Working on your own car can be a great way to reduce your maintenance costs, plus you can gain a feeling of accomplishment when you get the job done. However, if you end up buying low-quality car parts from less-than-scrupulous sellers, you could wind up doing the job over and over again or even damaging the rest of your car in the process. How can you make sure you’re getting good parts for your car without getting ripped off?
Head to Your Local Junkyard
Depending on what your local junkyard specializes in, you may be able to find plenty of affordable, gently used OEM parts, as long as you’re handy with a wrench and don’t mind getting your hands dirty.
Many junkyards give you the option to pull your own parts, and while you need your own hand tools, the junkyard may have larger, harder-to-transport tools like cherry pickers for removing engines and the like. Expect to sign a liability waiver stating that if you do something stupid, like drop an engine on your foot, the junkyard isn’t responsible.
If you’re pulling your own parts, you’re almost guaranteed to get some high-quality parts. This process doesn’t work as well for OEM parts that are known to have problems — like the intake manifold on early ’90s Ford and Mercury engines that were made of plastic and tended to crack over time. But for steel or aluminum parts, you can easily find what you’re looking for in a junkyard.
Perform Adequate Car Part Research
There are more online parts sellers than most of us know what to do with. It can be hard to find high-quality parts when you can’t hold or inspect the part yourself until you’ve already paid for it and it arrives on your doorstep. One way to avoid low-quality parts when you’re shopping online is to read the parts specifications and previous buyer reviews.
The specs will tell you what the part is made of, what kind of cars it will fit and other information like what type of plating is used on the parts. Some parts may use hard chrome plating while others use electroless nickel plating. Both have a variety of applications, and one may be better than the other for the kind of build you’re making.
Buyer reviews can be the perfect source of information and can warn you away from sellers who are providing low-quality parts.
Avoid Craigslist If Possible
Craigslist might seem like a great place to find cheap car parts from people selling them or selling entire cars for you to pull apart for parts, but for every honest seller on that website, there’s at least one who is trying to rip you off. It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes.
If you can avoid it, skip Craigslist when you’re shopping for car parts. You might save a few bucks using it, but if you happen upon a less-than-honest seller, you’re going to end up losing money in the long run.
Do Your Shopping in Person
This step is especially important for hard-to-find or exotic parts — do your shopping in person. This strategy makes it easier for you to ensure you’re getting the right part. These kinds of parts can also be expensive, and you can lose a lot of money in shipping and return fees if you have to keep ordering to find the perfect one for your build.
All it takes to avoid getting ripped off when you’re buying car parts is a little bit of research and a little bit of patience. Don’t go for the cheapest option, and remember the golden rule of parts shopping: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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