What are the best ways to identify fake car or motorcycle parts? Our guide tells you the clues to look for so you don’t end up with risky counterfeits.
Luxury watches, leather goods or branded fashion: It is well known that criminals copy all kinds of consumer goods. But the product pirates also fake auto parts – and flood the market with risky bargains, the installation of which can end badly.
The police and customs officials usually stroll through a trade fair out of personal curiosity. But at the last Automechanika in Frankfurt — the world’s biggest automotive trade fair — they had a business assignment. They hunted for forged spare parts. Because fake goods are not only fooling buyers in the fashion and accessories sectors!
Criminals have long since discovered auto parts as a profitable line of business and are copying almost all components that are traded in the spare parts or accessories business. The counterfeits cause immense damage to the original manufacturers, and often leave the buyers with a vehicle that doesn’t perform well or can be outright dangerous to be on the road, if safety components fail.
Tips to identify fake car or motorcycle parts
And sometimes you have to look very closely … for example, at first glance at our main image, can you tell the difference between the genuine part on the left and the counterfeit one on the right. Thinking about buying a used car? Maybe opting for a new one would be a better choice.
Brake products are common fakes
But above all, the buyers risk life and limb because the fakes often do not have the same properties as the original: brake discs or calipers can tear, seals can burst or chips simply deliver the wrong control commands. Not to mention the necessary seals of approval. “What can be copied will also be copied,” says Peter Wagner from the global tire and brake system supplier Continental.
He warns that product piracy in so-called aftersales extends across almost all product categories. Particularly popular: safety-related parts that are subject to wear and therefore have to be replaced more often. “Brake products such as brake fluid, brake pads and brake discs are therefore more at risk than many other product groups.”
Pay attention to packaging and documents
Common sense often helps to expose a counterfeit, says Marco Moretti, who heads the aftermarket business at the famed Italian brake manufacturer Brembo, which manufactures high-performance brakes for all the major global car brands. If goods are offered well below the usual list prices, one should at least become skeptical, warns the expert. And if the packaging or the appropriate documents are also missing, the rule is: “Stay away!”
To be on the safe side, the manufacturers protect themselves and their customers against the product pirates with complex technology. Like Brembo, they therefore afford their own departments with dozens of employees who browse Internet shops, trade fairs and markets and report the counterfeiters to the authorities. For example, Continental has brought fraudsters to court in Mexico and Morocco. And they have developed special, difficult to copy but easy to check labels and other seals.
At Brembo, faces of their own employees are shown on the packaging, says Moretti. The Italians also use an individual QR code that identifies the package as original. It is printed on the seal and label of the boxes, where you can also see a forgery-proof hologram.
Check the data matrix code
Continental also uses such labels with holography technology, says Wagner and explains a second protective mechanism, which manufacturers like Bosch, Continental / ATE, Federal-Mogul Motorparts, GKN, GS1, Mahle, MANN-FILTER, Motorservice, Schaeffler, TRW and WABCO and promote the data platform TecAlliance together: You have launched the “Manufacturers against Product Piracy” (MAPP) industry initiative and are now providing the packaging with a so-called DataMatrix code.
This gives the marked auto spare part a worldwide unique identification number, by means of which the products can be clearly identified, according to the MAPP alliance on its website: This code is checked on a special website, on the manufacturer’s homepage or sometimes even with an app on the Smartphone directly in the shop: “Then you can see immediately whether it is an original packaging or a counterfeit,” says Wagner.
Buying fake often means buying twice
Experts admit that some parts are very expensive. However, they advise car owners to buy their spare parts directly from the supplier instead of asking the vehicle manufacturer or the workshop about refurbished replacement parts. They urgently advise against dubious sources and enticing offers – even if they are not safety-relevant parts. They can work poorly, the component may not fit properly, does not last long or is simply not legal. Therefore, buying cheap means not infrequently buying twice. And if you include all the hassle, you probably end up paying more than for a genuine part.