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How to Find the Right Car Part

Finding the right parts for your car can be an exercise in frustration if you don’t know where you look, or what you need. If you’re an inexperienced auto technician, chances are good that identifying what parts you need for a particular repair won’t be easy; you’re best off taking your car to a mechanic for a diagnostic. Of course, there is the long-running conundrum that your mechanic will tell you that you need parts you don’t need, in order to provide repairs that aren’t really critical. In response to this, there are a couple of points that bear mentioning:

  • Most mechanics aren’t making it up… not entirely. If he says there’s something wrong with your fuel pump, it might just be a problem with a fuel line. If he says your breaks need replacing, you might need brake fluid. On the other hand, there may indeed be wear and tear on the part that the mechanic is suggesting needs fixed now… but it might just possibly be a little less critical than his time-frame is suggesting.

    • Be wary of statements like “it might fail tomorrow, or it might fail in a year.” Anything “might fail tomorrow,” that’s an empty assertion. If he says it might fail “in a year,” then it’s not on the verge; it’s as simple as that. If he says “it might fail in a few days, or it might last you another month… maybe two,” the matter at least deserves some attention.

  • Get a second opinion… and maybe a third. Get multiple opinions on what exactly is wrong with your car (if anything) until you find at least two mechanics who firmly agree on what, exactly, is wrong.

Here’s the kicker: armed with the knowledge of what’s wrong with your car, you can probably make most repairs yourself. Unless you’re talking about complete engine replacement, most car parts are fairly small and manageable. It’s just a matter of knowing what they are, where they are, and how to properly handle them… but that’s a matter for YouTube how-to tutorials, and it goes beyond the scope of this article. That said… you can’t do anything without the right parts.

Here’s how you find them:

  • Determine the exact make and model of your car. You need to know everything about your car before you set out on a quest for the right replacement part. This includes the exact year it was manufactured. In some cases, you might not be offered a price on the parts you need unless you have far more information, such as the car’s serial number… or the engine’s. Have as much information as possible readily available at hand.

  • Do you want new parts, or used parts? Used parts, as it should go without saying, will be cheaper… but if you’re talking about something mechanical, something with a lot of motion involved, the wear on a used part might make it unsuitable as a replacement. In this case, you want something new… or else the trained eye of an expert on your side… someone who isn’t associated directly with the business you’re endeavoring to make a purchase from.

  • Find local dealers. You want to buy local, whenever possible. In general, it’s always good for the economy if you buy locally, but in this case you have the added benefit of saving on shipping costs: for automotive parts, which are both highly regulated and often extremely heavy, shipping charges can add anywhere from a few extra dollars to $100 or more to your purchase. Why deal with that if you don’t have to? Buy locally, and reduce your shipping charges… that’s assuming that you can’t simply pick up the part yourself, and save on shipping entirely. If you do wind up having to have parts shipped, no matter where you buy them from, stay on top of delivery times. Depending upon the length of the delivery time, it may be worth it to pay extra for a faster delivery… particularly if you can’t use your vehicle in the meanwhile.

  • Ask questions. If there’s something you don’t know, ask. With something like an expensive auto parts purchase, it’s always best to be well-informed. The people working at auto-parts stores can be trusted to answer questions about make, model, and serial number reliably and quickly; they can help you figure out how to find this information for yourself, and can point out where serial numbers and other important information is located on your vehicle (and on its existing parts).

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