5 Methods Car Companies Take To Stop Aftermarket Parts

Owning a car is one of the most important expenses you must make in your lifetime. When your automobile breaks down, though, it can become a nightmare. Car companies may provide warranties and repair discounts in specific cases. But, most of the time, manufacturers aren’t open to using aftermarket parts and third-party repairs.  

These challenges have pushed owners to support the Right to Repair Movement, urging legislators to pressure car manufacturers into allowing third-party repairs and using aftermarket parts. However, car companies have set rules and methods to prevent the use of aftermarket car parts, like the following 

  1. Making Repairs and Replacement Next to Impossible  

Auto repair mechanics have expressed difficulties accessing and, therefore, repairing the broken or busted car parts, making them at a higher risk of getting involved in car accidents. One of the ways in which car manufacturers impose these restrictions is to place custom-made nuts and bolts needing special machines to open. This makes repairing and replacing these parts with aftermarket components challenging, if not impossible.      

Repair shops also note that car manufacturers weld technical parts on a motherboard, or create a motherboard enclosure. As a result of these restrictions, car owners need to purchase the whole motherboard instead of just removing and replacing the broken component.           

  1. Restricting Access to Parts 

If you’re a car owner, you’ll know that not all repair shops have access to aftermarket parts. That’s because most automakers have existing ‘partnerships’ with specific authorized distributors or repair shops. Simply put, you can’t find your car parts anywhere except for these authorized centers.    

When discussing aftermarket parts, there’s a term that’s often raised by mechanics, too: OEM. To the uninitiated, OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products mean the product is sourced directly from the manufacturer. Aftermarket parts, on the other hand, are made by a different manufacturer and sold by one supplier.     

Aftermarket parts vs OEM parts is the biggest issue faced by car owners when sending their car for repair. Aftermarket parts are relatively cheaper than OEM products, which is one of the reasons why they’re getting a huge chunk of the repair market. In some cases, car insurance companies and repair shops prefer aftermarket parts over OEM, although states regulate the use of aftermarket parts. 

While some may find OEM parts more reliable than aftermarket parts, car owners, in general, haven’t found major issues with the latter. In fact, the latter typically carry longer warranties and may have been made by the same manufacturers of OEM products. Additionally, in some cases, aftermarket parts may have been created by companies that have more advanced technologies versus the OEM makers.  

Online resources such as My Parts Choice can shed more light on the ‘great debate’ about aftermarket parts and OEM products.  

  1. Unavailability of Car Manuals and Diagnostic Software  

Car manufacturers are accused of not allowing car owners to have free access to service manuals that would’ve been very useful in repair and maintenance tasks. A service manual not only illustrates and names the car’s various parts but also provides some tips or instructions on how to check if a component is working properly.  

In cases of malfunctions, the manual should be able to recommend troubleshooting methods and repair strategies that don’t pose risks to the other car parts. The same can be said for diagnostic software and other tools needed to repair or service newer cars. 

Without this access, car buyers are obliged to send their units to ‘authorized’ service centers and shops that cost an arm and a leg.     

  1. Discouraging the Use of Non-OEM Parts and Independent Repair Services  

Some manufacturers have issued concerns over the use of aftermarket parts and availing of independent repair shops, questioning their quality and reliability. In 2012, a leading carmaker, for instance, has warned against aftermarket oil filters.    

The announcement was met with mixed reactions; some say the company was blaming aftermarket parts instead of improving the quality of their car parts.  

  1. Using Software Systems To Limit Repair Works  

Since newer cars need software to make the vehicle work seamlessly, manufacturers have integrated a telematics system that’s capable of monitoring a car’s status and relays the information to a centralized depository. The system allows direct communication between the vehicle and a third party, which is exclusively accessible to carmakers. As such, the latter can use it to relay marketing ‘advise.’ Right to Repair (R2R) advocates claim that this is a subtle way of restricting access to third-party repair shops.   

The embedded software in vehicles may also be accessible only to car manufacturers and their authorized repair shops. Manufacturers, however, assert that the system is intended to protect their intellectual properties. In addition, the critics of the R2R movement have expressed contentions about the R2R’s cyber safety implications.  

Wrap Up 

Sometimes, aftermarket parts can be as durable and reliable as OEM parts, and, therefore, don’t pose a safety risk. However, car manufacturers eager to maintain control over their products may implement practices that may run counter to the principles of a free-market economy.     

No matter on which side you’re on, all must agree that consumer rights and safety should be the main concern. 

Author: June McGown