While out doing a little cross country skiing, a friend of mine came across a Mazda Protege that appeared to be “hittin’ switches” with one wheel in the air. Amazingly, it did not have hydraulics, 13″ Daytons, or a gangsta rapper in the front seat. It was just flat out parked in a snowy, yet precarious position. I guess it’s a good thing that this car is front wheel drive, otherwise the driver may be in a bit of a predicament. Zoom Zoom Ziiiiiing!
Remember the RX8 that I have that doesn’t move in the winter? Well, it totally makes up for all of that in the summer months, until I break it. Well, I didn’t really break it, it broke itself first, then…oh fine, I will just start at the beginning.
Last Monday, I was sitting in a parking lot with some icy cold A/C pumping full blast on my face. It was rather nice considering there was 1 million percent humidity hugging the outside of the vehicle. I then begin smelling the succulent smell of antifreeze. “Oh Noes!” I exclaimed. (So what, I’m dramatic, don’t judge.) I hopped out of the race car into the sweltering heat, and found antifreeze fire hose’ing itself out of a crack in the coolant overflow bottle. Terrific, I thought, this is just what I was hoping to fix after my truck’s recent shenanigans. So there I sat, helpless, because honestly there isn’t much that you can do when this happens except for catching what you can with rags and hoping it stops before the engine is totally empty.
That night I hopped on the internet and searched around for a new coolant overflow bottle. Much to my chagrin, my only option was to buy the exact same crappy, crack-prone overflow bottle from the dealer that had failed me in just 50K easy miles. Great. Not only was I now planning for failure in the future, but I also got to pay top dollar for it. Reluctantly, out came the wallet.
On the following Saturday morning I had the bottle in my hands, and I had just gotten up early so that my wife and I could use her car again. I popped the hood and began removing the items that were surrounding the old overflow bottle. I removed the two 10mm nuts on the top and gently pulled on it so that I could get a look at where my pliers needed to sneak into (one hose clamp is buried deep). SNAP! is what I got in return. My heart then entered my stomachular regions and I had sealed my fate for the next 24 hours minimum. That’s right, I had just snapped the plastic tube off the top of the plastic end-tanked radiator. (more…)
Being in the aftermarket auto parts bizzz, I often find myself verbally battling with guys that are hardcore OEM auto parts only. They usually say “I only buy OEM auto parts because “aftermarket stuff” never fits, works, lasts, etc.” They usually have an example of a part that they bought from a local auto part store that didn’t work out for them for whatever reason. Fair enough, we’ve all been there. Now, I have absolutely no problem with OEM parts by any means. In fact, before working for 1A Auto, I was a technician at a Cadillac dealer using all OEM parts. Needless to say, I’m quite familiar with a wide range of auto parts. Do bad OEM parts exist? Absolutely! (Just ask anybody that has owned a Cadillac Catera (Sorry, I had to…)) Do bad aftermarket auto parts exist? Absolutely. However, not all auto parts are created equal. So let’s talk about it.
We’ll start our examples with a company that does really exist and everybody knows of them because they make absolutely fantastic suspension products. I’m leaving the name out because the auto parts that they build are more relevant than their name. For now, let’s call them “Company X”. Now, the way I understand it, about 50% of the suspension parts that Company X produces are OEM parts for brand new cars. Naturally, they also produce extra’s for the car dealer’s to stock in their parts departments. It would be in an OEM brand name box, but it is actually built by Company X. When the OEM’s need a part produced, Company X is given specs by the vehicle manufactures and as you may guess, they build these auto parts to the exact specifications that they are given. The OEM engineers really only need these parts to last as long as the car’s suspension warranty, without compromising safety or their own brand name in the process. All the parts function as they are designed to, but long term, some parts are better than others.
The other 50% of the auto parts that Company X produces are what I call “high quality aftermarket auto parts”. They are Company X’s aftermarket brand, built to their own specs, which are vastly improved over the OEM parts (if they need to be). They find the faults of the original designs and they correct them for their aftermarket brand because Company X wants them to last forever. Everything is greaseable (as suspension parts should be), and engineered to be better than the OEM’s originally wanted. It may be a visible change in the look, or it may look identical and be internally changed. In some cases the OEM part doesn’t need to be improved upon, and the high quality aftermarket part brand is the same exact part as OEM but without the part numbers marked on them.
On the other hand, there are the cheaper options available out there which I call “low quality aftermarket auto parts”. These are typically the ones that can give “aftermarket parts” as a whole a bad name. The reason that they are the cheapest price is because they are the cheapest to produce. Being the cheapest to produce rarely equals the highest quality. The unfortunate truth to these parts is that you don’t really know if this is the part that you are buying until you attempt to attach it to your car. Before long, you need torches and welders to make it fit, and you need a new one in a few weeks.
Now you can’t talk about OEM vs Aftermarket auto parts without talking about price. Here’s the way it works. Since the average consumer can only buy OEM parts through car dealers, the dealers can charge a premium. There is typically minimal price differences between dealers because their doesn’t need to be. They control the flow of OEM parts. Aftermarket parts are different because you can have multiple manufacturers of similar products. You can count on all of them being priced less than an OEM part from a dealer, but the quality can vary greatly. High quality aftermarket parts are priced far less than the dealer, but sold from a variety of different outlets which means competition and a super high quality part at a competitive price. Then there are the cheap (and I do mean cheap) low quality aftermarket parts. They will be priced the lowest, and may or may not be what you want when you open the box. “EEEK! What is that!?”
So although my opinion may appear to biased because of my position, I’ll give it to you anyway. I prefer the high quality aftermarket parts over OEM because I know what goes into them, and the price is right of course. Want more? Ok, fine. Recently I installed some new ignition coils in my wife’s RX8 as a general maintenance procedure. I took a few pictures for OEM vs aftermarket comparisons. The new ones were perfect in every way, and the RX8 is happier than ever. (OEM’s are on the left side of the picture, and the 1A Auto coils are on the right.)
When you build a car from a bunch of parts that were not intended to play nicely together, sometimes you end up breaking some random stuff. Normal people don’t have these issues. Unfortunately… hm… no….. fortunately in my world, this kind of issue is the norm. This past weekend my brother in law and I had a hoot of a time pulling the transmission out of his 2nd generation FC RX7 because the throw out bearing had exploded in grand fashion.
In a serious tone, you say: “Jeremy, this is not normal! What is the meaning of this?!” To which I proudly respond: “Truer words have never been spoken!….. but alas! He has a 3rd generation, FD twin turbo engine swap producing mucho POWAH!” You then cover your ears with your hands and shout: “Oh My!”
Back to reality…. where were we? Oh yeah, so the car was built quite some time ago, and then recently sat untouched for a few years outside in the awful New England weather (sadface), which we are thinking maaaaaay have been a contributor to the bearing failure.
To sum it all up: Throw Out Bearings can make the Best Day Evaaaaaar! into the Worst Day Evah!!! in the blink of an eye. Use the picture above to easily determine which day you may be having.
Did you know that your car’s tires have the week and year that they were made stamped right into the side of them? Pretty cool right? On the side of every tire made after the year 2000, there is an oval with 4 digits in it (as pictured above). The first two digits are the week of the year, and the second two digits are the year itself. On this 2005 Mazda Rx8 tire, you can see “1009”, which means it was built during the 10th week of 2009. Not too shabby.
Now, if your tires were made before the year 2000, things were a little more wild and crazy. They still told you the week and the year that they were built, but they did it with three digits instead of four. (What?!) Tire manufactures assumed that nobody would have tires more than 10 years, so the numbers could potentially repeat themselves once each decade. Let’s have an example, shall we? Pretend you have a super rare, silver 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T 2.2L Turbo. It’s all original right down to the tires, and with over 220 horsepower on tap, you are looking to burn the meats off in grand fashion before replacing them with M/T ET Drag Radials. Dangit! You’re shoelace is untied again. You bend down and catch a quick glance of the oval on the tire with “211” stamped into it. You’re a clever cat, so you obviously know that the first two digits mean that the tire was made during the 21st week, and the “1” is the 1st year of that decade, which was 1991. You quickly lace up your high-tops, hop in the Spirit, pop your MC Hammer tape in, rip the e-brake, and proceed to shmammer the tires as your friends cheer you on in fits of joy.
…annnnnd back to reality for a quick moment – This tire dating knowledge is not just a great way to impress the ladies, but it is a good piece of info to have when buying new (or used) tires. Naturally you want the latest and greatest rubber between you and the asphalt. Whether you can see it or not, old tires just don’t grip like a new set does.