly, they are destined for the commercial vehicles sector, too. Turbochargers for agricultural and construction machines feature in the program as well, as do others for stationary applications. Conditions in commercial vehicle engines are exceptionally challenging, since turbochargers there are subject to even greater forces. In fact, even in passenger cars, turbochargers reach the speed of a pistol bullet. And if it happens to “shoot” in the direction of the engine, it can cause major damage.

Turboloaders are generally considered to be wear-free components. When problems do arise, the causes tend to be elsewhere in the engine. Defective turboloaders are expensive to replace. This is why it usually makes sense to repair them. But this requires special expertise, as Serrano is quick to note after more than twenty years in the field. This is why it usually makes sense to repair them. But this requires special expertise, as Serrano is quick to note after more than twenty years in the field.

Turbo by INTEC

What made MS France decide to go into the turbocharger business For Serrano, the answer is obvious: “There are 300 engine repair companies in France. All of them source parts from us. Motorservice is at home in the world of engine management. Except for fuel injection, we had everything covered. The one thing we couldn’t help them with was the turbocharger.” Then, in 2008, the turbocharger producer Garret approached MS France in search of a sales partner in France. At the time, MS France had already established a training system and had thus the necessary access to customers.

The company became Garret’s master distributor, with an initial assortment of ten applications. Today, the spare parts specialist enjoys a similar status with Holset, Borg Warner, Schwitzer, Mitsubishi, and VDO. All of them have provided the company with specifications and technical documentation for their turbochargers. In addition, MS France maintains contacts with IHI, whose turbochargers also feature in the program. In the meantime, sales of turbochargers now rank with those of components for exhaust gas recycling, for example: the company now sells some 20,000 turbochargers a year, 80 percent of them destined for passenger cars.

Remanufacturing enjoys a good reputation on the market

However, in addition to the original parts business, the company also wanted to offer an attractive low-cost alternative, though without parting from its premium brand image. This is why the company chose to do its own remanufacturing – and why taking over nearby INTEC, also based in Lyon, was such an attractive proposition. Among other previous owners, INTEC once belonged to Holset, the world’s largest maker of turbochargers for commercial vehicles. Remanufactured turbochargers also come with a two-year guarantee. This is why the major effort and expense is worthwhile only for high-value vehicles. This applies to larger passenger cars, of course, but especially to trucks and marine engines, agricultural machinery, and stationary motors. INTEC now remanufactures 3,500 components a year, including around 1,500 truck turbochargers, at present principally for French customers.

Customers keep coming back for good quality

“Turbochargers aren’t brake pads,” says Serrano. “When you’re a supplier, you’ve got to make sure that your customers can work with the components. That’s why training is absolutely essential – customers need to know what to do during assembly.” And the same goes for INTEC employees. Not even the remanufacturers themselves are supplied with original spare parts or information about the specifications – e.g. the bearing clearance in the impeller – until they’ve undergone intensive instruction by the manufacturer. This way, the company has access today to all the original specifications. For remanufacturing large turbochargers, moreover, it is 99 percent supplied with original spare part kits from the manufacturers.

The basic material is hard to estimate: INTEC procures defective turbochargers through a variety of channels, which they then return to mint condition whenever it’s worth it.
Repairing a turbocharger involves a total of fifteen worksteps.
The process entails various visual inspections and checks carried out at multiple stations, including disassembly; cleaning and degreasing …
… alignment; assembly using original parts; balancing; final assembly; testing on the flow test rig; final inspection; and packaging.
The reconditioned and repackaged turbochargers are waiting in the warehouse for dispatch.
An exciting additional activity: besides his duties at MS Motorservice International, Régis Serrano is integrating INTEC’s operations into the French subsidiary.

In all, the French specialist has 2,800 applications on offer, new turbochargers included. In the heavy-duty segment, the company has 250 different remanufactured models in stock. The remainder are available as new parts. Another special aspect: depending on the supply of used parts, Turbo by INTEC’s blue boxes sometimes contain brand new turbochargers, too, in order to keep customers steadily supplied with spare parts.

This means that customers occasionally receive a factory-fresh turbocharger for the price of a remanufactured one. INTEC draws its basic supply of defective turbochargers from wholesalers and fleet operators via a deposit system. In addition, used parts are purchased on the open market or picked up at repair shops, obviating the need to dispose of them. Thanks to its long-standing experience, INTEC even offers special engineering for turbochargers now. In this special domain, standard turbochargers are upgraded with an eye to achieving heightened performance data – a niche sector dedicated exclusively to rally and racing vehicles. This extends to truck racing, too, which INTEC likewise supports with modified turbochargers. This has developed into an additional sales conduit for the spare parts specialist, since teams often source other components from the company as well. In the meantime, traditional manufacturers are venturing into this market too, offering an upgraded sports series.

Move opens up new possibilities

Today, MS France and INTEC employ a combined staff of seventeen. The prime object of the move was to increase capacity. With a surface area of 4,500 square meters, the new facility gives INTEC the space it needs, while its remanufacturing experts benefit from the logistical possibilities offered by its sister company. Another reason for the move: INTEC wants to expand its business. Here, the idea is not just to increase the number of remanufactured turbochargers from the current annual figure of roughly 3,500, but to expand into other regions. In addition to Germany, there are promising signs in Spain and Greece, too. Moreover, Serrano is also exploring various other possibilities, especially now that he has the capacity to process up to 5,000 components a year. The company is convinced that the turbocharger business will continue to expand worldwide, especially since truck manufacturers don’t always have adequate maintenance and repair networks in the remoter corners of the globe. This means that they’re very happy to turn to foreign workshops for practical solutions. It’s certainly better for their image than the sight of a broken-down truck.

(Article originally published on 26 March 2021)

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