Along with fuel prices, operators contend with the rising costs of parts and repairs.
Many operators have started shopping for cheaper replacement parts when repairs arise. However, not only are these people setting themselves up for more repairs in a shorter amount of time, but also potential safety hazards.
The fact is an operator can buy most parts for a standard Lincoln Town Car nearly 40% cheaper than a comparable part made for a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine. The parts will still fit the vehicle as both have the same mounts, bolt patterns, and set-ups, but the parts made for a limousine are far more durable. These heavy-duty parts are specifically manufactured to handle the weight and stresses of a limousine instead of the much lighter family sedan.
“What you have to ask yourself is do you want to pay the extra money and do the job right,” says Bryan Baker, www.lctmag.com’s “Dr. Limo” and owner of Affordable Elegance in Huntsville, Ala. “The alternative is do it with substandard parts and compromise safety and performance.” Baker adds that the standard-duty parts also are likely to wear out twice as fast. That means not only are you buying the parts twice as often, but also paying to have them installed twice as often.
“That adds up to spending a lot more money on repairs and down-time in the long run,” Baker says.
Vehicles that are part of the industry’s certification programs such as Ford’s QVM and Cadillac’s CMC programs are specifically created for this purpose. “These vehicles are modified according to the needs of the coachbuilders,” says Doug Walczak, Ford’s limousine and livery manager. “Our factory installs parts that have been tested and proven to be able to handle the highest stresses of the modified vehicle.”
Of course, the test results are based upon the largest size limousines allowed by the certification program. “If you start replacing the heavy-duty parts with lesser equipment, you’re defeating the whole purpose in creating the limousine builder’s package and putting your chauffeurs, passengers, and other drivers in jeopardy,” Walczak adds. There are many parts that you can replace that are the same as the ones of a standard Town Car.
You need to know which ones have to be heavy-duty and which ones can just be normal parts.
The Right Parts GENERALLY, equipment that should be heavy duty comes down to practicality.
Just think about the weight of a limousine and right off the bat you can figure out tires, brakes, and shocks. “When in doubt, just go with the stronger part,” Baker says. “That way, you can never go wrong.” Here’s a general list that can help you:
RADIATOR The extra weight of a limousine causes your engine to work harder. This means you need more coolant to keep it from overheating.
ALTERNATOR Here’s another part that you can’t just pull off the shelf. You need a highamp alternator to provide power to the multitude of limousine systems and conveniences.
BRAKE SYSTEM Rotors, drums, pads, calipers, and wheel cylinders are all made to handle more weight than the standard system.
STEERING SYSTEM Heavy duty lower control arms, front and rear stabilizer bars, and tie-rod ends are all items you can’t afford to scrimp on.
TIRES You always need to be sure that the tires you put on your limousines are rated for the higher load capacity. That’s defined as the weight of your vehicle plus the weight of a full load of adult male passengers.
WHEELS Many people try to impress the younger crowd by changing the wheels of their limousines. The original wheels are the safest ones for the industry. Replacing them with a “show” wheel is only asking for trouble.
COIL SPRINGS AND SUSPENSION AIR BAGS Replacing any of these with a lesser part will make your vehicle bottom out or lean. It is always a good idea to replace both sides when one fails. This way you will save on downtime in the near future.
SHOCKS In order to assure you have the smoothest ride for your clients, you must get the heavy-duty coil-over shocks. These have a secondary coil surrounding the shock absorber to provide better stability.
TRANSMISSION A standard transmission just doesn’t have the durability to pull a stretch. There have been cases when operators put standard transmissions in 120s and had them fail within a few weeks. Since this is such an expensive part that is costly to install, you definitely want to do it right the first time.
DIFFERENTIAL The differential (rear end) of your limousine is most likely one that is from a truck. If you attempt to replace your existing differential with that of a Town Car, you’ll most likely find that it will not fit.
“If an operator decides to do his own maintenance and repair, it’s always much easier to go with the cheaper part for the cheap and quick fix,” Walczak says. “There’s a lot of aftermarket suppliers out there that just can’t meet the quality, durability, and safety of the OEM parts.”
For parts such as hoses, belts, fuel-system parts, timing chains, and most other parts, it’s a matter of trying to find the best quality. Generally, for a GM vehicle it is better to get the AC-Delco. For a Ford, go with the Motorcraft as they are OEM (original equipment manufactured) parts and nobody knows your vehicle better than the people who built it. These OEM suppliers are also the best places to get your heavy-duty replacement parts.