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Are aftermarket replacement parts dangerous?

By Claes Bell ·
Monday, July 26, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Ever had a friend or relative who sold a car after it had serious structural repairs because they didn't feel safe in it? Turns out they may have been on to something.

Mechanics, especially those with ties to insurance companies that typically foot collision-repair bills, often use aftermarket replacement parts because they are significantly less expensive than original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, parts.

Ford recently published an engineering study that compared these non-OEM parts with the original parts installed on 2004 to 2007 F-150s and 2005 to 2009 Mustangs.

The study found that non-OEM replacement parts were often made of flimsier materials like molded plastic, and could cause a car's safety equipment to malfunction in an accident. The engineers singled out air bag sensors in particular as a potential source of trouble. Airbag sensors are often designed to detect vibrations in the material they're mounted on to calculate the best time to deploy. The study found that differences in materials could cause a car's safety systems to miscalculate when the airbags should fire to best protect passengers.

Of course, it might be wise to take the study with a grain of salt, being that it's an analysis of products that compete with OEM parts Ford sells. But it's also not hard to imagine auto insurance companies jumping on the chance to save big money on a repair job without necessarily making sure new car could pass the kind of collision tests new cars are subjected to.

It also underscores the need for people who've been in a car accident to be aggressive advocates for themselves when dealing with repairs paid for by auto insurance companies.

What do you think? Have you ever felt uncomfortable with how an insurance company handled a repair? Should insurance companies be required to pay for OEM parts?

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Kelly M
August 06, 2010 at 9:42 am

Ford should worry more about their EXPLODING Crown Victoria. A Highway Patrol Officer in Florida was killed when his car Ford Crown Vic exploded when another vehicle rear ended him. How many years now has Ford has issues with exploding gas tanks! Now they want to talk bad about their aftermarket parts competitors and safety?

August 02, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Sounds like Ford is looking for ways to grow their revenue

J Armstead
July 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

In the olden days (before insurers contracted "direct repairs" to hungry collision shops for discounts on parts, labor, materials, and to substitute Aftermarket and Used parts for the OEM parts) Collision shops who cared about quality had little trouble explaining the benefits of using only OEM parts to restore consumers to pre-accident condition and loss. It was easy for a consumer to understand that their insurance company was looking to save a buck or two or three or a thousand.

Once the hungry shops accepted these back-door concessions (before their own customers even damaged their vehicles) in exchange for "direct repair volume and flow" from insurers, consumers simply couldn't hear warnings because the Direct Repair collision shops had lost their voice to tell the truth; as this was also a concession they agreed to. The rest of story is the beginning of this Bankrate story... that consumers lose about 8 Billion a year in loss of value that is never measured until it is too late (when they try to sell the vehicle).

July 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

You said it all mastertech!

July 27, 2010 at 9:12 am

I have felt the rath of aftermarket parts before and do not understand how an Insurance company can give you Non OEM parts on a collision repair job. How is it when you get a policy on a new car that as the value goes down the policy stays the same price or goes up? Then when you have a claim they try to stick you with junkyard parts or made in Tiawon?

If the policy rate dropped with age I could understand but this is not so in the real world. Sure I understand keeping rates down but being ripped off makes no sense.