By C.J. Baker
- All too often, price alone does not indicate the true value of a product. What's important is what you get for the money — those benefits that you can really use. For example, if better materials are used in one product to give it twice the life of a competing product, then the first product is the better value as long as it sells for less than twice as much as the second product, all other things being equal.
The benefits that establish an automotive product's value can take many forms: power, durability, reliability, economy of operation, weight, fit, warranty, etc., etc. Similarly, the completeness of products or systems can add value. A product that comes with all of the necessary parts and pieces for installation is often a better value than one that requires the installer to buy additional pieces or supply his own fasteners, clamps, wiring ties, etc. Similarly, products that include unnecessary parts are usually of lesser value since they require the customer to buy the unneeded parts. Worse still, systems that include replacement parts that aren’t necessary can increase the installation time and cost.
For example, the Banks Brake diesel exhaust brake is not only the best exhaust brake on the market, it also has the greatest value. Banks Brake systems include the exclusive computerized brake controller (CBC), and a new stainless steel turbine outlet pipe (where applicable). One competitor offers their own replicated version of the CBC (as a $595 extra cost option), and others will sell you a separate turbine outlet pipe (again at an extra charge). The bottom line is that a competitive system winds up being far more expensive than the Banks systems, which is not only a superior brake, but includes all the necessary components in the original price. That's value.
Sometimes using the best material doesn't necessarily mean using the most expensive material. For example, consider the stainless steel used by Banks in many of its exhaust and manifold applications. There are many different grades of stainless steel, and here's a case where less expensive happens to be better for durability. We'll simplify things by lumping the different grades of exhaust system stainless steel into two categories: 300-series stainless and 400-series stainless. The 300-series stainless is significantly more expensive than the 400-series stainless, and the 300-series is classy material. It will polish beautifully and generally retain its appearance even when subjected to high heat. Top grades of 300-series stainless are especially durable, and very expensive. Some exhaust system manufacturers seek to market the benefits of top 300-series alloys by using a less expensive 300-series grade, called 304. Make no mistake, 304 is still more expensive than 400-series stainless. It has just one little problem: it cracks in high-stress areas when subjected to frequent heat cycling, such as in an exhaust system. 304 doesn't have the fatigue resistance of higher grades of 300-series stainless.
The 400-series stainless isn't nearly as classy. 409 stainless doesn't polish up very well, and worse yet, when heated it tends to turn a tannish-brown color. It will even develop light surface rust after time (a condition that does not affect the material's function or longevity), but 400-series stainless has advantages that offset its appearance: it is a durable material for an exhaust system and it doesn't crack in high-stress areas or adjacent to welds when heat cycled. That's why Banks, like the automakers, uses 409 stainless for its performance exhaust systems. Banks could use 300-series stainless, but it would dramatically increase the cost of Banks' system, and unless a top 300-series grade was used, it wouldn't be as durable as 409. It would simply reduce the value of a Banks system. We should point out that where a polished stainless tip is added to the end of the tailpipe, Banks does use 300-series stainless for the superior shine and luster. After all, that's the only part of the exhaust system that's visible on most vehicles anyway.
If you know anything at all about Gale Banks Engineering, you probably know where this article is going. Gale Banks has very high business ethics. Banks is widely known for offering the highest quality power and braking systems available for light trucks, SUVs, RVs, and motorhomes. Banks products are the "gold standard" of the industry. The best materials are used to assure proper function and durability. The fit and finish of all components is outstanding. Systems include everything necessary for the installation, without any unnecessary add-ons. Even the installation instructions are the best written and illustrated in the industry — a benefit that do-it-yourselfers find to be priceless. Less obvious is the behind-the-scenes engineering and testing that go into every Banks product. That's value too.
Banks spends more time and money on product research, engineering, and testing of its products than do any of its competitors. That's why Banks products fit, deliver more performance than Banks advertises, and last longer. Little things, like electrical connectors, are not little things if they don't work reliably time-after-time, year-after-year. That's why Banks connectors equal or exceed the factory connectors that come on new vehicles. In addition, proper connectors simplify installation.
All Banks products are engineered for optimum "fail safe" operation too. That means that in the unlikely event that a Banks product should fail, it will not render the vehicle unsafe or inoperable at the side of the road. Again, a good example of this is the Banks Brake supplemental diesel exhaust brake. Should the actuator or linkage on the exhaust brake ever fail, the valve is designed to automatically go to the fully open position to permit driving the vehicle just as if the Banks Brake was turned off.
Eliminating failure and annoying maintenance is another part of value. Here are a couple of examples: The computerized brake controller on the Banks Brake automatically cycles or "exercises" the Banks Brake valve at each cold start, regardless of whether the brake is turned on or not. This prevents any sticking of the valve from soot deposits. And the Banks Brake requires no periodic maintenance. Another example is the 5/8-inch thick flanges on Banks TorqueTubes. Ordinary headers have only 5/16- or 3/8-inch flanges that warp or distort. Such "flexible" flanges require the use of header gaskets that tend to burn out, especially when the flanges bend. Banks 5/8-inch thick flanges don't bend, and they are ground precisely flat for a perfect seal without gaskets. That means there's nothing to burn out and no periodic maintenance is required. That's value too.
In truth, value-adding features can be found on every Banks product. So, what's the bottom line? Do you get what you pay for from Banks? The answer is yes, and then some. In terms of cost to benefits, Banks power and braking systems are the best value you can buy. When you can't afford to make a mistake, buy Banks.