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Getting safe replacement parts

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Posted: 5 pm ET

For those having repairs done to their cars after a collision, being an informed consumer is key in ensuring your repaired car is as safe and structurally sound as it was before. Part of that is ensuring that only safe and effective parts are used to make the repairs.

The seal of CAPA, certifying that the part has been tested and approved for safe use

The seal of CAPA, certifying that the part has been tested and approved for safe use

I wrote a few months ago about concerns being raised by Ford that structural parts other than those from the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, may be unsafe in the event a repaired car gets in another collision. But your insurer may balk at paying for OEM parts that can be significantly pricier than their non-OEM counterparts.

One way to meet them in the middle may be to insist your replacement parts bear the seal of the Certified Automotive Parts Association, a nonprofit organization that sets voluntary standards for replacement part manufacturers. The standards cover a variety of bodywork elements often damaged in accidents, such as hoods, door shells, grills and, recently, bumpers, according to Consumer Reports.

Parts that meet these standards aren't necessarily stronger or more durable than other parts; what the label means is that they've been tested to make sure they work effectively with the rest of the car's safety systems to protect occupants in the event of a collision. And according to a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report, correctly designed and manufactured non-OEM parts can do just that. The IIHS recently performed a series of tests on cars and trucks fitted with replacement bumpers from different manufacturers. They found wide variances in crash performance, with some heavier bumpers actually faring worse in crash tests than lighter OEM parts.

What all this adds up to is that the IIHS study provides a convincing argument that you don't need OEM  parts to get your car safely back online after an accident, you just need parts that are certified to be safe. The CAPA standards  are one way of achieving this, so the next time you're picking up the pieces after an accident, consider pushing the repairer for OEM or CAPA-certified parts.

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