How do you tell if you are being sold fake or genuine car parts? Our guide outlines the categories of parts to beware of and the signs to look for. Imitated spare parts are often cheaper than original parts. But those who use cheap copies can quickly put themselves in danger. Unmasking an imitation is often not easy. But it works.
Factors to tell fake or genuine car parts
The price sounds tempting. The brake disc costs less than half. But the spare part is fake. The supposed bargain can turn out to be a very dangerous shopping on the street. How do you, as a car owner, protect yourself from such mis-purchases?
First of all, what a spare part is, who is allowed to manufacture it and put it on the market, as well as the requirements that a spare part must meet – all of this is regulated by an EU block exemption regulation. Many parts may be legally reproduced provided they are of equivalent quality to the parts of the vehicle manufacturer.
The problem is spare parts that look like the original parts, but are much worse in quality. Frequently faked are:
- Steering components
- Brake linings and pads
- Brake discs
- Air, oil and fuel filters
The counterfeiters work very precisely: In addition to the spare parts, packaging, test marks and safety holograms are usually modelled one-to-one on the original, says Thomas Fischer, CEO of the Association of Free Spare Parts Market, an advocacy group. car parts manufacturers.
Protection against counterfeit parts
Especially with safety-relevant components such as brakes or steering, the inferior material can fail and lead to accidents. “If a brake pad suddenly stops packing properly, it can be life-threatening,” says Fischer.
He advises consumers to compare prices critically: “If spare parts on the Internet are clearly too cheap, then doubts are warranted.” In his opinion, motorists only have protection against counterfeit parts by buying the parts from reputable sources, such as a well-known specialist dealer or their own workshop.
Forgeries are a safety risk
Hobby screwdrivers should not work on safety-relevant components anyway, Fischer finds. This is a matter for a specialist workshop. In the course of the repair, they usually also order the spare parts.
Thomas Caasmann of the test organisation GTU sees the danger of counterfeit spare parts especially in the case of:
- Parts for brakes and chassis
- Lambda probes
- Fuel control and fuel pump parts
Indications of imitations
He advises buying parts from the vehicle manufacturer or from the original parts supplier and not from unknown internet shops. He, too, points out that the price is not everything. “When a spare part is offered extremely cheaply, either the seller does not know what it is worth. Or it’s hehlerware. Or fake. Then the alarm bells have to be raised,” he says. In any case, there are almost no bargains left.
Cheap and poorly made imitations can be recognized by customers by the lack of manufacturer name, trademarks and original packaging. Customers can compare the supposed original part with the real original template. In the case of well-made counterfeits, however, it becomes difficult to identify an imitat.
Spare parts OEM numbers
As a general rule, each accessory must have a valid OEM parts number, a type-approval or a part report. For example, it is subject to a prescribed test procedure and its production to quality management.
Whether there is a risk to counterfeit spare parts depends on the component. “In the worst case, a fake exhaust silencer becomes louder and does not meet the exhaust emissions. On the other hand, a brake disc can break and lead to an accident,” says GM’s Tom Rechtien.
Rechtien advises motorists to buy spare parts only from reputable and trusted dealers. In a main investigation, inspectors would usually detect badly counterfeit parts and deny a badge or a registration in the vehicle letter.