Should I buy my own parts…
In a word, NO. If you are a hardcore DIY guy this may not apply to you. However, if you are an enthusiast that loves your car but doesn’t have the time to turn a wrench, I think what I have to say will resonate with you.
With the oncoming Fall season, read that as “perfect driving weather” (at least here in Florida), it seems like the car enthusiasts are waking from their hot, summer hibernation. The Internet boards are chock full of questions and opinions and anyone with a smartphone can type a search term into Google and find parts for sale. A lot of the time those parts have an amazing price too! So amazing that your finger clicks “buy” and voila… you have that perfect part, at an amazing price, for the next addition to your favorite four-wheeled toy. Then it shows up in the mail and all the sudden you are relegated to feeling like the dog that caught the car. What do you do now???
So you hop back on the smartphone that got you into this position in the first place and call your favorite indy shop. The voice on the other end of the phone drops a few decibels when you announce your good fortune about finding the perfect part for the perfect price and now you need someone to bolt it in. You can’t understand their consternation… and continue to describe what you want done to your baby and how you are going to bring over the perfect part that you picked up on the ole’ interwebs for a steal. Why can’t this guy get excited about you selecting him (or her) to be the one to put the part on your baby???
Here are a few reasons for you to consider:
1. What is the pedigree of the part? There are a lot of aftermarket companies that spend a lot of money on engineering to ensure the quality of their parts. They also use real cars to make sure they have proper fitment. Designing a part and having it manufactured is easy. But, does it fit the way it is supposed to? I have seen a cheap exhaust cost more for the labor to fabricate pieces to make it fit than if you bought the most top of the line exhaust out there.
2. Is it new or used? My grandfather used to say that if it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t something you want to do. It’s not hard to clean, paint or otherwise make something look phenomenal in pictures. But, what does it look like when it comes out of that box someone shipped it to you in? More importantly, what does it look like as it is being installed in your vehicle? I remember one time I found a used coil over kit for an amazing price. Too good to be true actually. Well, once the box was opened up I realized that a few little tidbit parts were worn and I needed to order new ones. The cheap used price plus the price of those individual parts would have far exceeded the cost of a brand new system! Luckily the person I purchased it from was a straight shooter and performed a return with no hassles. I got very lucky, will you?
3. Is it a real part or a cheap knock off? BreitWerks is a dealer for TiAL. TiAL makes an amazing wastegate for the 930 turbo. Really amazing actually. But, you can go on E(vil)Bay and buy an almost exact looking replica for a fraction of the price. The wastegate serves an important function. As a matter of fact, if it fails, the resulting repairs could cost you dozens of thousands of dollars. Are you willing to save a few hundred bucks for that type of risk? TiAL stands behind their product. Will your “seller” stand behind theirs? Can we even figure out who that seller really is?
4. Last but not least, probably the most important reason for you to consider is RELATIONSHIPS. Yes, you can overcome all three of the above concerns by purchasing your parts from a few of the reputable companies out there. You can buy brand new parts, factory replacement parts even, directly from some dealerships that have a huge internet presence. However, what you can’t buy is the relationships. What the heck is this guy talking about??? He’s just trying to get me to buy his marked up parts so he can make money. Nope, that’s not the case. Sure, your indy makes a little money on parts. But who is your mechanic going to call when the part you bring in doesn’t fit? Or whom do they call when there are a few key items missing from the box? Or worst case, whom do they call when the part you handed them causes a catastrophic failure because it didn’t do what it was supposed to do? Yes, it happens. Parts break. Brand new parts with a perfect pedigree break. And sometimes they don’t fit correctly. Your mechanic is going to call you… and then whom do you call? The way it usually works is that your mechanic calls the supplier and gets the problem handled or question answered quickly and efficiently because he or she has built a rapport with the supplier by purchasing these items from them. Heck, I’ve gotten on airplanes and flown around the U.S. and Canada to meet key suppliers face to face so they answer the phone and spend the time required to make sure that our customers’ cars work exactly as they are supposed to work. Untold emails, phone calls, parts trading, knowledge trading etc. go into building relationships to ensure that you get the best value and service possible. Those relationships take time and they take transactions. Even those $10 oil filters add up. Plus, they give your mechanic an opportunity to build relationships even if it’s a quick conversation about how the kids are doing or how the vacation went for the person on the other end of that phone. It happens, more than you can imagine, that your mechanic needs to reach out and ask someone for advice. Without those relationships, who are they going to call when they need to know which side is up on a critical gasket? Or what the torque value should be for the new and improved, lightweight aluminum part that will make your vehicle have tons of performance improvement? Relationships make the world go round… and they make your car perform at its’ peek!
So, the next time you hop on the interweb and see that you were charged $10 more for a part than you could have purchased it yourself, realize that you probably received ten times that in intangible value by putting your trust in your mechanic to make sure your four-wheeled baby received the best care possible.