Automotive Repair Parts

Auto parts probably never cross your mind until you need to replace one, and that could happen more often if you are among the U.S. drivers keeping their vehicles longer. The average age of U.S. cars is now 11.4 years, up from 8.4 years two decades ago.

You have a number of choices when it comes to the parts used to service your car. New repair parts are available from automakers, their suppliers and other aftermarket manufacturers, while used parts are offered in remanufactured, refurbished or recycled forms. The best option depends on your budget, the age of your vehicle and the party doing the work.

If you’re not handy with a wrench, the best way to ensure you get quality replacement parts is to use a first-rate repair shop, such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility (AAA.com/Repair), that only uses quality parts from reputable suppliers.

Older Cars Bring Repair Parts Into The Limelight

“Good as new” is an old expression, but when it comes to replacement auto parts it may not always apply. When a part on your car needs to be replaced, you have several options, including new parts from automakers, their suppliers and other aftermarket manufacturers, and used parts that have been remanufactured, refurbished or recycled.

The types of parts you choose will usually depend on your vehicle’s age, how much you can afford to spend, and whether you plan to do the work yourself or take the car to a shop for service. Car dealers typically use factory original equipment (OE) parts from automakers or their suppliers. Independent shops tend to use professional-grade replacement parts from reputable aftermarket companies.

Both dealers and independent repair shops offer remanufactured parts such as starters, alternators, and brake calipers. These units are completely disassembled and every piece is either restored to satisfactory operating specifications or replaced with a new part. The reassembled unit is then tested for proper operation. Used parts that are refurbished (repaired, but not remanufactured) or recycled from salvage yards are less expensive and potentially less reliable alternatives.

To make sure you get the replacement parts that best suit your needs, discuss the options with your repair provider. If you do your own work, shop at reputable auto parts stores to ensure you get high-quality, authentic components. Some parts being sold at flea markets or through “back-alley” channels are counterfeits that may look nearly identical to the real thing, but often fail to meet automakers’ specifications.

Choosing an Auto Repair Shop

Good auto repair shops sell quality replacement auto parts, but how do you know which shops can be trusted? AAA offers the following suggestions for choosing a professional repair facility:

1. Repairs covered under a new-car warranty must be performed by an authorized dealer. However, most other vehicle maintenance and repair services can be performed at any qualified repair facility. Here are some of the choices when choosing a repair facility:

  • New-car dealer service departments
  • Independent repair facilities
  • Specialty shops that focus on a single vehicle make, or a specific system/component
  • Tire- and chain-store operations that provide common high-volume services
  • Fast-lube outlets with a limited range of basic maintenance services

All of these outlets have plusses and minuses, but in general, AAA recommends that you select a quality full-service repair shop and use it for all your automotive service needs. As a shop’s crew gets to know you and your vehicle, they will be in a better position to advise you on upcoming service and repair needs.

2. When selecting a repair facility, getting recommendations from friends, relatives and co-workers can be an excellent starting point. Once you settle on potential candidates, pay the shops a visit to check out the following::

  • Facility appearance and cleanliness
  • Necessary tools and equipment to service modern vehicles
  • Certificates demonstrating up-to-date staff training and technician certification
  • Awards or other documentation demonstrating a high-level of customer satisfaction
  • Proven financial track record over many years in business
  • Insurance coverage to protect you and your vehicle while on the premises
  • Guaranteed written estimates not be exceeded by more than 10 percent without prior approval
  • Return of replaced parts on request
  • A minimum 12-month/12,000-mile parts and labor repair warranty

3. A trustworthy auto repair facility will be happy to discuss their qualifications with you. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do the research yourself, rest easy – AAA has already done it for you. Since 1975, AAA has been helping members and other consumers locate high-quality auto repairs through a free public service that inspects and certifies auto repair facilities. AAA Approved Auto Repair shops must meet and maintain stringent quality standards for customer service, training, equipment and cleanliness. There are more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America; to find one near you, visit www.AAA.com/Repair.