8 Tips for Spotting Fake Auto Parts

Anything worthwhile with a high enough demand will, most of the time, breed lower-quality alternatives. This law is always proven true in fashion, as well as consumer tech. It’s also extremely prevalent in the aftermarket auto parts industry, despite the efforts of some car manufacturers to control it.

Are genuine OEM parts really better?

It's worth noting that alternatives to genuine OEM parts aren't necessarily inferior, even when they're significantly more affordable.  Keep in mind,  the higher price of genuine and OEM parts, usually goes into ensuring consistency in quality, which helps guarantee that a part will absolutely work in any given circumstance. The higher price of genuine parts can also be a way for manufacturers to maintain brand desirability.

With that in mind, it is entirely possible to find parts that work similarly to authentic car parts and OEM equivalents for similar or lower prices. These high-performance aftermarket parts are often sold under their own brands and are sometimes sanctioned by the original manufacturers themselves. These are not the parts you should be concerned about.

On the other hand, unlike genuine and OEM parts, counterfeit  auto parts do not undergo  stringent quality control processes. All counterfeiters do is to make sure that a component “looks the part” and doesn’t deteriorate before they’ve had a chance to pass it off to you. Having these parts in your car can be exceedingly dangerous, as they can lead to premature breakdowns and even fatal accidents.

Unfortunately, it’s become tougher than ever to spot fake parts. Since they don’t spend on materials, quality control, or licensing, counterfeiters have plenty of time and money that they can invest in cloning authentic parts. Fortunately, there are several tell-tale signs that the parts are not exactly as advertised. 

Here are a 8  key things you need to watch out for:

1. The Packaging is Flimsy or Irregular
While some fake products now come in impressive packaging, most of them still don’t have the same quality as the original. From flimsy boxes with minimal protection to misaligned or differently coloured text, the difference in quality from genuine articles is quite glaring. If you can find an online image of a genuine part’s packaging or if you’ve bought one before and you’ve managed to save the box it came in, try to compare its fine details with that of the suspect product.

2. There are Spelling Errors
Typos, misspellings, and unusual grammar or turns of phrase are often strong indicators of fake parts. These mistakes are not always absent from authentic parts but they’re far more common in counterfeits.

3. The Packaging Doesn’t Match the Contents
Though some OE and OEM car parts can sometimes come in generic packaging, the contents will almost certainly match the labels. Parts shipped in the wrong packaging are a huge red flag that can indicate a counterfeit.

4. The Parts Don’t Match Each Other
Authentic car parts tend to be very consistent within production lots. Fake parts will often differ from piece to piece, even within the same run. Look out for mismatched or non-standard fasteners or signs of uneven hand finishing.

5. The Serial Numbers or Holograms are Suspicious
Genuine car parts these days generally have identifying serial numbers that can help authenticate their origin. Generally speaking, if a serial number appears on the box, the same one should also be on the product itself. Manufacturers usually directly etch or print this number on the part. If the serial number or identifying hologram is on a sticker, the sticker should be of high quality and not easily peeled off.

6. The instructions are Missing or Don’t Match the Product
Fake parts often come with nonsensical or missing manuals. Sometimes, they’ll also ship with a manual written for a different part. 

7. The Price is So Much Cheaper
As mentioned in the introduction, authentic car parts tend to cost more for a few reasons. So, spare parts that are substantially cheaper than the typical retail price with seemingly authentic packaging are very likely to be counterfeit. At best, you might be getting a refurbished part that is being fraudulently passed off as new. If you’re being sold a cheap part that has all the other red flags we’ve mentioned so far, it’s best to stay away.

8. There Are No Warranties
Authentic parts will often come with a warranty package or similar guarantees from the manufacturer. Missing or sketchy warranty info is often an indicator that a part isn’t genuine.

Safeguarding Against Counterfeit Parts

You might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of car owners who knowingly buy fakes, thinking that they won’t make a serious difference. Contrary to what they expect, however, even seemingly “good” fake parts can impair the safety, value, and longevity of any vehicle.

Of course, it’s one thing to knowingly buy counterfeits and another thing entirely to purchase them unwittingly. Armed with the tips shared here, you’re hopefully more empowered to make safer choices that also protect your property’s value.