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Why pay for OEM parts when aftermarket will do?

Why pay for OEM parts when aftermarket will do?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had this question asked of me over the years, I’d at least have twenty-one dollars and change. “Why pay for an OEM part when the aftermarket stuff works just as well”? It’s a good argument, for sure, but does it hold water? Interestingly – and slowly – the OEM’s have responded, mainly with more aggressive pricing to compete with the aftermarket. Although that’s a big thing, the crux of this argument has to be quality. This can’t be overcome as easily as a price point.

The perfect fit…

As a mechanical technician myself, in most cases, I am at my respective dealer for my parts. My reasoning has never swayed: it’s about quality for me. Let’s say I need to replace an O2 sensor on my SUV. Sure, I could go to one of the AM stores and get an aftermarket product- and it may function perfectly fine. However, not all O2 sensors are created equal. And yes, most DIYers are not going to know that the voltage swings of an O2 sensor are critical to the point where they will pop your check engine light on, but the chances of this happening with an OEM part are virtually non-existent (and we’re assuming that the vehicle has been properly diagnosed). I pick on this part in particular because they are commonly replaced, commonly misdiagnosed, and commonly replaced with an aftermarket part.

The point here is not to denigrate the AM parts, but to show the quality and peace of mind that I get when buying my parts from the OEM. I drive from the inside, and if I have a problem with my car, I want to fix it — once. Not using an OEM auto part, in my opinion, raises the chances of me making the repair more than once, or worse, looking for another cause. I think we all know that some OEM suppliers make products for the aftermarket also, but when I buy that part from my dealer, I know he’ll stand behind it, and that it will fit and function as the part I’m replacing.

OEM vs. Aftermarket: Fluids

Another story that I bump into often when surfing the message board jungle is that OEM fluids are expensive and not that specific, so an AM product will do. Anyone who has ever looked at a fluid chart – even for one OEM -knows there are more than a few different fluids in the OEM catalog. What I have seen in the AM are an abundance of “universal” fluids, from coolant to transmission to transfer case to you name it and that makes me a bit nervous. Now I what you’re probably thinking: “Why are there so many colors for coolant”? First, manufacturers can identify products used by color, e.g., Dexcool orange for GM, or Nissan Blue. Next, there are many different formulations on the market, with various levels of acidity and organic additives, and are far from the green ethylene glycol that served us for many years. Again, I’m not insinuating that any AM product is inferior, but I make a different argument for using at least some OEM fluids. Let’s go back to coolants. Most late model coolants are good for at least 100,000 miles, or even five years or more. Point being, why skimp when you don’t replace it that often? My AWD vehicle uses plain old 75W90 gear oil in the differentials, and I get why a DIYer would buy that in the AM, but my transfer case? No way, it’s too expensive, only holds two quarts, and only gets changed every 60,000 miles. I use the same logic for any specialty fluid for my vehicles.

Circling back to the money quandary, the OEM’s have come a long way to provide that original equipment quality at a price that makes sense to the DIYer. I even use OEM oil filters, and they cost no more on average than and AM part at my local parts store. Sure, there may be cases for some of us where a servicing dealer is not geographically convenient, and we hit the Advanced or AutoZone. In lieu of that, if you’re a DIYer, save yourself some grief. If you are willing to tackle your own repairs, do yourself the favor by not skimping in any way on the quality of your replacement parts. If nothing else, I want to fix my car only once, and not cut into my golf time!