There are many people who will say that they won’t run anything but OEM parts, and while that’s fine for them, not everybody has the money to drop $500 on an OEM or high end racing aftermarket crankshaft. With the typical modern 4-Stroke engine rebuild costing roughly $800-$1,200, a crankshaft can eat up a whole lot of your budget. So what about the cheaper aftermarket alternatives? Type in “Wiseco Cranks” or “Hot Rods Cranks” into Google and usually the first thing that pops up is a thread on some dirt bike forum that says these products are crap. But are they really that bad? Let’s take a look at some quick research and you be the judge.
First, let’s get this out of the way.... NO PART IS GOING TO LAST FOREVER. Dirt bikes, for the most part, are high performance machines made for some form of racing. Now, we’re obviously not talking about your little sister’s TTR, but rather the higher end of the dirt bike spectrum. There’s a reason a brand new dirt bike doesn’t come with any kind of warranty. With so many variables, even the factory can’t guarantee a part won’t fail right off the showroom floor.
For some reason a lot of people seem to think that you can “gas and go” a dirt bike, change the oil every now and then, and the thing is just going to last forever. That’s not the case. No matter how well you take care of your bike, parts WILL wear out at some point.
Proper and consistent maintenance as well as proper installation of parts are crucial in determining engine life and component performance.
This is the choice that most riders seem to have the utmost confidence in. You’re never going to hear someone bash OEM parts. It just doesn’t happen. So since the OEM’s really aren’t the source of much debate, let’s move on to the frequently bashed aftermarket crankshafts.
The Wiseco crankshaft bashing is rampant across the internet. While most of it was well deserved AT THE TIME, there is a story that the new Wiseco haters fail to acknowledge.
Wiseco admits that in 2008 they saw major quality control issues with their crankshaft production lines. They designed their products here in the United States, but were having these crankshafts manufactured over seas in order to be competitive in the marketplace. In doing so, they found out they were not immune to the downfalls of such a practice.
Poor quality control led to failed big end bearings, broken/stretched/warped connecting rods, and tin can failures. Overall, just a really terrible product. This was destroying engines and costing consumers huge amounts of money.
Once Wiseco became aware that their crankshafts were failing on a large scale, they started investigating. What they found was that the heat treatment requirements used to strengthen the steel connecting rods was inconsistent and was sometimes being skipped altogether. They also found that the quality of the steel provided by their supplier was ultimately of poor quality.
Further investigation revealed that the big end bearing failures were not due to improper heat treatment, but rather to the cleanliness of the product components during final assembly.
So how did they fix it?
Wiseco is a company that has a long standing and leading reputation in motorsports. They couldn’t just continue to put out a crappy product. From a business standpoint, they had two options; fix the problem, or shut down production. They chose to fix the problem.
Wiseco crankshafts are still engineered in the United States and manufactured overseas, but now with an EXTREMELY TIGHT QUALITY CONTROL process.
While I’m not a big fan of American companies making their products anywhere but here, I understand why they do it. This allows Wiseco to make a quality aftermarket part at a very affordable price for the consumer.
In fact, Wiseco crankshafts now come in at a lower price point than Hot Rods and OEM, but this time, WITH QUALITY.
Hot Rods cranks have also got a bad rap by some in the dirt bike and motocross industry. There are some consumers that have posted on forums and shared videos showing failed hot rods cranks, excessive runout, etc. The most common complaint I see from people is the plastic stuffers on Hot Rods Cranks. People seem to think because there is plastic on these cranks, they’re garbage. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I’ve used Hot Rods crankshafts myself and haven’t had any issues. Besides that, some OEM cranks use plastic stuffers as well. So that argument really doesn't hold up.
As far as actual evidence to support Hot Rods cranks having poor quality or quality control (like there is with Wiseco), I actually wasn’t able find much.
There are of course the forums and comments on YouTube videos that slam these crankshafts. However, after skimming through a few videos and reading the comments, I found it was a lot of the same people commenting negatively on multiple videos.
There’s always the argument, “Well, it’s made in Taiwan. So, it must be crap!”. There also seems to be a lot of people that have a bad opinion of Hot Rods cranks simply because they “heard” they weren’t good.
Lastly, there is the OEM parts fan. I’ll never knock the quality of OEM parts, but I’m not one of those guys that thinks everything else besides OEM is garbage.
Hot Rods prides themselves in manufacturing their connecting rods in the United States. But that’s where the American pride stops. The connecting rods that are meant for assembly in Hot Rods crankshafts are then shipped overseas to Taiwan where their crankshafts are manufactured and shipped out for distribution.
As far as their quality control process regarding their crankshafts, there’s minimal information available as to what their quality control process is.
They do say that all of their crankshafts are assembled and trued to OEM specifications. They also claim to meet or exceed OEM crankshafts in performance and durability.
I have personally used Hot Rods cranks in my bikes without any issues. Jay Clark uses these crankshafts in his project builds and firmly stands behind the brand.
As a side note, Hot Rods is owned by C&L Companies. C&L Companies also owns Pivot Works, Hot Cams, Cylinder Works, Vertex Pistons, Bearing Connections, Wrench Rabbit and Fuel Star. These are some reputable brands and being under the same umbrella I think gives Hot Rods cranks just a bit more credibility.
The dirt bike community is a pretty opinionated bunch. The longer I’m around the sport, the more I find people have an opinion on just about everything, and often, it's not their own. A lot of people just base their opinions off of what others say and treat it as gospel. I would always encourage you to do your own research and draw your own conclusion.
So when the time comes for you to replace the crankshaft in your dirt bike’s engine, you’ll have a decision to make. Hopefully I have helped you to at least open your mind to the possibility that these industry brands may not be as bad as everyone thinks.
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