Can Aftermarket Car Parts Be Dangerous?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Can Aftermarket Car Parts Be Dangerous?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

It is not always possible to get manufacturer approved parts, but when you opt for aftermarket car parts to repair or upgrade your vehicle, you should consider the risks. OEM parts are generally more expensive; therefore, it is tempting to go for the cheaper aftermarket piece. While you could save yourself hundreds buying aftermarket, what are you costing yourself in the end?

Aftermarket car parts are not always safe, and they do not have the same warranties as OEM. Therefore, before you opt for the cheaper aftermarket car parts you should consider the dangers of doing so.

What Are Aftermarket Car Parts?

When you take your vehicle to the dealership for an upgrade or repair, you will receive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. However, if you take your vehicle to an independent shop, you are more likely to get aftermarket parts than OEM.  

These aftermarket pieces are cheaper, but designed to function like the OEM part. Not all aftermarket components are cheap in quality or dangerous, but you need to consider the circumstances for those aftermarket parts, how they were constructed, and why they are offered at an incredible discount to consumers.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Aftermarket Car Parts

Not all aftermarket car parts are dangerous. In fact, there are situations where an aftermarket replacement part makes sense over the OEM, but with those benefits there are equal risks, including:

  • Cheaper Repairs – Aftermarket car parts are certainly cheaper than OEM. In fact, you might be able to order them from a discount warehouse online, saving yourself even more money. However, the quality of that part often explains the price. The age-old saying “you get what you pay for” applies to aftermarket car parts.  To offer these parts at a lower price, companies use low-grade materials and often skip quality control.
  • Better Availability – Aftermarket parts are much easier to acquire than OEM parts. To get an OEM part, you must order through your local dealership or the company’s website directly. This means you deal with a dealership markup or wait weeks to receive it from the dealership at retail price. Aftermarket parts are found at your local auto parts store and online, making them easier to obtain. With that, however, comes an overwhelming selection and you are at more risk for picking the wrong part or having a mechanic order a part that is not specified for your vehicle. This could result in a faulty repair.
  • Quicker Repairs – Because of their availability, aftermarket car parts let you repair your vehicle and get back on the road. The issue, however, is that generic parts do not always fit properly, might wear faster, and can devalue your vehicle. Some are outright unsafe because they are designed slightly differently than the manufacturer intended, or they do not fit correctly into the vehicle.

Common Aftermarket Part Replacements

In some cases, it is dangerous to buy or use aftermarket parts in your vehicle, but there is a fine line. Some vehicles are modified using aftermarket parts, such as installing a new car alarm or remote starter kit. Other times, aftermarket parts are used to repair a vehicle after an accident, such as bumpers and doors. Depending on the situation, an aftermarket part could be safe or dangerous.

Here are some common uses of aftermarket parts.

Cold Air Intakes

A cold air intake is supposed to increase fuel economy, but they are unnoticeable to most drivers. While manufacturers also claim these will improve performance and horsepower, the intake might not be worth the cost for the average passenger vehicle.

One benefit to installing aftermarket cold air intakes is that they have reusable filters; therefore, you save yourself the costs of replacing your air filter throughout the year. From there, you have nothing but disadvantages. For starters, washable filters collect more dust and eventually clog. You might notice you have more “check engine” notifications, and you could even fail an emissions test. If the cold air intake is installed improperly, your mass airflow sensor will fail.

Performance Mufflers and Exhaust Systems

These too are advertised to increase horsepower and they give your vehicle an aggressive, powerful sound.

While flashy, these might not meet state emissions requirements after installation. Furthermore, if the exhaust system is missing oxygen sensors or catalytic converters, the vehicle could be dangerous to even drive.

Superchargers and Turbochargers

Superchargers and turbochargers are dangerous aftermarket parts to install on a vehicle. While they make a vehicle more powerful, safety equipment originally installed can no longer mitigate any risks. Often vehicles with superchargers and turbochargers are not even street legal, which means you could have your vehicle seized or receive a citation.

Wheels, Suspension Parts, and Tires

Aftermarket tires are generally safe, but when you combine those aftermarket tires with rims and suspension systems, you are veering into unsafe territory. Not only will you spend more in tires, because the vehicle will wear down tires faster than with the manufacturer components, but if the vehicle is too low, you risk damaging other critical components, such as the exhaust.

Aftermarket Car Parts Are Regulated by NHTSA

Most aftermarket car parts are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They regulate equipment required for new motor vehicles, but also monitor replacement parts.

When it comes to emission-related parts, these aftermarket replacements are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state boards.

State and Local Jurisdictions

Every state has the right to enact their own equipment regulations, which are typically identical to those established by NHTSA. These standards are there in the absence of federal rules, but also give states the option of establishing unique laws and regulations for aftermarket car parts sold within their boundaries.

Some examples of how these state or local laws apply include special laws for auxiliary lighting, including fog lamps. Also, sound levels for upgraded stereo equipment might come from the state or local level rather than federal. Rarely do these regulations apply to the safety of the product, but more so how the product will affect state emissions or noise ordinances.

Understanding NHTSA Regulations for Aftermarket Car Parts

NHTSA has Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which have minimum safety performance requirements for all new vehicles and replacement parts. These standards are quite small, and they only cover areas like lighting, brakes, glazing, and tires. Other standards affect set performance requirements for vehicles before being sold, and include the following three categories:

  • Crash Avoidance
  • Crashworthiness
  • Post-Crash

Most specialty auto parts and aftermarket parts are not directly affected by these safety standards. However, companies that sell or install any aftermarket part must register with NHTSA and supply documentation to the consumer. Also, imported products that come from other countries must meet all standards established by NHTSA.

A company that manufactures or imports equipment that falls under an FMVSS category is required to register with NHTSA. That company then goes into the manufacturer database, which categorizes manufacturers by the type of product. They must have a separate registration for each type of component they sell.

Can You Sue for Faulty Aftermarket Car Parts?

Aftermarket parts, especially defective components, can increase the chances for a catastrophic accident. In the event an accident is caused by aftermarket vehicle repairs or modifications, or when the insurance company uses cheaper alternatives to repair a vehicle, you may have a claim against the manufacturer, insurance company, or the repair shop that used these components.

Determining Liability for Aftermarket Vehicle Modifications

The older a car, the more likely it has aftermarket vehicle modifications. In a motor vehicle accident, you must know who the responsible party is for the accident and your injuries. An attorney can help you identify the parties responsibly by using a team of engineers and mechanics to review the maintenance history of your vehicle, the integrity of the parts, and determine what caused the incident.

In these cases, a variety of parties could be liable for the aftermarket defect, including:

  • A lessor
  • Fleet owners
  • Mechanics or repair shops
  • Car dealerships
  • Insurance company
  • The previous owner of the vehicle

Anyone that owned the vehicle before you could be liable for damages, especially if that vehicle used aftermarket parts when OEM parts where an option. Furthermore, poor maintenance of a vehicle can lead to catastrophic accidents and a vehicle that is at high-risk for those accidents.

Speak with an Accident Attorney Today

If your vehicle accident was caused by aftermarket parts, you may be entitled to compensation. The only way to see if your case qualifies is to speak with an attorney and explore your options. The attorneys at Malman Law are here to help.

Our advocates have handled numerous cases where faulty fixes or aftermarket car parts cause catastrophic accidents. Speak with our team today to explore your options by calling 888-307-7068 or request more information online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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