The Risks of Using Counterfeit Parts & How to Identify OEM vs. Counterfeit Parts

02 October 2020
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The Risks of Using Counterfeit Parts & How to Identify OEM vs. Counterfeit Parts
  • Despite a similar appearance, there are noticeable differences between genuine and counterfeit parts. 
  • The most obvious differences are generally related to fit and compatibility, which is also a major risk with counterfeit parts—improper fits or incompatible parts lead to accidents, parts failures, and other issues. 
  • You can reduce your risk by shopping with reputable dealers of OEM replacement parts for all of your car parts needs.
OEM car parts are always preferred over aftermarket parts because they offer a true, original fit and because they were specifically designed for the vehicle in question. Aftermarket parts are designed to be compatible with a number of different vehicles and may not provide the ideal fit or compatibility of genuine replacement parts. Worse even, consumers now have to worry about counterfeit car parts that are being passed off as OEM parts, which can lead to even bigger safety risks and potential problems for vehicle owners.  Your best defence is to get to know OEM parts and how to identify them. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to choose a reputable parts dealer that specifically works with genuine OEM parts—that will take a lot of the homework out of buying car parts for you. For now, here’s what you need to know about OEM parts, counterfeit car parts, and how to avoid the many risks of installing counterfeit aftermarket parts on your vehicle.  What Are OEM Parts? OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer and is the industry acronym referring to “original” parts. Also sometimes called genuine parts, these are the ones that were made specifically for each vehicle and therefore will offer the best compatibility, fit, and resulting safe operation of your vehicle.  How to Identify Genuine OEM Parts Unfortunately, it can be a challenge at times to identify genuine OEM parts if you aren’t sure what to look for. Typically, counterfeiters will stick with the most commonly replaced parts to increase their profits and decrease the likelihood of detection. Brake pads, spark plugs, and oil filters are common targets of counterfeiting. Of course, there are people out there trying to make counterfeit parts in all styles and varieties, including airbags, wheels, body parts, lights and electrical components, and even windscreens and windows. Most of them cannot be detected through a simple visual inspection, which is how many unsuspecting consumers end up purchasing these parts and using them.  To identify genuine OEM parts, if you can’t notice any obvious visual differences, check the Certificate of Authenticity (COA), which can be found on the package or the part itself. The certificate from a genuine part will include a unique ID label and security code, which you can use to verify its authenticity. Make sure the certificate was generated from the manufacturer and that it isn’t a photocopy. For the best results, ask your local mechanic or parts dealer to check the security code against your vehicle’s VIN to ensure that it is genuine.  Of course, the best way to avoid using counterfeit parts is to shop with a reputable, certified parts dealer that supplies genuine OEM car parts. Check out their reputation and track record, and make sure that they are properly licensed as an OEM parts dealer so that you know that you’re shopping with the best at all times. If you find yourself at a shop that insists on supplying their own parts, you’ll again want to ensure that they are properly licensed and certified and that they offer genuine OEM replacement parts for all of the work that they do.   The Risks of Using Counterfeit Cart Parts In countries like Saudi Arabia and India, the black market for counterfeit parts is booming. Tens of thousands were killed on India roads in a single year as a result of faulty fakes, while about half of the fatal accidents that occur in Saudi Arabia are consistently determined to be caused by fake or counterfeit parts. This is obviously among the most serious risks, even though the problem isn’t as severe in countries like the UK and the US.  There are also a number of other issues that can arise from the use of counterfeit parts. They're made cheaply, with a number of corners cut to save money that result in potential problems. Below, we’ll explore some parts-specific issues that can arise from using these parts.  Windscreens Fake windscreens can easily shatter or be displaced because of an improper fit or low-quality material. This presents a lot of injury risk to passengers itself, plus potential injuries from the failure of the protective barrier.  Airbags These safety devices are specifically engineered for a vehicle and fit into them carefully. The exacting specifications required cannot be met by counterfeit airbags, resulting in improper deployment or no deployment at all. In the event of a crash, this could lead to unnecessary injury and death.  Brake Pads As mentioned, counterfeiters like to stick to popular parts because they’re easy to mass-produce and they offer better potential profit due to volume. Because of this, products like fake brake pads are often filled with compressed asbestos, sawdust, or grass, which not only affects your stopping power but can disintegrate under pressure. Make sure that you’re only using quality ceramic or other high-quality brake pads.  Engine and Electrical Components If you install counterfeit engine or drivetrain parts, such as spark plugs or oil filters, they can create a potential fire risk and lead to total engine failure. The same is true of counterfeit electrical components—fakes will be made with cheap materials and could lead to a fire risk and total electrical system failure.  Body Parts When you install counterfeit body parts, they aren’t designed to align with the ideal crumple zones and other safety features in the body of your vehicle. They’ll not only fail to provide protection, but they could actually become the cause of the injury when an accident does occur.  Wheels Wheels that aren’t made to OEM standards are often pieced together or forged poorly, so they aren’t able to withstand road surfaces and speed as well. In the event of an accident or serious pothole, counterfeit wheels have been known to come apart on impact. In fact, this is the leading cause of accidents with counterfeit parts in many countries.  Industry and Governmental Safeguards The UK government has teamed up with the auto industry and various platforms to assist with consumer awareness of counterfeit parts. UAE authorities have implemented quality control standards to reduce the number of fake parts coming into the country. Even the U.S. and its auto manufacturers have taken a stand against black-market auto marts, and global online retailers like eBay and Amazon have started offering their own guides for buying parts to help consumers avoid buying fakes.  You can trust that safeguards are in place or making their way there, but you also have to know that sometimes, fakes can still slip through the cracks. Like anything, it’s probable that the problem will never be completely resolved. There is always going to be a black market for car parts as long as it is profitable. The best thing that you can do in the meantime is to know how to spot them so that you can protect yourself.  Be Careful Where You Shop As mentioned above, the best possible way that you can protect yourself from counterfeit car parts is to shop with licensed, reputable parts dealers that only sell genuine OEM parts. Aftermarket parts are generally a little cheaper, which is also the largest draw of counterfeit parts for most buyers. However, they’re also not genuine parts from the manufacturer, so you can’t guarantee perfect compatibility and fit.  It’s better to spend a little more on genuine OEM parts when you are in the market for any car parts, no matter how basic the parts that you need might be. Even simple things like oil filters and air filters can lead to fires and serious engine damage. When you buy parts that were made specifically for your vehicle by the manufacturer, you can trust that you are getting the same great quality that you expect. Plus, you will know that there are never issues with the fit or compatibility.  The Bottom Line If you are in a situation where you don’t have time to find a reliable parts store, or even if you just want to double-check the parts store that you’ve chosen, start by looking for that serial number and unique ID code. Even when you're shopping online, there should be something in the product specs that you can compare against your VIN to ensure that it’s a genuine OEM part. Now that you know what to look for, it should be easier to pick out those fake parts and guarantee that you’ve got the genuine parts that your vehicle deserves.  For all of your genuine OEM replacement part needs, count on Autofixa. We’ve been in the industry for many years and know how valuable genuine replacements are to your repair jobs. Call us today or visit our website to learn more.

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