Using universal replacement parts is not uncommon when repairing a failed refrigeration system, as they can be a very convenient option. There are many advantages to using these replacement parts; however, there are times when they are not the best choice for a repair.

Before purchasing and installing universal parts, make sure they are the right fit for the system and the repair needed. Not every repair is the same, nor is the application of the replacement component, so it is up to the technician to decide if using a universal replacement is the right choice. Using the wrong replacement part can lead to extra time and materials on a repair and possible further damage to the system.

The biggest advantage to using a universal replacement component is availability. These components can easily be stocked on a service vehicle or obtained from a local wholesaler. This can be a huge advantage, especially today when the availability of some OEM parts is very limited or even nonexistent. For example, I recently needed to order a water pump for a brand-new ice machine and was told by the local distributor that there were none in stock at any of their branches. When they called the factory to order it, they were told to call back in a month to see if “maybe” it would be available to ship.

Another advantage to using these components can be the price, although this is not always true. Sometimes the cost of a universal equivalent can be more than the OEM, but many times they tend to be less expensive. When factoring in cost and availability, they can sometimes be the best choice for a repair.

However, they are not always the best choice. Always verify they are the correct replacement component for the system. Does its specifications closely match the component you are replacing? This is extremely important, since you are installing the part and are ultimately responsible for making the system operational again. Using the wrong replacement part can lead to extra time and materials on a repair and possibly more damage to the system. If you are unsure, either read the literature and/or get advice from a trusted source.

Look at the how the universal component needs to be mounted. This could be a major issue when trying to install it. It may not physically fit into the location for the original component, or you may be unable to mount it in its original location. I once needed to replace an evaporator fan motor on a small walk-in freezer. I could not get the OEM fan motor, so I decided to go with a generic motor that closely matched the specifications of the original motor except for one small difference: the body of the motor was slightly longer than the original. I did not think it would be an issue, but it was. The motor was too long and would not fit in the spacing between its bracket and the evaporator coil.

If you are replacing an electrical component, verify that it is electrically compatible with the system and does not need major rewiring to make the system operational. This is something to definitely check when using a universal digital temperature controller. Are the original system sensors compatible with the new controller or will they also need to be changed? On some reach-in cooler/freezers, this can be a major issue.

The next time you are choosing to use a “universal” replacement part, make sure to take some extra time and verify the part that you are using is truly the part you need.