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How to Spot Fake OEM Car Parts

Educational  ·  November 4, 2021

How to Spot Fake OEM Car Parts

What does OEM stand for, and why do we often hear about fake OEM car parts? Is there a way to spot fake OEM car parts? 

The auto industry is replete with terms and acronyms thrown around casually, but many times we don’t really understand them. They seem to be well understood by everybody, and that makes many of us too shy to ask. 

At CarPart AU, no questions are too foolish or too unimportant to ask, so let’s answer everything that bugs you. Let’s start with the most obvious.

What Does OEM Stand for?

OEM is an acronym that stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, which is a term generally used in manufacturing, not only of automobiles and auto parts but also of other equipment, devices, or products.

In this article, we’ll talk about OEMs exclusively in the context of cars and car parts. So, when we say OEM car parts, we refer to those car components built by the same manufacturing companies that built the original part.

What are OEM car parts?

Let’s hammer down the OEM meaning a bit more with an illustration. Do you know that automakers don’t build all the parts in their cars? 

For instance, not all parts in your VW Tiguan are manufactured by Volkswagen; instead, VW relies on an OEM to build a specific car part for a Tiguan.

When the time comes to find a replacement for that car part in your VW, you may choose to buy a genuine part with the VW brand or an OEM part without. You’ll get essentially the same item (same material, size, shape, function, and everything) except for the VW logo and markings on the genuine auto part.

What Are Fake or Counterfeit OEM Parts?

A legitimate OEM car part is never fake or counterfeit. In our example, they sell as OEM car parts (or OEM VW) and will never pass themselves as genuine Volkswagen parts.

What can be considered fake OEM parts are those that pass themselves as OEM but are built by a different manufacturer. 

Do fake OEMs exist in Australia? 

Yes, like everything else, OEM car parts can be faked.

The Australian police have been conducting sting operations and raids to catch more bad guys selling fake OEM products and the like.

For some car enthusiasts and those working in the industry, news of fake car parts may be nothing new. Still, it’s a good thing that the issue is getting mainstream attention and making people aware of what’s going on.

No matter what anyone says, you can’t really blame some people who fall for these scammers’ tricks. After all, we’re talking about counterfeit parts, i.e., those that are passed off as legally built parts with the correct specs and functions.

Worse yet, criminals are getting a lot better at making them look like the real deal, even including high-quality packaging and holographic stickers!

How can we tell them apart? Well, that’s the question that we want to answer in this article. So, whether you’re after new or used car parts, by the end of this article, you’ll be able to find auto parts that are legit and reliable.

Is it correct to say that OEM is the same as genuine?

If we use the word ‘genuine OEM’ to mean that they are authentic and non-counterfeits, then I think that’s a generally fair description to use. 

However, purists in the industry insist that the ‘genuine part’ term be used exclusively for those parts that carry the automaker’s brand and logo. For them, you can’t call an OEM part a genuine car part.

That’s a controversial issue, so let’s not get ourselves drawn into that. We have another article that discusses the differences between genuine, OEM, and aftermarket parts, and how they are not the same as counterfeits. 

How Do I Recognize Authentic Spare Parts? 

Before we discuss how to spot fake OEM parts, let’s talk about the real stuff first. 

There are several ways you can identify an authentic or legit part, including the serial or batch numbers, holograms, QR codes, and in some cases, even an RFID tag.

Things to inspect to make sure you’re getting authentic car parts

1. Serial Number/Batch Number

Take a quick look at the box that the OEM auto parts come packaged in. Typically, they’ll have serial numbers and/or batch numbers printed on them. Authentic parts will have those numbers, which basically allow manufacturers to trace the part’s entire history.

Not only does this mean that any faulty parts can be traced to the exact factory and assembly line it came from, but it also helps them to identify counterfeit components.

You may see that the same serial number may also appear on the part itself for some parts. Match it to the number on the box just to be extra sure.

2. Hologram

Authentic car parts will also likely have hologram stickers on the box. Manufacturers use this as an added measure so that suppliers, sellers, and customers can ensure that the part is authentic. 

However, this is not foolproof, since counterfeiters have also gone more sophisticated to the point of faking hologram stickers, which is why you might want to take a closer look at it. You may notice some tell-tale flaws.

3. QR Codes

These days, many manufacturers also include QR codes on the parts or their packaging. These codes are an added layer of protection since you can use your smartphone to scan them and verify their authenticity with the manufacturer.

4. RFID Electronic Tags

Okay, so RFID tags are less common, though you might find them on some high-end parts. These tags allow the manufacturer to scan and verify if the parts you get are legit OEM auto parts.

It’s All about Layers

As you can see, there isn’t a single foolproof way to determine the authenticity of an auto part. That’s why manufacturers include one or more of these methods on the same part. So, if you’re ever in doubt, you can always verify with the manufacturer.

How Do You Spot Fake OEM Auto Parts?

While it’s good to know how to identify authentic parts, it’s just as crucial to learn how to spot fake ones. 

You should carefully inspect the product and its packaging. It’s a good idea to take the old original part with you and do a side-by-side comparison with the new part. Check the colour, texture, and material of the product. Scrutinize the graphics, font, and other markings on the package. 

Things to check to spot fake parts

Here are a few indicators that the part you’re looking at isn’t authentic.

1. The Price Tag

Sorry, guys. If the price tag is too good to be true, it’s probably a fake OEM part. That’s the first tell-tale sign that you’re buying a counterfeit part, so always compare any price you see with the full retail price for the part elsewhere.

Sure, the seller may be offering the part at a steep discount. But to put it simply, the steeper the discount, the more suspicious you should be.

2. The Packaging

Earlier, we mentioned that you should look for things like the serial number, QR code, hologram, and others. Those are still very important, and anything fishy about them could signify that the part isn’t authentic.

Still, there are other things to consider when you look at the packaging. Cheap packaging without much protection inside, typos on the words printed on the box; these are all signs that they might be counterfeit car parts inside.

3. The Part You’re Replacing

Most importantly, compare the new parts with the old ones that you’re replacing. Pay attention to the finer details, too. For example, do the mounts, bolts, screws, and electrical connectors look the same?

Yes, the subtle differences could result from an updated design or perhaps the two parts are from different brands (like in the case of legit aftermarket parts). 

However, if the part doesn't fit perfectly as it should, that might hint that something isn't right here.

4. The Seller You Buy It from

Don’t just look at the car parts you want to buy, vet the seller too. If the seller isn’t well established or reputable, doesn’t have a proper address or contact details, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Only go to suppliers who have a licence to sell OEM parts, and they will never risk losing their licence, reputation, and a long list of loyal customers.

These days, you can often find online reviews on sellers to see if anyone else has complained about the parts they’ve bought from the same seller.

5. Warranty or Money-Back Guarantee

Also, most OEM parts come with a money-back guarantee. The absence of this type of assurance can be a red flag that these items are non-authentic OEM parts. Buying car parts from online sellers is convenient but can also present some risks because of the sellers’ anonymity. 

6. Computerised Bill / Official Receipt or Invoice

Be on the safe side and get an official bill from the seller, stating that you’re buying an original OEM car part. It also proves receipt of warranty in case there’s an issue with that part. So it’s a must to get the original invoice or receipt from the seller, whether it is an online seller or a traditional seller with a physical shop. 

The Dangers of Using Counterfeit OEM Parts

Authentic OEM parts use the same materials and design as genuine parts, so you can expect them to work as efficiently as the original piece you're replacing. 

Counterfeit OEM parts wear down faster and pose unnecessary risks. About 50% of road carnages in developing countries are the result of using fake auto parts. 

Manufacturers of these parts use low-quality materials to drive down production costs and make their venture more profitable. More importantly, these knockoffs don’t go through tests for safety and quality standards.

What are the most faked automotive parts? 

Any car parts can be counterfeited, even batteries, lights, and tyres. So, you need to be vigilant with any type of OEM auto parts you’re buying. However, counterfeiters target auto parts that are more frequently used.

These parts are more commonly faked than others:

Only Buy from Reputable Sellers

Even with these tips, you may still fall prey to counterfeits because identifying counterfeit OEMs needs some experience and skill. It is far better to take a knowledgeable friend or consult a trusted mechanic to help you in identifying and buying parts. 

We at CarPart AU can also help you through our online Car Part Finding platform that makes buying auto parts so much easier and safer. Check us out today!

With this tool, you only need to fill out an online form and send us a request to help you locate sellers for the part you need. This request goes out to over 500 legitimate car parts suppliers across Australia. You will then start receiving quotes – you don’t need to respond to all of them – just choose the most competitive offer and take it from there. 

Our Car Part Finder is one of the easiest and most effective ways of finding auto parts today – try it now and get the best quotes!

By Ray Hasbollah

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