If you didn’t know about Eaton Proving Grounds, it is time that you did. Practically every consumer takes for granted products they purchase have been tested before it was put on the market. It’s a given. Right? Wait… Not so fast. There’s a range of testing that each company is willing to endure when vetting a new product for the aftermarket parts world. Let’s face it, testing costs money and that cost is generally rolled into the final cost of the product. Therefore, it is a difficult balancing act between how much to spend and how much to charge.
In the case of Eaton Vehicle Group, things are clear: Design and testing take precedence. The featured video above shows Eaton Vehicle Group’s Marshall Proving Grounds in 2019. This is where operational, engineering, and testing centers for supercharger, differential, and valvetrain components are housed.
The land in Marshall, Michigan, was originally purchased in 1969. Over the years it has been fine-tuned into the Eaton Proving Grounds. At the facility, Eaton crews use specialized testing equipment to validate engine and transmission performance, verify component performance and durability, perform dimensional inspection, and test for vehicle noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) compliance. There is also a complete standards and calibration laboratory on the grounds.
The facility is cutting edge and features testing capabilities that are ultra-modern. In fact, The Easton Proving Grounds has been recognized as the first proving ground in the world to be certified as an SAE J3300 standard facility through the formal site and examiner certification process. SAE J3300 is intended to establish a procedure to certify the fundamental driving skill levels of professional drivers.
The new SAE J3300 standard is designed for professional drivers and serves as a foundation to certify fundamental driving skill levels and is typically used by professional drivers seeking employment or other professional activity. The certification levels have long been in demand by test facilities, vehicle-development teams, and other organizations. This certification even works for test drivers.
The facility features both on- and off-road testing capabilities so Eaton can prove its products’ performance in real-world conditions. These testing conditions include:
- 1.6-mile oval track
- Rally course
- 20% grade split mu (both wet and dry)
- Roller pad
- Angled rollers
- Beam climb
- 45 percent and 60 percent hill climb
- Straight twist ditch
- Serpentine twist ditch
- Rock crawl
- Mud pit
- Log walk
- Swamp course
The proving grounds are set up in various zones with skid pads, concrete stopping lanes, and asphalt road surfaces. Another zone designated for the “Hostile Course” featuring suspension torturing testing through a washboard section, Jounce ditches, a water intrusion pit, and a concrete lane with varying resonance grooves. Zone 2 incorporates concrete pads and a cross-ditch area for the small grade testing. Areas featuring uphill grades from 3 percent to as much as 60 percent are maintained in this zone.
Zone 3 houses the paved two-lane asphalt oval track (1.6 miles) and gravel rally course (1.5 miles). Zone 4 is where the larger uphill grade testing is done. These test areas are grooved concrete surfaces that offer the best place to test commercial and aftermarket consumer-grade products.
Finally, Zone 5 sounds like the area where all the test drivers have the most fun. There are several different paths set up each with a specific purpose. A pond route, a swamp run, the boulder course, and a water crossing are all located here. Sandpits, rock climbs, a twist ditch, rock road, and stair climb add to the fun.
Let’s face it, any company that would put that much emphasis on a test facility is serious about manufacturing a trustworthy product. For more information on the Eaton Vehicle Group, visit them online at www.eaton.com.