Car Care: Pick the right parts

By Jack Biddle

The after-market industry can offer savings when fixing older vehicles

Repairs can be made with genuine, non-genuine or second-hand parts.Photo / Ron Burgin
Repairs can be made with genuine, non-genuine or second-hand parts.Photo / Ron Burgin

There has always been great debate within the motor trade whether to fit genuine, non-genuine or second-hand parts when carrying out servicing or general repairs on motor vehicles.

Obviously the new-vehicle distributors and their franchise networks will push to use genuine or factory-approved parts while the non-franchised garages, who earn their living mainly from an older fleet that is out of new-vehicle warranty, can have a far more open mind.

• Read more How to stay alert behind the wheel

Depending on the work required, they can often provide a number of affordable options for their customers. The "after-market" industry is huge in New Zealand because of our ageing vehicle fleet and the understandable reluctance of some owners to spend too much on repair costs on vehicles with diminishing value.

The cost of repairs is often hard to justify if genuine parts are used, and in some cases a non-genuine or secondhand part will do an adequate job without compromising safety.

If expensive repairs are required, owners of older cars need to weigh up the value of their vehicle versus the cost of repairs. If their intention is to keep hold of the vehicle long-term, the decision to use genuine, non-genuine or second-hand parts can be different than if the vehicle is to be sold a short time after repairs are made.

In some cases, the call is easy to make. If, for example, an engine had a major overheat that resulted in an internal meltdown then a second-hand power unit is often the best solution. It gets the vehicle back on the road reasonably quickly and can save hundreds of dollars compared with rebuilding the existing engine. Warranty on anything second-hand, however, is never that long and often only covers parts and no labour. Add to that the unknown history of most used parts and it may be a gamble that either works or doesn't. You may strike it lucky and procure an engine out of an accident-damaged late-model/low-mileage vehicle, but the older your vehicle is the less chance there is of this happening.

Fitting a used automatic transmission can present greater risks as there may be more general wear and tear, and some autos have a poor reputation from day one so you could end up with similar performance issues.

The most critical thing about procuring major mechanical components second-hand is getting like-for-like. If garages have to spend endless hours trying to get things to match, then costs can quickly spiral out of control.

Honestly, for some older vehicles the better option is to sell the vehicle as is or for scrap.

Trust and confidence in your repairer is the key, especially when it comes to safety.

A trusted mechanic is your best shot when it comes to vehicle safety.Photo / John Stone

After-market or non-genuine parts are where savings can be made at times, but they often come with compromises. Fitting cheaper, non-genuine brake pads can at times produce brake squeal, annoying amounts of brake dust build-up around road wheels and trims, and they can have a reduced lifespan.

And because there are a number of after-market suppliers who have their own individual quality standards, it's often hard to know just how good or bad they are in comparison with a genuine part.

Some of the big players in the after-market industry, however, have been in the business for decades and do offer a competitive and high-quality alternative to genuine parts.

Once again, that trust and confidence in your preferred repairer plays a big role in deciding one over the other.

The new-vehicle distributors are also keen to grab a large slice of the after-market business, especially for those vehicles that no longer frequent their service departments. They sometimes reduce prices on genuine fast-moving parts on older models to align themselves closer to their competition and to help reduce old stock, so it's dangerous to assume genuine parts are always going to be more expensive.

There is no definite right or wrong answer on what is best. It depends a lot on the age, general condition and the future planned for the vehicle.

There are some areas where franchise garages and general repairers do seem to strike common ground, however, and that centres on the use of high-quality and sometimes genuine fluids in engines, automatic transmissions and cooling systems. Yes, they may cost more but it's money well spent.

- NZ Herald

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