This month, Mike shares a story about the perils of parts…
Rural bus routes, nice little corner shop post offices with a bell above the door and public phone boxes – what do they all share in common? Well, you can perfectly place them all in ring file titled use them or loose them. To digress for a moment, I actually needed to use a public phone a few weeks back after the battery died on my trusty mobile following the associated death of its 12v charger. After running around the town centre, going into two pubs I failed to find one. My dilemma was eventually solved by buying another charger and cheekily asking the shop owner if I could test one of his wall sockets for form and function for ten minutes – ahh such is the march of technology.
I know I often make out I’m a technophobe and sometimes bitterly resent what the future holds, but I’m not really. I use computers all the time, run a website, do my banking and a whole host of other tech related matters, but when it comes to buying things of considerable use or value, ordering car parts and buying clothes – I like to see the whites of the eyes of the person who’s getting my hard earned money. When Christmas comes, I enjoy being jostled about in the shops when buying presents – like all alpha males I get it all done two days before the 25th and all in one sitting. Yet the internet is slowly killing the High Street.
Remember those wonderful car parts and accessory stores? When did you last see one? Once big names like Charlie Browns, Motor Mania, Motor World – they’ve all gone, not to mention the myriad of little independent outlets. Cars by their nature these days are a whole lot more reliable and the market for poorly fitting fibreglass body styling kits is all but dead, yet cars still require servicing and attention from time to time. When it comes to DIY repairs, that market is dwindling too as owners now need OBD or scanning software over feeler blades and a tube of blue Hylomar. Petrol cars still require spark plugs, all vehicles require brake components and owners these days seem to want to save a few quid wherever they can – regardless of the cost so to speak.
My mind is drawn to a work colleague who had his 57 plate Vauxhall Vectra sitting on axle stands in the car park recently for almost a week. Owing to the fact he lives in a tiny flat in Brighton with little parking space, he thought he would do the simple task of replacing his pads and discs at work. He’s also the sort of chappie who refuses to pay the going rate for anything and never learns the errors of his ways. He came up to me a few weeks back asking where I thought the best place to buy his parts from would be, not knowing his manor that well I couldn’t really help. The advice I did give him was to buy from a premise not over the net and measure the width of the disc before he broke out the sledgehammer.
The chap had also immobilised his car by smashing the old discs off the hubs in anticipation of the new parts arriving and throwing them into the skip
My words of wisdom fell upon deaf ears when he proudly boasted that he’d bought the bits from a well-known on-line auction site and was promised by the seller they were the right parts – and saved… wait for it… £11. Of course, they were the wrong discs when they arrived – there are two or three different width discs for this model as is often the case for other cars too, hence why a tape measure is so important. The chap had also immobilised his car by smashing the old discs off the hubs in anticipation of the new parts arriving and throwing them into the skip. Having no funds to get hold of the correct bits from elsewhere, he had to send the parts back, pay for the postage and wait patiently with his car up on blocks.
All this would have been avoided of course had he bought from the parts store. That said, even they aren’t right all the time. My old SAAB ragtop needed new pads and discs and the ones my parts man supplied were too big. All I had to do was Sellotape the box back up and ask my retired next-door neighbour to run me up the road to swap for the right bits. Unless you are 110% correct in knowing what you are buying, and no-one locally can supply I would never personally buy off the shelf parts on-line. It’s just false economy, a pain in the arse and sometimes aiding the stolen parts industry, not to mention the forged copy business too. In the case of the latter, this is a booming market with far eastern companies making dangerously inferior pattern parts that are popping up on the internet – be especially aware of dirt-cheap low-quality wheel bearing kits for sale that are borderline lethal.
As I have hinted, the internet is a wonderful thing but when it comes to running and servicing your own car, a bit of risk assessment is called for. My rule is to use a reputable place of parts wherever you can to avoid the hassle you have just read in the paragraphs. These guys, and gals for that matter need your support as much as you need theirs, you’ll be doing your bit for industry, quality and crime prevention as well. Not only that but in the case of Mark my own parts guy – if he closes down where the hell can I lose an hour, drink some coffee and moan about our respective partners on a Saturday morning without the chore of waiting in the barbers shop?
Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
Article Written & posted by: Mike Humble – www.autobritannia.net
Mike is a former car salesman and vehicle mechanic with over thirty years of experience within the motor industry. He now works as a freelance motoring writer featuring in a number of printed and on-line publications including Parkers, Classic Car Weekly, Car Mechanics Magazine and Commercial Motor. More recently, Mike has also become involved in automotive themed DVD productions.