SERVICE :: Service Tip #10

EPA Tier III and what it means to the consumer

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union (EU) began a series of Legislative Initiatives back in the 90’s to reduce the levels of emissions in diesel engine exhaust and crank case vapors. This meant that diesel engines, as we had known them, were changing forever.

In 1990, engine manufacturers were still building engines that had been originally designed and built in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Of course, they had undergone modernization changes, but they were still the same engine block. So every shade tree mechanic knew how to fix those engines and the spare parts were plentiful and cheap. There were often multiple aftermarket parts manufacturers who were turning out "will fit" parts from filters to fly weights.

As the emissions regulations began to take effect, this situation rapidly started to change. In the US, the regulations were enacted in "Tiers". In the EU, they are enacted in "Stages". Both sets of regulations set very similar limits at very similar calendar dates, but they do differ slightly.

The first way we saw this impact the consumer was that the old engines that we had become very used to went away. Manufacturers were forced to change them in order to comply with emissions regulations. As new sets of Regulations (Tiers or Stages) fell into place, engine models had to be replaced again and again. Whereas diesel engine manufacturers used to keep a product in the field for decades, they are now lucky to keep them in the field for 3 or 4 years. The natural consequence is less parts availability and, in many cases, higher prices. Of course, the Distributors and Dealers are still carrying the parts, just not in the quantities they were before. Most engine manufacturers are only guaranteeing parts availability for 10 years.

EPA Tier III went into effect in 2008. In order to achieve this most midrange engines (higher and lower horsepower engines presently have less stringent emissions requirements), went to full electronics and very sophisticated fuel injection systems including common rail fuel systems and injection pressures exceeding 30,000 psi! As you might imagine, the cost of a 30,000 psi injector is significantly more than one that did its job at 2,000, sometimes as much as 10 times the cost. At these pressures, injector lines cannot be loosened or removed without replacing the pipe entirely.

In the Caribbean, we are just starting to see these engines coming in on new equipment. As these engines are very reliable, they have had surprisingly few problems. But, when they do have problems, it means someone with the Proprietary computer and electronics must visit the engine. The engineers and companies who own these computers and Electronic Service Tools have invested $10,000 or more in hardware, software, licensing fees and training per manufacturer. They also pay annual renewal fees amounting to as much or more than $1,000 per manufacturer. When you consider that we have so few breakdowns, that means the Service Companies may only use those tools once or twice per year. These investments are going to be reflected in their charges. If there is no one on your island who is trained and equipped to work on your engine, that means you will also have travel costs, overnight stays and all the associated charges with a travelling technician on top of that. As multiple trips are often required, the costs can escalate quite quickly.

What can you, as the consumer, do? First, if you have a reliable, mechanically governed engine, treat it well and keep it running as long as you can. As most of the old diesel engines had replaceable cylinder liners, they can be overhauled multiple times in the field. This means that they have a very long service life. Make sure that you keep up with your maintenance. You might find it useful to refer to our other Service Tips at to see what you can do to extend the life of your diesel engine.

Second, if you need to buy a new piece of equipment with a diesel engine, check to see if there is anyone on your island who can service that engine. If not, seriously consider not buying that piece of equipment and finding another piece of equipment that does have an engine that can be serviced on your island. Even if the engine has a failure inside the warranty period, you will probably still have to pay travel, lodging and living expenses as few, if any, manufacturer will cover those. When you consider that pretty much any repair call will run $1,000’s, this should be a significant factor is deciding what you purchase.

As a way of self promotion, I will add that Perkins engines have an extensive dealer network in the Caribbean. Parts & Power are equipped with all the required Service and Electronic tooling to service Perkins engines. As we have a company plane, we can significantly reduce costs compared with Service Technicians coming out of the US or Puerto Rico.

In our next "Tips" Newsletter, we will introduce Tier IV and what that means for the consumer.

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Tel: +1(284)494-2830/440-2830

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