Niagara Gazette

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July 18, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Beware the auto parts jungle!

Niagara Gazette — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part series on auto parts.

The world of auto parts is a murky one. I remember back in 1974 when I was the head technician at a repair facility in New Jersey. A new “mobile” parts supplier (a guy selling parts out of his van) had come by touting his new line of low-priced ignition parts. A new set of GM points caught my eye, and they were $4 cheaper than the OEM part and, as I was told, “worked just as well.” I was skeptical, because the design was different, but the shop did a high volume of tune-up work, so my boss saw this as an opportunity to increase his profits. So despite my warning, he bought 30 of them, which we went through in short order. We restocked a week later and my boss was all smiles at the money he had made. But about three weeks later we started getting calls from upset customers, all with the same complaint: Their cars would stall and not restart after they warmed up. We tracked the problem to the bargain ignition point sets and ended up having to tow the cars back to the shop and replace the points again. Not only did my boss have to pay for the tow jobs (a few were over 100 miles away), but he also had to buy new point sets and pay the labor to install them. In short, the whole debacle cost him a few thousand dollars. He banned the guy in the van from our premises and determined from that point forward to offer only the highest quality parts in all auto repairs. A costly lesson, indeed.

You get what you pay for

Not all parts are created equal, and that’s why “the same parts” vary so much in price. But after shopping parts you can get a feel for what the average price should be for a particular part. Be wary of drastic differences: Higher isn’t always better but cheaper almost always means inferior quality. Let’s take a look at some of the common replacement parts and what the effects of “fixing it on the cheap” can be.

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