Why are my auto parts not made by Mercedes?
Damn, this is getting silly! Almost every motorcycle or car website has a forum which complains about one specific model car (or motorcycle) which was a lemon. Either the engine or transmission is a dud. Then we have the electronics. That model “xxxx” is a piece of crap because of the high ECU failure or model “yyyy” has a known problem with solenoid B in the valve body. Well here’s the gen: Most car manufacturers do NOT make their own transmission, engine, electronics and even seats. Yes, this is correct. From brake pedal rubber to lightbulbs, these can be obtained by the Original Equipment Manufacturer or OEM at a better price than at your dealer. Ever priced a headlight bulb at the dealer? Be cautious, look at what you drive and then discover the truth about auto parts. A complaint often heard is that because you purchased a pirate part the bottom is going to fall out of your world. Well, here’s the thing – maybe, just maybe your car has always used that so called “generic” or “pirate” part.
ZF Friedrichshafen – high end gearboxes for BMW, Land Rover and Jaguar
Years back I had a Kawasaki 750 twin which unfortunately through stupidity on my part ended up with a damaged voltage regulator. I ended up purchasing through Toyota a Volvo ( yep! ) regulator which worked just fine. This regulator cost me at the time about 6 US dollars. (in the 1980s)! The same Kawasaki part was offered to me at 150 dollars. Interestingly enough this was not even a Kawasaki part and I really don’t recall the manufacturer except this was a blatant rip-off. Then we move on to Lucas, the Prince of Darkness and the butt of many other jokes e.g. “get home before it’s dark” and inventor of the intermittent wiper. Lucas was in fact a very proud and able manufacturer and the many experienced technical resources complain more about lack of maintenance causing issues than anything else. Having owned a Morris Minor 1000cc as a kid I do recall the pathetic cotton insulation covering wires and harness (and the positive earth). But yet all electronics had cotton insulation for everything, just look at the old valve/tube radios. An article I recently read covered the imbecilic generator which used commutator brushes which wore out. I wonder whether the author is aware of slip-rings in alternators and that they also wear out.
Can modern cars handle a reverse polarisation (battery in the wrong way) as wonderfully as the older vehicles. Definitely not! If there was damage it could be quickly and cheaply put on the road again. Modern vehicles use semiconductors and if there is no way to shunt the reverse polarised battery to ground through protection circuits and blow a multitude of fuses you are in for a very, very costly wake up call. So Morris Minors may have had a bad rap but first look at the power distribution system maintenance before pissing all over your Lucas.
In THE dreaded situation of having the gearbox fail on you don’t be quick to blame your auto manufacturer, have a look at the maintenance on the vehicle. Some cars look really neat on the outside but positively suck once you get to the suspension, engine or gearbox. Some DIYer types just bypass the radiator / cooler for transmission with an external cooler. They have proven NOT to be reliable and cost some to replace, costing even more once there is water ingress into the transmission. Here we can quite easily blame the manufacturer. There is plenty of BS floating about pointing fingers to lack of maintenance but truth be told we also know of just too many car owners that did go through the full maintenance and warranty process only to find themselves out of pocket when things went belly up. The shame here is that the manufacturer did decide to go with the combi radiator/transmission cooler. The negative side here is that to date we still continue with this process. Older sedans never had this problem. So Aisin Warner, GM and many others should not always be blamed for a shoddy product but rather chastised for keeping quiet. Oh yes, just read about CVT transmissions now, transmissions fast on to the market with possibly too little research into durability.
Will an automatic transmission last if left in the sun or your dog pisses on it?
In a recent article the technical writer come author talks of traffic congestion being the biggest cause of premature transmission failure through overheating. Some gurus will tell you to put the car into park whilst idling in heavy traffic. But we read about lack of lubrication whilst in Park. We also read about putting the transmission in Neutral because of the extra wear on brakes etc whilst in Drive. And finally we settle on keeping the car in Drive with parking brake up. What does the manufacturer state? I have looked high and low and there seems to be a lot of misguided information out there. What I can say is that if in Park and a car rear ends your vehicle you will have a serious problem with the gearbox afterwards – parking pawl breaking etc. In Neutral which is where you would be in a manual shift there will be no damage to the gear train. In Drive, your car is always edging forward so the result may be even more devastating. All logic tells me that the vehicle should be in Neutral. Yet drivers through the ages will recommend to always leave in Drive, it causes less wear and tear. Hoo Boy! So back to square one, what does the manufacturer recommend and not the vehicle manufacturer?
Next comes your fluid changes. ATF should be changed every 15 000 miles, some say 30 000 miles and the car manufacturer recommends that the fluid should never be flushed or changed – it is sealed for life. What does the manufacturer state? Not the car manufacturer.
Car engines nowadays are remarkably resilient. I have heard that the older Opel Astra models have a problem with the oil filter – now this is an interesting one. A mechanic told me they just drop off and the engine seizes. What the….. I have never read about this idiosyncrasy. Surely there is a Haynes manual for these vehicles? There is of course a bigger problem – hearsay. I know two mechanics, one is a Ford lover and the other, VW. Do you too? Listen to why the one hates the other. Like politics and religion there is just no stopping mechanics when they get together unless they both work for the same company. But not always. Personally I find both VW and Ford both very good companies with great cars. Just sometimes they bring out something which makes us wonder what the design team were smoking. And at what price to you.
Why expensive cars die but never roll over (or stay on the highway for long)
Problem after problem after problem. Nobody likes the unnecessary stress of being caught in traffic with a dead car. Yet we have all seen it countless times. In my experience these are almost always Audio, Mercedes and BMWs, all cars I’d love to own. And they all look new. (don’t forget the Volvo). So where to from here? – these cars cost a lot and they are expensive to repair. Road side assist for expensive cars but never entry level. I have never seen a Polo on the side of the road.
Blogging on auto parts
As this is purely a blog and most probably a highly opinionated one at that I do feel that manufacturers and car owners should take a strong stand about where their priorities lie. I’d rather have a cheap reliable car than one which boasts all the bells and whistles which falls over at the drop of a hat. Sure, fuel economy is important but not more important than losing 5 000 dollars through some shoddy design work on a car which impresses the neighbours. When one starts paying upwards of $50 000 for a trophy on wheels we expect it to do 350 000 miles with regular maintenance. This is not happening. When we do buy a 4 wheeler, especially, we do need to know where the engine and transmission is manufactured and their specifications given to us, not the manufacturer of the car. We need to have access to these parts and spares. We need to know what they expect from us. As a driver and owner of a car I expect manufacturers of both the OEM parts and vehicle to be in touch with us via email and not only through the dealership when there is a recall. There’s just too many cover-ups taking place leaving owners out of pocket.
Just as motherboard manufacturer will not build their own capacitors the same is true of your vehicle. The ECU was not made by Volkswagen. The heater fan motor was not built nor designed by Mercedes. The brake rotors and pads do not come from Volvo or Ford. There needs to much more transparency. BS to the person that says makings too much transparency is leading to confusion and misguiding the public. Tom’s Hardware makes users more informed and critical of what they buy. Our goal is to do the same.
For many, auto part resellers are just another cog in the trasnmission. They aren’t – getting the right part every time and knowing where else these are used will go a long way to see just how much we are being ripped off.