How Safe are aftermarket parts at a local auto body shop or mechanic?

You have done countless hours of research on the safety features on the new family car, read up on every article of safety, buy the safest car on the road, and then take it to a local garage for service and body work? What is the difference between a certified by the automaker / OEM (Original equipment Manufacturer)  technician and their parts? Many would say the price, which is true. But those aftermarket parts and not-trained-by-the-automaker technicians can be the difference of life and death, or at least serious injury in an accident. 

There has recently been a very high profile case (in the automotive world anyway) that highlighted some important scenarios and things to keep in mind should you ever need to have such repairs performed.

The case involves a couple that were the victims of a wreck back in December of 2013.  They had purchased a used 2010 Honda Fit that previously had a roof repair completed.  The body shop that performed the repair did not follow proper Honda repair procedures and instead of welding in a new roof panel they used an adhesive to glue the new panel into place.  This saved the shop time but  unfortunately the couple was involved in a serious collision in which the improperly glued roof did not perform as a properly welded piece would have.

This series of events led Burles Collison Center in Henderson TX to perform a series of repairs and then cash tests on three Honda Fit’s of the same era.  Burles spent much time and money on these tests to help point out some of the shortcomings when insurance companies and less than reputable repair facilities may not authorize or repair vehicles following the manufacturers process or with original manufacturer parts.



Shop Manager Discussing Tests they will do


Here is the video of a glued roof as opposed to a welded roof repair:


Now there is litigation pending against the insurance company as they allegedly instructed the repair facility how to repair the vehicle.  While it would seem an insurance company is there to help and repair a person's property when it is damaged, non-profit companies they are not.  If there is a less expensive alternative it seems to be the option insurance companies would prefer.


It is very important to find a reputable, trained, certified repair facility. Usually these repair facilities will push back or reject an insurance companies wishes to “cut corners” or use aftermarket parts.  There are several auto body parts manufacturers from overseas as well as in the U.S. that produce or re-manufacture parts that do not conform to the manufacturers specifications.  These can possibly compromise the integrity of the vehicles structure and safety features if used.


At the same time tests were conducted demonstrating a glue roof repair, tests were conducted using aftermarket parts in key areas of the vehicle.  The hood and front fenders were replaced using CAPA items (these are parts that have been certified by Certified Automotive Parts Association to be safe and meet the manufacturers specifications.)  However not all parts for the repair were available with a CAPA certification, this is often the case.  This left two options, original Honda manufactured replacement parts or aftermarket parts.  For testing reasons aftermarket parts were used.


Often when using aftermarket parts the fitment does not match up like it should resulting in a tighter or looser fit.  The purpose of this test was to discover if more than just fit and finish, these aftermarket parts were safe to use and would hold up like original equipment parts.  In this video you can see the results:


Crash Video of aftermarket parts used on 2009 Fit
As you can see the aftermarket parts used did in fact result in more severe damage to the vehicle.  Here is a video showing all three vehicle crash tests performed side by side by side:


Video of all three, Control car, glued roof car, aftermarket parts car

Karco crash-testing footage of three Honda Fits shows obvious variations between the airbag timing on the two experimental cars compared to a control Fit within the same design generation. Seen here are a black 2010 Honda Fit without any damage or repairs, a red 2009 Honda Fit with a glued roof, aftermarket windshield and other repairs similar to a 2010 Fit owned by Tracy Law Firm clients; and a blue 2013 Honda Fit with multiple certified and uncertified aftermarket parts. Each is undergoing a 40 mph moderate-overlap crash test like the IIHS'. (Karco video provided by Tracy Law Firm)

Bringing It All Together: 



In this last video it can be interesting to see how these modern machines are now manufactured.  Compare this 2009 Chevrolet Malibu to the good ol’ days 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air.  Big heavy old steel should crush the smaller modern vehicle right?

1959 Chevy Bel Air vs. 2009 Chevy Malibu


As you can see the vehicles structure is designed and produced in such a way as to absorb the impact and energy of the crash in the newer vehicle as opposed to the old sheet metal wrapped around a frame which crumples around the occupants.  Thanks to the knowledge and history that today's auto manufacturers posses and the countless hours and money invested on today's vehicles they are safer than ever.

Accidents can happen and it is unfortunate.  Hopefully with a little of this knowledge you are better prepared to talk to the insurance company and repair facilities should you ever be involved in such an unfortunate situation.





Categories: Parts, Service, Body Shop

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