Opinion: Saying no to customer supplied parts is right but only in 99 per cent of cases

Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist, Graham Stoakes discusses the supply of parts for maintenance and repairs

Opinion: Saying no to customer supplied parts is right but only in 99 per cent of cases
Image: Bigstock.

A recent Garage Wire news article reported on calls by eBay for independent aftermarket repairers to use recycled parts.

Graham Stoakes: Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist.

Normally my opinion, when it comes to maintenance repair of vehicles is black and white, and initially I rejected the idea.

I am in complete agreement with all the prominent automotive industry influencers, who promote the rejection of customer supplied parts for example.

The analogy that is often given, is of arriving at a restaurant with your own food and asking the chef to cook it for you.

Although this analogy is appropriate and makes a valid point about customer supplied parts, it is important to remember that some restaurants allow you to bring your own drinks.

This could be due to alcohol licensing regulations, or the organisations personal preference.

Either way, it shows that there is some scope within professional work to be flexible if the situation allows.

Environmental sustainability

It is often overlooked, but the automotive aftermarket is a very large contributor to environmental sustainability.

We are all aware of the impact vehicles have on the world’s climate, and the large amount of research and development that is being put into finding alternative propulsion sources in the race to reduce fossil fuel use.

However unlike many other industries, we also provide an international repair network, keeping vehicles on the road and in many cases legally compliant, while reducing their impact on the environment.

Legislation is only just starting to catch up with the fact that, in general, we operate in a throwaway society.

For example, standards are just been introduced across Europe to enable the “right to repair“ for home electrical appliances.

This means that from 2021, firms will have to make longer-lasting appliances, and be in a position to supply parts for them for up to ten years, reducing their often short-term redundancy.

In the past, as these pieces of equipment have often been unable to be repaired, many are forced to buy a replacement, driving the environmental issues created in the manufacturing process of new machines.

Graham Stoakes

With a long history working in an independent garage, Graham now teaches motor vehicle technology at Chichester College.

He’s a renowned author too, with ten books and three CD ROMS to his name so far, covering a range of vehicle technology topics from levels one to four.

To find out more about Graham Stoakes and his automotive books, visit his website.

Car manufacturing still forms a large part of the UK economy and is vital to sustain employment and our status as a global trade partner.

However, it is often said that a car is the second largest private purchase after a house, and many of us are not in a position to renew our vehicles on a regular basis.

This means that we as a repair industry have been proactive in the environmental arena even before it was fashionable or necessary as it undoubtedly is now.

Aftermarket parts supply

The difficulty arises when the choice is made in relation to the supply of parts used for maintenance and repair.

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts should always be the best choice, however, OEM equivalent high quality parts are also available if purchased from a reliable source.

Recently there has been a surge in counterfeit parts, with copied branding and packaging produced to a very high standard, which are readily available from internet suppliers.

Poor quality counterfeit parts not only pose a reliability issue, but in many cases could seriously compromise safety.

This, however, is not the argument being made by eBay.

They have called for independent repairers to use “recycled parts”, meaning secondhand or pre-owned as eBay would put it.

If this is the case, how is this any different than using salvaged parts in any other repair situation?

Canvassing the opinions of some of my automotive students to their attitude towards the use of eBay and secondhand parts produced the following results.

A group of level three motor-vehicle students, with an average age of approximately 20-years-old, were all for it.

But this was mainly driven by the cost savings that they could make, and how familiar they are to internet purchases and eBay.

Possible implications

When I asked my level four students, with an average age of 30 plus, consisting of time-served technicians and garage owners, there was an understandable initial negative reaction; they were concerned about comebacks and reputation.

I decided to play devil‘s advocate, and see if I could change their opinion.

After all, when it comes to using eBay, I would be a hypocrite if I condemned it out of hand.

For example, I asked myself what I mainly buy from eBay, and the answer was tools and car parts, helping to maintain my hobby vehicles.

There are many vehicles for which spare parts are either no longer available new, or the cost would create an uneconomic repair.

Customer service

I always teach my students that a key skill of good customer service is the ability to make a justifiable recommendation for repair.

If the repair requirement calls for safety critical components, there is absolutely no doubt that it should be replaced with an OEM equivalent brand-new part.

But secondhand or pre-owned as eBay would have it, could work for many comfort, convenience or drive system components if the quality can be guaranteed as in the statement provided by eBay.

Vehicle salvage

After all, vehicle salvage is a huge industry, and if there could be another reliable outlet of recycled vehicle parts that would provide a “one-stop shop” for trade purposes, this could greatly enhance the industry’s sustainability credentials.

I grew up visiting salvage yards with my dad, and this was probably a contributing factor to me joining the motor trade in the first place.

Having had further discussion, some of the level four technicians admitted that salvaged parts, enhance sustainability, but would still be dubious.

Customer supplied parts

In conclusion, I am a little conflicted over my opinion on this matter.

Customer supplied parts should not be an option in 99 per cent of repairs, unless for example they have access to components that would otherwise be unavailable.

Where possible, new replacement parts should be sourced from a reliable supplier, where their origin can be confirmed and quality assured.

This will enable the aftermarket service industry to maintain high standards, reduce warranty issues and restrict any market for counterfeit components often sourced via the internet.

However, I do feel that there is definitely a place for eBay to create a professional supply chain of salvaged quality components to the motor trade, as long as suitable methods of warranty can be designed and implemented, especially if it can provide a sustainable and ecological impact on our industry.

“Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food – live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste”. David Attenborough.

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Home Page Forums Opinion: Saying no to customer supplied parts is right but only in 99 per cent of cases

  • This topic has 12 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 7 months ago by Dougal.
Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • Author
  • #189273 Reply

    Most of this online purchasing comes down to the cost of the components. Customers experiences will be seeing the prices some garages are charging for the parts supply and then going on to do their own research online. In the time we live now all I ever hear from the customer now either over the counter or over the phone is “How Much”, and sometimes that is even before they advise of the vehicles problem and even what vehicle they have!

    I too buy from places like Amazon and eBay, but car parts would be bought from trusted trade sellers only that I can go back to with confidence if problems occurred.

    I find that sometimes component parts of a system are required to fix a customer concern and the local dealer either will not supply the part or say that the part is not available, there can I suppose be varying reasons for this, but we then turn to online shopping and up pops the parts you require, so they are available but we can’t buy them over the counter, why not?

    I had many experiences of buying parts from local factors over the years and didn’t even ask them for a price, having trade accounts with them I just rang gave registration numbers and asked for what I needed, which when delivered to the naked eye looked OK. Two examples I have had;

    1 / Brake cylinders I fitted to a Volvo, and I flushed out the complete hydraulic system. 12 months later customer arrives for his annual service and mot. I removed the wheels and drums to inspect the brakes only to find that when I pull the brake cylinder dust covers back fluid pours out, the parts supplier says to me that is due to contamination, contamination I ask? I changed the complete brake fluid in the hydraulic system. I sent the cylinders back and the parts supplier sent me two more, which I fitted and replenished the hydraulic system again. 12 months later the same problem, I contact the supplier and advise of the problem I am seeing, and then I am advised they will change the brand of the brake cylinders. 12 months later I inspected the brake cylinders behind the dust covers and they were dry and free from leaking fluid.

    2 / Cam-belt kits, after checking the correct fitment etc the belt was fitted and when the engine was running, noise and friction caused the engine to run too hot, again cheap belts through motor factors. I did not ask for cheap parts, just the supply of parts for my customers cars at that time.

    The point I am making is that we can’t point the finger at the internet and say that parts bought there are not adequate, they may be cheap, but we can and do buy the same through motor factors. In my opinion when a part is required for a vehicle of reasonable age, the dealer should be able to supply that part no matter what component part it is, the manufacturer made it originally so it should be available when required.

    #189854 Reply

    This is a hot potato that no one wants to address , i found that customers inexperience normally means that they source incorrect parts , on the green credentials , i believe that major insurance companies advocate the use of “green ” parts to bring accident repair costs down , that is a good idea

    #189855 Reply
    David Bevan

    Surely a garage should take the following precautions before agreeing to fit a customer-supplied part:-
    1) Ask to see the invoice from the customer’s supplier
    2) Physically examine the parts – do they correspond to the brand and part number on his/ her supplier’s invoice?
    3) Is the brand one which you would be happy to fit if supplied by your local motor factor?
    To compensate for your loss of profit on the parts, charge a higher labour rate. What is the big problem?

    #189857 Reply
    Lawrence Wells

    As long as manufacturers charge excessive prices for components ie abs units, sensors, ecus etc there will be a requirement to fit tested used components. How they can justify charging £1000 plus for a component made in the third world for probably £30 Why scrap a perfectly viable vehicle with an abs light on when a 2nd hand component is available for say £75 You can work with a decent margin and help the customer. I would always price new first but if not affordable offer the remanufacture or 0salvage options. If the car is scrapped you’ve lost the job anyway

    #189860 Reply
    Philip Dunmore

    Agree with previous comments. If vehicle manufacturers supplied parts at reasonable prices much of this problem would go away. Large assemblies are often the only option, refusing to supply individual components. I have come across instances where the part is available and can be ordered but is not listed in the catalogue. Pure profiteering. Manufacturers also want vehicle end of life to come early.

    #189861 Reply

    I agree with all of the previous comments.
    I like to meet the customer face to face before agreeing to fit any parts not supplied by us to make sure that they are aware of the possible limitations of those parts.
    I also like to see their invoice for the parts and photocopy it onto the back of the job card. I do not want to get involved in fitting stolen parts.

    #189887 Reply
    Eddie Bamber

    All very good points above. Some years ago I was asked to repair the electric roof on an Escort convertible. On splitting the pump from the motor, there was a small plastic drive wheel which was broken. I went to get one from the Ford dealer who quoted me £1200 for a complete pump as that wheel was not available separately. I had a local engineering company make me one out of plastic rod on a lathe, he charged me £20. If the owner had brought a plastic wheel I would have fitted it. I don’t know how dealers justify these charges,

    #189998 Reply

    As a consumer (I am a trained automotive professional that has switched careers a long time ago) I recently got a quote for replacing both front lower suspension arms on a small 15 year old car we use for school runs, OEM £212 (parts only), aftermarket £175 (parts only). I was able to acquire the exact same brand aftermarket parts online, new and genuine, for £63 + p&p. That price difference is very hard to explain to the average consumer I think.

    I asked my garage if they would be willing to fit those parts for me and they were understandably reluctant, citing reasons mentioned above. When I said I would be happy to make up for their lost profit all was well again and the parts were fitted. This still saved me a considerable amount of money.

    I think there should be room for negotiation, not every customer is the same. All angrily citing the “you don’t bring your own meat to a restaurant” analogy to a customer does is turning them away, never to return, into the arms of some bungler.

    #190171 Reply

    if you wont fit my parts, bought to ensure garage isn’t ripping us off with dodgy pattern parts and a better price, then we will go elsewhere or simply DIY. Stop throwing your toys out of the rpam and remember the customer is always right. The only question is do you want to earn any money, or not? Half a job is better than no job.

    #190172 Reply

    I needed a clutch slave cylinder rubber. Old money about sixpence. Ford wanted £1500 and no doubt get away with this daylight robbery clearly. they moved the slave cylinder inside the bellhousing, so a job that used to take 30mins and cost pennies now costs an arm and a leg with new clutch, dmf etc The result I would never touch Ford again or any other company that does this. I’d rather buy an old Anglia and potter about in that then get scammed every time I go to a garage for a quote.

    #190173 Reply
    PROF H

    taking all comments into account

    who is liable for said parts warranty, ignoring receipts, if you accept the Parts being offered you are saying they are fit for purpose as you are the expert.

    where will said garage mechanic stand if the part fails Killing or injuring someone

    our insurers have said They will Not Cover us.

    #190190 Reply


    The problem here is not caused by the motor trade.
    The problem is caused by the legal profession who have ruled that 50% of the job should carry 100% of the liability.

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)


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