House of Power: SBT Develops Its Own Brand of 4-Stroke Engines

With the thousands of personal watercraft in current use as rental units around the world – many of which being (in may cases) over a decade old models, those being mainly Yamaha VX and Sea-Doo GTS units – service technicians and repair shops are perpetually laboring to keep their fleet well-oiled and properly maintained. To equip these shops, SBT, Inc. (Short Block Technologies) has risen over the last 20 years as the world’s largest supplier of aftermarket PWC engines and parts.

In recent years, the respective OEs have completely revised their engine platforms, making the previous powerplants obsolete despite these rental outfits and repair shops still very much in need for engine replacement parts. For nearly two decades, it was SBT’s policy to request a core (the damaged engine or component) in exchange for a remanufactured replacement. This policy though, proved problematic for international sales, as the cost of shipping the injured core often surpassed the cost of the new engine.

Recognizing the need to accommodate these international customers better, and seeing a dwindling in returnable cores, SBT made a bold decision: to build its own engines. “Our new engines are perfect for our international customers who do not want the hassle of shipping their old cores across the world. This program also helps customers who may have a badly damaged 4-stroke engine that would not get full core credit,” explained SBT International Marketing Manager, Ericka Buczkowski in a recent press release.

SBT poured three years of research and development into forging its own versions of the Yamaha 1.1L and Sea-Doo 1.5L engines. The Watercraft Journal interviewed SBT president, CJ Lammers who said: “SBT recognized the need for new engines to replace older 4-strokes back in 2013. We concentrated on the older models (which started back in 2002/2003 and have 10-plus-years of production in the field) and how we could improve and enhance the engines from our 10 years of remanufacturing the OEM designs.

He continued, “SBT firmly believes that new replacement engines are needed to address a growing segment where damaged engines are easier and more affordable to replace with a new motor rather than a remanufactured engine with core replacement charges. International sales are also important as the cost of returning cores can quickly make the decision more difficult. Having new engines on the shelf and ready to ship alleviates those concerns, so we’ve seen a huge growth in international shipment of engines.”

Lammers detailed SBT’s changes to the Yamaha and Rotax designs, saying, “By designing the block around certain critical attachment surfaces, we had the freedom to incorporate design improvements and updates to make our engines more robust, yet bolt-on ready for most of the OEM applications. We spent 2 years refining our designs on the water and doing accelerated durability tests on all our parts before signing off on the final designs.”

With the influx of replacement cores slowing, the decision to act quickly has paid off, “The program was launched last year and it is exceeding our expectations. Sales of our SBT brand new engines are growing each month and our warranty rate is lower for our new engines.  This has been a very successful program and a great compliment to our remanufactured engine line.”

Currently, the new SBT aftermarket engines begin at $2,595 retail, which as many will note, is a fraction of the cost of an OEM Sea-Doo or Yamaha engine. SBT also offers replacements short blocks, crank cases, cylinder heads and SBT-branded crankshafts (all of which bolt directly together with factory components), in addition to direct-replacement engines, which are in stock and ready to be shipped.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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