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Purchasing parts, things to know

Updated on January 12, 2008

Dont let your car own you


Automobiles are probably our second biggest investment in life besides a house that people deal with on a constant basis. It gets us from point A to point B, makes us look cool to the ladies, makes us kick and cuss at it, etc. With that in mind when something goes wrong with our vehicles we get pretty pissed and stressed out. Buying parts for cars is one of those things that always get people confused and have panic attacks because they aren’t sure what they need. I now work in a parts department and I see well over 100 people come and go with questions, desires, temper tantrums, all sorts of issues. Here is a little guide to help you out when you need a part for your vehicle.

1. Know what kind of vehicle you have. “I gotta blue truck and I need (part here).” That tells us nothing about the vehicle you have besides that it is blue, it’s a truck, and that you are a moron. Year/Make/Model is always a must. So you would say 2004/Ford/F250. This is very important and having this wrong can make the parts wrong, you mad, and the man sad.

2. Know about the system that the part goes to. If you need a steering part, make sure you know about that steering system before you buy it. For interior parts know the color, any special things about it like button count, special decals, anything that is specific to the vehicle. Interior trim codes which help dealers tell colors apart can be located usually on the VIN sticker located on the driver door jam. Usually it is two letters, numbers, or a mixture of both.

3. Know your engine size. Having to guess at what size your engine is can be a costly mistake. Never guess because even if the part fits it could destroy your engine if it is not made for that specific engine. If you aren’t sure what size your engine is, pop open the hood and usually there will be markings on the engine itself or there will be an emissions sticker that will say the engine size you have. Most engines sizes are in liters, i.e. 2.3, 7.3, 7.5 and a bunch of other combinations.

4. Don’t be surprised at the price of a part. Parts are expensive, it’s not the parts departments fault (unless you give them a reason to), and they don’t make the prices. If you drive a 100,000 dollar car don’t be surprised when something for it is really expensive. Usually you can haggle a price down from a parts department because as long as they make 25%, they will be alright.

5. Don’t be surprised when a dealer can’t get something for your 1935 POS. Most automobile makers will stop making parts for cars older than 10-15 years depending on the part. Interior parts usually stop before that. If the dealer can no longer get it from the maker usually they can locate one somewhere and buy it out for an additional price.

6. Keeping every part in stock for every vehicle is ridiculous. Many people come in with the assumption that a parts department will always have their part in stock. Never have that assumption because it is not profitable to carry millions of parts when you can usually just order them overnight and have them next day.

7. Know what part you need. “I need the thing that attaches to the other part that goes somewhere.” Wow, once again, that says nothing besides “I am a moron.” Try to be as specific to the part as you can. If you aren’t sure see if there are any numbers on the part or see if you can get a picture printed out from the parts department that goes by the part. I had a guy come in and say I need a Jesus clip. I was like….ok…what is a Jesus clip. He explained it as “Ya know, when you drop it you’re like ‘JESUS CHRSIT’!” Now going off of that description what does that tell me, I mean honestly, I can drop anything and make up a name for it, that doesn’t mean anybody else knows what that is.

8. VIN numbers are gods. If you don’t know certain things about your vehicle, provide the VIN number. The VIN number (vehicle identification number) is located on the drive door jam sticker or on the dash usually on a little plate. It’ll usually be on your insurance cards, registrations, etc. They are 17 number/letters long and when you give it to the parts department they usually will give you a kiss for being prepared. The VIN tells information that you may not know or information you may not know you need so be sure to have it.

Well there you go. That’s a quick guide into buying parts for your vehicle. Don’t let it be a stressor, have your information, have patients, and be polite to your parts person, they are the ones who order your parts, can raise the price, and really make your life a living hell. Knowledge is key, be prepared and your life will be much better. Trust me I know, I’m a genius…ok not really but I have nice hair and work in a parts department.


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    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney



      Thank you