A Guide for Buying Used Auto Parts

Used auto parts can be a great way to save some money if you are trying to maintain a vehicle between 4 and 15 years old. If a car is newer, not enough parts will be available to make it easy to find used parts. Beyond 15 years, not enough of the cars are still rolling to maintain the inventory. For older cars, you may have to look a lot longer to find a used and usable part.

Call local salvage yards.

Salvage yards make money in three ways. They sell all of their left over parts and bodies for scrap iron. This makes them a little money after they have milked the used and often wrecked car dry. Salvage yards specialize in used auto body parts. Fenders, bumpers, doors, etc. are great money makers for these businesses. They also make good choices for repairs when you are trying to save money.

The third way that salvage yards make money is by selling car parts, transmissions, and motors. Some salvage yards will require you to remove your own parts. Most yards will remove the parts that are most in demand. Alternators, starters, motors, and, transmissions are often removed and inventoried so they can be quickly accessed to sell. Many of these are sold through the networks of salvage dealers who advertise parts that are being sought.

If you need a blower fan for your heating or air conditioning, you will probably have to remove this yourself in many salvage yard. The same is true for windshield wiper motors many small parts.

Be careful when buying electronic components on the used market.

With the modern electronics that are installed on all cars today, electronics are getting more popular on the used market. The problem with buying these used is that they often have been sitting in less than ideal conditions for times lasting from a few weeks to possibly a year or more. Being exposed to the moisture and poor conditions can erode this delicate equipment.

A Guide for Buying Used Auto Parts

Not all used dealers will allow a return on these parts. Since the installer can easily send a static electric jolt through sensitive circuits, the chances of damage by an inexperienced mechanic is high. Find out ahead of time about the salvage yard’s policy on this type of equipment.

Do not buy used auto parts that you do not know how to check out.

Used parts like ball joints or universal joints are difficult to diagnose for problems when not in use. Buying parts like these can just be asking to make a given repair twice. Although starters and alternators can be difficult to check out, these are usually some of the more reliable parts that can be removed from a wrecked vehicle. Like with the electronic equipment, make sure that you know if the part can be refunded or exchanged if does not work.

Online auctions are a decent option for used parts.

While these are going to be purchased from someone that is not necessarily near you, many of the online auctions like eBay can give reliable use parts because of the accountability that the rating system gives. Be careful buying online. This is just because some online dealers do not make it easy to send back a bad part or a wrong part. Also, an auction format can mean that you will pay more than you should if you are not able to control your bidding.

If you need a lot of used parts for one car, consider buying a junker that has most of the parts.

One advantage to buying a junker or wreck that has the used parts that you need is the economy. You can often buy this type of car for under $300 if you are not restoring a classic car. This type of vehicle can have 2 to 4 times that much value in used parts if you need them. At the end of the process, you can sell the parts that you did not use or sell the car for scrap. Either way, you will recoup some of your money back in cash. With luck, your used parts may almost be free.

Where to Find Cheap Replacement OEM Car Parts

Some parts for your car are generic. You can go into a Pep Boys or an Auto zone and find the oil filter, brake pads, and what not to do general maintenance on your car.
Some parts, on the other hand, are not so generic. When you need, say, a tail light housing for your car, you need to go find an original manufacturer part. No two ways about it.

This isn’t necessarily hard. You can probably order the parts through a dealer. The problem? It’s usually really expensive. Browse through a catalog of OEM parts, and you’ll quickly find out that things are needlessly expensive.

The Expensive Option

Let’s take into consideration a few examples. Recently, I’ve had to look for a few replacement parts for a used 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier that I bought.

The first thing I needed was a driver’s side sun visor with a mirror. I had some trouble finding it, because some dealer catalogs only listed the convertible version (which is ungodly expensive). I finally found a suitable replacement at GM Parts Dealer for $30.16.

Next, I needed a driver’s side tail light housing. This time, I found a suitable replacement at GM Parts Direct for $56.54. This was also substantially discounted from the MSRP.

Cheap Replacement OEM Car Parts

Finally, the most obscure piece I needed was the “Cavalier” emblem that is mounted on the bottom side of the trunk. I also found that at GM Parts Direct, for a discounted price of $11.84.

In all three cases, I had to do some lengthy browsing around the parts dealers’ catalogs. The catalogs aren’t very user friendly, and in most cases (these and other examples) the search option didn’t help me find what I wanted. I had to manually browse through the categories until I happened upon the one part that I was looking for.

The Cheaper Option

I wasn’t sure where to go at first. The prices for new replacements from the parts dealers seemed expensive, and in the beginning I was having trouble finding what I wanted.

I eventually went to a place that I often go to when I need something obscure that I thought should be readily available on the internet but wasn’t: eBay. A few months back, I was looking for a replacement lens cap for my Nikon Coolpix P80 and I couldn’t find one anywhere except on eBay. So I thought I’d give it a go again…

In all three cases, I was able to quickly and easily find like new replacement parts that were cheaper than if I had ordered them through the parts dealer. I found replacement visors for about $15 to $20. I found a bunch of nice replacements for the tail light housing, and eventually settled on one that cost $30. The Cavalier Emblem was easy to find as well, and I picked one up for about $5. If I had been more patient, I could have gotten a whole set of emblems (“Chevrolet,” “Cavalier,” and the two Chevrolet logos) for just a little bit more money.

There are a lot of smaller parts dealers that want to sell random, used parts collected from salvage yards. It’s probably not cost effective for them to develop a fully functional website to list their inventory, since it changes so readily. Instead, eBay provides a national market for them to quickly and easily offer their inventory for sale. At the same time, consumers (like you and me) can search eBay listings and quickly find the random replacement part that we need… without paying OEM pricing.

So next time you’re looking for a random OEM replacement part, don’t go to the dealer or to a large parts dealer. Check eBay, quickly browse through the small parts retailers that have what you need, and find a cheaper replacement.

My Journey to Find Custom Vintage Car Parts

I’m an old car nut and I enjoy refurbishing them. A few I will keep, but must I will sell after a season of driving them and going to car shows.
A common problem that I have is that finding the old parts for replacement that are no longer made can be very difficult. I found Protomatic and they were able to machine the parts that I was looking for with no problem at all.

This last project I had was just the worst. I had so many problems locating the refurbished parts. I finally almost got it done until things get even worse than before. I was looking for these engine brackets and I just couldn’t find ones that fit anywhere. I looked for probably three months online and I called a bunch of people that I’d done business with in the past, but I didn’t have luck at all. I even spent hours in my local scrap yards trying to find a replacement part.
My Journey to Find Custom Vintage Car Parts

Finally, I tried calling around to machine shops, and I called lots of them. I found Protomatic sort of by chance I guess. I talked to them and sure enough, they were about to machine the brackets that I needed without much trouble at all. Since then I’ve referred a lot of my buddies to the same company, and they’ll all been happy with the way it worked out.

Programmatic is able to reverse engineer the parts that I need to fit my exact specifications. They are a lifesaver when it comes to manufacturing custom vintage auto parts and they are very easy to work with.

Car Collecting: Vintage Car Parts

Vintage car collections are very popular among car enthusiasts. Arguably some of the best cars ever produced came in the first few decades that automobiles began being manufactured.

For some, there is nothing like the sense of pride that accompanies owning that vintage car that looks to be right off the showroom floor. While the end product is worth one’s admiration, the work of restoring those vintage cars to their former glory is often overlooked by newcomers and outsiders of the vintage car world.

Because the original date of manufacture of most vintage cars was around the turn of the twentieth century, quite a bit of work is involved when talking about restoring one of these cars.

Most of the cars available tend to be in a condition that renders them nearly unrecognizable, while those that are already restored are hard to pry from their owners. In order to have a vintage car, one needs to be ready to either fork over a substantial amount of money, or a combination of time and a bit of money.

Replacement parts for vintage cars are often very difficult to find because of these cars were produced nearly a hundred years ago, making most of the parts obsolete in most applications. In most cases, a good amount of research is often involved in trying to locate that front axle or rear tail light lens for that 1927 Model A.

Even before beginning to research, one way to alleviate any possible headaches from arising is to be sure that the car’s exact make and model are known and used during the search. The difference of even one model year can mean receiving a part that is of no use for the vintage car it was intended for in some cases.

Be positive the information being used to find replacement parts is one-hundred percent accurate, especially since most times no refunds or exchanges are offered on vintage car parts.

Once sure that the car’s information is accurate, hunting for those replacement parts can often be done online. EBay Motors is a good resource at times, for one might just find a dealer with the parts needed to complete that restoration. There are also online stores that deal with vintage car parts. Spending sometime surfing the net may just land one that elusive part.

Perhaps the most popular way is contacting a few local salvage yards in search of that part. Oftentimes one can find a salvage yard that only deals in older domestic vehicles, and a narrower scope such at that is helpful at times when looking for those hard-to-find parts for vintage cars.

In most cases, replacement parts for vintage cars are going to come in used condition, with no warranty. This fact may frustrate or deter some from purchasing that part, or even from pursuing a restoration. Unfortunately, this is an often unavoidable part of vintage car restoration.

Those who are considering or are already collecting vintage cars should understand the difficult nature of restoring those old rust heaps into the ageless beauties they truly are. Replacement parts can sometimes be hard to find, as well as expensive, but this is just part of the territory included in the recreation of a vintage car. But for those who are truly passionate about it, restoring those cars can be as enjoyable as admiring the finished product.

Aftermarket Parts in the Auto Repair Shop

When you go to Home Depot or Lowes you are used to seeing brands that you are familiar with like John Deere, Honda or Scotts. These retailers are proud to be offering the products of these well respected companies and actively promote the sale of their goods and equipment. That is not always the case with auto parts.

Companies like Carquest or NAPA have supply contracts with parts companies like Gates for belts and hoses and Walker for exhaust parts. The manufacturers make their parts to the specifications of the retail marketers who put their name on them. So when you go to the auto parts store you are unaware of the manufacturer.

This is not the practice for all of the types of parts sold by NAPA or Carquest, since some of the parts like fuel pumps or oxygen sensors may be sold under the trademark of the manufacturer. Other auto parts retailers like Pep Boys have their in house brands like Prostart for alternators, starters and batteries. Who they choose as the supplier of these units may depend on outside factors like proximity to the marketplace and of course price, as well as the failure rate of the assembled part.

aftermarket-parts-in-the-auto-repair-shop

Then there are the aftermarket brands of the car manufacturers. The brand names for the big three are Motorcraft for Ford, Mopar for Chrysler and AC Delco for General Motors. This is where it really gets confusing. If you shop at a Chevy dealer’s parts department, you might buy an oil filter which carries a GM part number, although it may have come from the same manufacturing plant as an AC Delco filter and also be sold at an Advance Auto Parts store.

The term that installers look for is OEM. It stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. Technicians and shop owners believe that the closer they can come to OEM the better. The reason is twofold – quality and fit.

Better quality cuts down on comebacks and the need to do the job the second time for free and better fit shortens the installation time and maximizes profits. The parts houses are very aware of this and know that Koyo, for instance, is the OEM supplier for the radiator in a certain year, make and model of vehicle. If they have that part available it becomes a distinct advantage over the competition.

Failure rates of some parts can be as high as 30 percent, so any strategy is worth considering if it reduces the probability of dealing with a defective part that generates an irate customer. It may be difficult to believe but 95 percent of the burden of resolving the aftermath of a failed part is borne by the installing shop.

The replacement part, of course, is supplied for free but the labor is often attributed to the cost of doing business. Labor claims are available from some suppliers but the paperwork can be burdensome and in a busy shop the inclination is to accommodate the customer and move on.

These are some of the conditions that warrant the margins which retail auto repair shops command on the auto parts they sell. This may not be evident to the occasional DIY’er who compares prices charged when visiting a professional shop to what he has paid in the past at a store like AutoZone.

Source: Personal Experience

Repair Fiberglass Car Parts

Just like sheet metal on a car, fiberglass is prone to damage but unless you have a brand new car, getting a replacement part may not be that easy. Sometimes it may be cheaper to just repair the damaged part.

Fenders, bumpers, hoods, and other fiberglass body parts will eventually chip, crack, or break when exposed to elements like heat, water, debris, and grime over time. If you have a damaged fiberglass body part it may be very inexpensive to replace it if it is small, but large pieces like fenders will be expensive to replace.

It takes a certain amount of skill to repair fiberglass so if you do not have a particular eye for detail, or if you’re inexperienced you should hire a professional or someone to help you. Learn how to save time and cost on repairing fiberglass with these tips.

If you are a do it yourself-er, here’s a list of what you should purchase at your local automotive retailer:

  • Marine Quality Fiberglass Mat
  • Fiberglass Resin
  • Sheet Metal
  • Sandpaper (rough and smooth grit, wet sanding)
  • Two 3” Natural Hair Paint Brushes
  • Fiberglass Glaze
  • Low Stick Masking Tape
  • Fiberglass Primer
  • Primer Sealer or Glaze

You should use the highest quality products you can afford to ensure the fresh fiberglass will last. Even if you decide to let a professional take over the job, you may be able to save some money by offering to supply materials at your expense and by offering to help with some of the labor.

If you are inexperienced this is a great way to learn how to repair fiberglass and next time you can do it on your own. The fiberglass mat you purchase should be marine quality because it is built to weather the elements and will last much longer than any other glass mat. The strands of the mat should be white in color and the material should be clean.

Before you can patch up broken pieces and fix cracks you will have to do some sanding. Wherever there is an area of damage sand through the paint and top layers of fiberglass until a clean white appears. This ensures the new fiberglass attaches to strands that are not damaged or dirty.

If you have a large hole or severe crack in your fiberglass body panels take them off the car and repair from the inside out. This is where the sheet metal comes in handy. Large areas that are missing will need to be reshaped and this is accomplished by placing sheet metal over the surface of holes.

After cutting enough sheet metal to cover your holes screw it into the fiberglass covering the holes. Grind down the heads of the screws and edges of the sheet metal.

Before starting any fiberglass work, wear a filtered breathing mask, and then mix your resin glaze according the the instructions on the label. Too much hardener will make the glaze crystallize and will be extremely difficult to work with.

Make sure you have a good mix before starting. Tear or cut your glass mat to size and soak in resin before applying to the car. It may take 3-5 layers of mat to build up the thickness desired.

Let each layer dry completely before applying the next. After sticking the mat to the car or body part smooth it out with your brush and resin. Do this inside and out on large areas of damage to ensure a tight bond between the new fiberglass and old.

Let the fiberglass dry overnight for best results and begin sanding the next day. Begin with a rough grit paper, 200 or so and sand down the surface of the repairs until smooth and even. Follow with a fine grit and feather the edges of the new fiberglass in towards the middle of the repair.

If your repairs are not as thick as you desire repeat the fiberglass, resin, and sanding process until your goal is reached.

Once the desired look is achieved seal the fresh glass with fiberglass glaze. Once again allow all parts and panels to fully harden before moving on to the next step. When the parts are dry tape off the repair areas that need to be repainted and apply Fiberglass primer.

You may want to use 2-3 coats because you will be sanding it for maximum smoothness. When the fiberglass primer is dry sand with a fine grit wet sand paper to smooth out the edges and any unnoticed raised areas. Wash off any residue with clean water and allow to dry.

Finish by spraying a primer sealer or glaze which is the final step before you can apply paint.

In the long run, on most large fiberglass body panels like fenders and hoods you are likely to save money on repairs by doing it yourself. Repairing fiberglass doesn’t have to be hard just follow the instructions on the label of your products to ensure the project goes smoothly.

If you don’t have a brother or friend that works in a body shop and can help you along, you should consider hiring a professional if you don’t know what you are doing. As always, when using chemicals that pose possible dangerous side effects use proper protection like eye wear, gloves, and a filtered breathing mask.

Do not breathe in the dust from fiberglass or allow the fiberglass or primer chemicals to get on your skin. Now that the repairs are fixed you will want to get the car painted as soon as possible.

Not only do gray spots all over the car make it look like a beater, but primer is not meant to last forever because you’re supposed to cover it with paint. Small areas you may be able to paint right at home in your garage but for large areas you may want to send the car to a professional.

How to Make Auto Parts Shopping Easier on You

With the state of the economy, people are trying to save money every way possible. One such avenue is by performing vehicle maintenance on their own. While this is never an easy task, it is made much more difficult by the parts shopping task. Having to buy parts for your car is never a fun experience, but is now increasingly more important in this economic state. Here a a few tips to make it easier.

how-to-make-auto-parts-shopping-easier-on-you

1. HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO GET THE CORRECT PART

You may be surprised to know just how many different options there are in your vehicle you never knew about. Each vehicle package has different options that affect the part. The best way to ensure you get the correct part is to come equipped with all the information you need. Most questions can be answered by your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This will tell the parts consultant the correct year, make, package type, paint and trim color codes, key codes, and anything that came with your vehicle from the factory. The only time the VIN will do you wrong is if something on the vehicle has been changed. Your VIN can be found on your title, insurance card, and on the drivers side of your dashboard.

2. IN STORE SHOPPING IS BEST

Most customers will price shop over the phone. This is a good way to get the wrong parts. Parts terminology changes from car brand to car brand. Trying to make heads or tails over the phone makes communication more difficult. If possible, take the part with you so the consultant can get a better idea of what you need. If you can’t bring the part or vehicle with you, try to get a picture of the location or part. Cell phone cameras are perfect for this.

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Trying to make sense of what is going on with your vehicle can be difficult enough. To simplify the process it is best if the person working on the car does the talking. It is difficult for the consultant to make sense of what is really happening if they are playing a game of “Telephone” with you and others. This speeds up the process.

4. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

There is no set place for you to find the right part. Dealerships are your best option, as they can find original equipment parts. Aftermarket chains, such as Auto zone or Napa, may be able to get you a better price. A few things to consider when price shopping between these venues are:

Warranty – Never be afraid to ask what the warranty will be for your part. If there is a difference between stores, ask why.

Price- You may find that there is a significant difference in price. Double check to see what comes with the part you are buying. It may come as a whole assembly or kit from one place and be a separate component elsewhere.

Returns – Be sure what the return policy is just in case it is the wrong or not what was needed to fix the problem. As with any purchase, hold on to the receipt!!

Freight – There will be cases when parts will need to be ordered. When pricing, ask if freight is included on the price quote. It is to your advantage to know as much as possible.

5. KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Vehicles today can be very complex. Most of the electronic functions run throughout the body. Some parts may have to be “flashed” with a computer to make it function with your car. Knowing ahead of time if the part you need will requires special treatment will save you time and money. Be sure to check with your mechanic for price breaks for labor/programming. If the repairs you are trying are beyond your abilities or understanding DO NOT ATTEMPT to repair it yourself. Get with a certified mechanic to assist you. It may not be cheap, but will definitely beat the added price of additional parts and time.