It takes hundreds of thousands of man-hours and several years of design, engineering and testing work to bring a new car, truck, SUV or crossover to the market. With so much work going into developing and integrating every component of a new vehicle, and as one of the most expensive pieces of equipment most people own, it really doesn’t make sense to install replacement parts of dubious origin.
While there are many aftermarket parts from reputable companies that are meant for performance enhancement, many of the generic replacement parts found at auto parts chain stores are little more than cheap replicas of the original parts. Manufacturers of these parts make copies that are the same size as the original, but they are not engineered in the same way and are frequently made of inferior materials.
Sub-standard replacement parts cover the gamut from basic air filters to full body panels. Even though an air filter seems fairly trivial, it’s actually very important. If the filter material is too fine, it can clog up with dirt prematurely, limiting the engine’s ability to breathe and make power and leading to more frequent replacement.
On the other hand, if a filter doesn’t capture fine dirt and dust, those materials can get drawn into the engine where they can scratch and gouge the metal surfaces that have to slide against each other. Dust particles can also get past piston rings to contaminate the oil. When that happens, the oil pump can be damaged and the oil filter can be prematurely plugged. If the oil filter gets clogged, oil pressure can build up and cause a bypass valve to open, allowing completely unfiltered oil to circulate.
By skipping the carmaker’s genuine replacements for generic parts, an owner could end up with damage that can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
One set of parts that eventually wears out on every car and needs to be replaced every few years are the brake pads and rotors. While everyone is probably aware that pressing on the braking pedal will slow down the car, most drivers may not be aware of the other ways that the brakes are used on modern vehicles. Cars and trucks equipped with Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control can automatically apply the brakes at individual wheels to help keep the car going where the driver is pointing the steering wheel. These control systems are calibrated by the engineers based on knowledge of how the brakes work. If the pads are replaced with aftermarket units that have more or less friction than the originals, it causes extended stopping distances and degraded handling.
Insurance companies often try to force body shops to use the least expensive generic replacement parts possible, but depending on your state’s regulations, you may have the right to request original parts. Replacement panels that don’t meet manufacturer specifications can lead to multiple problems. The body panels on modern unibody vehicles form part of the vehicle structure. If a replacement body panel is made from a different grade or thickness of steel than the factory part, it may not hold up as well if the vehicle is in a subsequent accident, putting the driver and passengers at risk.
Since these aftermarket parts are stamped from different dies that “replicate” the original, they might not be dimensionally correct. This can lead to degraded fit and finish after a repair and panel alignment issues. Modern vehicles with steel body panels are galvanized to help prevent rust. The coatings on replacement parts may not be as complete or as effective, allowing premature rust to develop. A bad coating can also cause problems with paint adhesion.
A car or truck is a major financial investment, so it’s worth using the best materials possible to maintain it in proper working order or repair damage. If you want your vehicle to last, then you should take advantage of all the engineering and testing that went into its development by using genuine replacement parts from the original manufacturer. Your vehicle’s manufacturer-trained service and parts advisors can help you make sure you always have the right parts for the job.