Spare parts for cars are obviously one of the most important aspects of making a repair.
Although it may seem obvious how to buy spare parts, there are a couple of things you should pay attention to.
This article will give you a couple of guidelines that should help you on this important matter.
WHY SHOULD YOU KNOW HOW TO BUY SPARE PARTS?
Knowing how to buy the correct spare parts for cars is necessary knowledge.
For one, the whole repair depends on this. If you buy the wrong part the repair is doomed. You might not be able to install it or even worse you install it and doesn’t work.
Second, it’s a common mishap that you buy a similar but not the same part. At first sight, it looks the same but in fact, it’s not.
For instance, the housing is the same but the number of pins isn’t, the connections seem the same but they’re not, the brackets don’t fit, and so on. In fact, the possibilities for mistakes are big.
Not to mention that sometimes once you buy the part and install it you can’t return it to the store, you can’t return it if it’s unpacked or scratched, and so on.
All in all, by knowing how to buy spare parts for cars you’ll prevent, in the majority of cases the possibility of making a mistake.
A mistake that can cost you time, nerves, and perhaps a significant amount of money.
These tips go double for buying electronic components which are very easy to make a mistake with.
HOW TO BUY SPARE PARTS FOR CARS?
1. READ THE PART NUMBER
This is by far the most important tip.
What an ID number is for people, this number is for parts.
With the majority of parts (especially the original ones from the car manufacturer) the part number is found engraved or stamped somewhere on the part.
Exceptions may be various gaskets, connectors, clips, and other parts that are considered as a common widespread item. Although even on these you can often find some sort of identification.
So, when buying a car part, first find this number. Look all over the part, it’s usually obvious and easy to find.
If you’re not taking off the part, then best to take a picture or write the numbers down and with this data start your search.
In the majority of cases, this should be enough to finish the job.
Also know that the part number is the basis for buying parts online, in person, or even in the junkyard.
2. PREPARE THE VIN NUMBER
The second piece of information you should have at hand is the VIN number.
If, by some chance, the part number isn’t available the VIN number is the next best thing.
With it, especially if you’re going to a real car parts shop (not online) the seller can find the part you need much easier.
3. KNOW THE BASIC DATA OF YOUR CAR
Also very good to know when buying car parts is: what engine your car has (petrol, diesel, hybrid, or else), engine displacement (in cubic inches or centimeters), how much horsepower (or kilowatts) the engine has, what is the car model, type, and year of production.
For instance, if I were to search for some part for the Skoda, I would say I want a part for a Skoda Fabia, 1,4 16v, petrol, 100 bhp, 2004, estate.
Combined with the VIN number, you should be able to find the adequate part.
4. BRING THE PART WITH YOU
This tip for buying spare parts for cars is old-school but is nevertheless very effective especially if you’ve decided to do some shopping in person.
You simply compare the old and new parts (numbers and all) on the spot and you should be 100% sure that you’ve bought the real deal.
Exceptions from this are mainly electronic parts that may look the same from the outside but have different inner components or connections.
Also, if you can’t bring the part with you, taking some good clear pictures is the next best thing.
5. CHOOSE THE QUALITY OF THE PART
For the last tip on how to buy spare parts for cars: when buying you’ll usually be presented with a variety of manufacturers and prices for the same part.
This will be present both in shopping in person and online.
You’ll face a dilemma based on reputation (which manufacturer is better) and the amount of money you’re prepared to spend.
Opinions on this subject are usually divided:
Some will say to buy the cheapest especially if you drive an older car. Anything else is throwing money away especially if the parts will serve it’s purpose.
Some will say buy only OEM parts despite the steep price sometimes. These are the parts most similar to the ones that came out of the factory when the car was new.
On this part, I can only recommend this: if you can buy the expensive OEM part it’s usually cheaper in the long run. Do this especially if you plan to keep the car in the future.
If you can’t do this, then go for the mid-range. Not the cheapest but not the most expensive either.
Also, search a bit around for experiences and reviews for manufacturers and their parts, you’d be surprised how truthful and helpful these can be.
All this is just friendly advice and comes from experience.
All this may seem like rocket science but in real life, it looks like this:
You read the part number, get your car’s VIN number and the basic data about your car.
Then you start searching. If you’re going online, type in the car part number, see the results, make a choice of manufacturer and price, and purchase. Again, with buying online, always have a trustworthy website for this.
For shopping in person, again have the part number, take a picture, or even better bring the part with you. With all this and with the basic data about your car you should be able to buy the right car part without any problems.
For a junkyard option, best to bring the part with you and compare the numbers and the part itself. In this case, best not to buy anything if there are any discrepancies or the part numbers aren’t the same. Also, know that on a junkyard you’re buying a used part in usually unknown condition.
In the end, one more word of advice: buy the car part on time. If possible do it before you take everything apart. Ask around if it’s available, the cost, and else.
If the part has to be on the car to drive it, then at least try to take a good picture with the part numbers clearly visible.
Otherwise, you may be left waiting for the part or perhaps you’ll not be able to find it at all which will leave you stranded.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com