I have heard a lot of complaints about the declining quality of aftermarket parts. Poor-quality fit, incorrect function and multiple comebacks seem to be common rants online and at shops. Some parts are so bad, they say they are safety issues.
Are replacement parts getting worse? Absolutely NOT. What is driving the perception is that it is easier than ever to purchase a low-quality part. Cheap auto parts have always been available. These low-quality parts were once sold in mail-order catalogs. Some of the veterans in our industry will remember the 300-page newsprint parts catalogs and classified ads in the backs of automotive magazines.
Back in the day, professionals never touched this type of part because of the shipping cost, shipping times and overall quality. Now, these parts can be ordered online and delivered quickly thanks to improved logistics. In some cases, they might be the only option due to parts shortages.
Some technicians have claimed high-quality parts have ceased production. I say NO. The aftermarket is making more high-quality parts than ever with greater levels of sophistication. Every year I attend AAPEX, there are always new parts and brands being introduced. High-quality brands always have stories about how their parts are just as good as or better than the originals. Parts are continuously being refined, and new parts categories are constantly being introduced.
The best example I can think of is the shock and strut category. Twenty-five years ago, you had three options for a strut for common import or domestic vehicles. Most jobbers might have stocked one or two lines. Today, if you start looking at some electronic catalogs, you may have nine brands and options for loaded struts. All have different price points. It is up to you to make the call. With some of the options, you will be complaining about the quality. Other options will have you and your customers singing the praises of the brand.
What are your options? The old ways are still the best, in my opinion. The old-school distribution model still works. Local jobbers and warehouses have a vested interest in selling you a high-quality part. They realize they have a limited customer base due to geography. They do not do business using online reviews; they go on the power of the handshake and trust. They are not looking to be the lowest-priced part source – they want to win your business with quality and service. Are there good online parts sources? Yes, just do your homework.