The durability of modern vehicles has improved dramatically over the past few decades—so much so that 20-year-old cars are regularly seen on the road alongside newly manufactured luxury vehicles. The biggest problem people have with maintaining older vehicles isn’t their propensity to break down; it’s the relative scarcity of replacement parts. If a manufacturer has stopped making replacement parts for your older vehicle, you can find yourself in an expensive situation that might even necessitate a custom rebuild.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when a car is more than 15 years old, the availability of its replacement parts isn’t very good…especially since the recent economic recession,” says Michael Letcher, owner of Letcher Brothers Auto Repair in Pinole. “After a while, parts suppliers stop restocking their inventories for older cars, so those parts become obsolete. When that happens, something as simple as a replacement engine hose can suddenly become hard to find. And when it comes to more complicated things like transmissions, an entire rebuild might be necessary if the right parts can’t be found.”
The truth about lifetime warranties
Replacing worn out parts on your vehicle should be a one-time deal, and quality auto shops know car owners have little desire to return soon after their initial repairs are performed. That’s why most shops will always use Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts, which are made by the manufacturer of the original parts and carry the same warranties.
Unfortunately, some disreputable auto parts providers try to deceive consumers by offering low-quality replacement parts that carry a “lifetime” warranty. “Even if people have never heard of the brand, they’ll think they’re getting a good deal because of the lifetime warranty, but in reality, the only reason the company is able to offer that warranty is because the parts are so cheaply manufactured,” explains Mr. Letcher. “They don’t have to worry about replacing the same parts over and over for free because they’re saving money to begin with by skimping on quality.”
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