Getting a deal is what makes many of tick, stealing a bargain while saving a bung makes life all the more sweeter for the wheeling dealing petrol head – it’s a great feeling. Sometimes things go slightly curly, so you learn to accept it and take the rough with the smooth by drawing a line in the sand as t`wer and reluctantly move on. I love a good deal, but one thing I have learnt over the years is that there is no such thing as a cheap car. The SAAB 9-3 I bought last year quickly turned into a money pit, but luckily, I somehow managed to get the damn thing kind of sorted and sold – tout sweet!
But it’s not only cars that have a certain knack of turning round and biting you, the latest bear pit in the automotive world relates to aftermarket parts. Once upon a time you entrusted big names such as Quinton Hazel – Unipart – AP Products et al to supply your clunker with spares or service items, but in a world ravaged by contracting profit margins and dog eat dog competition – suppliers are looking overseas to keep those margins sensible.
When it comes to my own cars, I make a point with sticking with what I know best parts wise and I know where to shop around to source them efficiently. I don’t get my plugs from the same guy as my gaskets and my Halfords trade club card gets me unbeatable deals on lubricants & consumables, but the one thing I will steadfastly refuse to succumb to is cheap parts on the internet. Yes I have sourced trim items and engine components via a leading auction site but it stays there, consumable items like brakes or gaskets can be fatal via the web, of which I shall explain…
A former work colleague now flirts around in the used car game, buying and selling a handful of cars – all legit I may add, but his bread and butter stock is very much in the bangernomic category. He was, and still is, a bloody good patter merchant when it comes to selling a car and knows his stuff too, but his downfall gets him every time – he does things on the cheap. Not a month goes by without one of those ‘ere you might know’ conversations coming down the wire. Of course, I oblige in helping… but the bugger never listens.
Well, he’s truly done it this time over an 04 plated MG ZT120 which he bought from auction so cheap, that even I would have been tempted to raise a hand. Purchased with the obligatory HGF in its earliest guise, even Arthur Daley wearing a blindfold would sense a nice little earner – 24 carat as I live and breathe squire… stand on me. His tale of woe explained that he had a customer lined up for the car in his mind before driving it back from the flea pit auction house. So after throwing some water and a hoover at the svelte looking shooting break, his customer is contacted.
Said punter was made well aware of the HGF but old Simon promised to have it in perfect working order before the cheque cleared and even offered to sling in a short yet fairly decent warranty to add some confidence. He uses a local and fairly trustworthy mobile mechanic as a rule, but is not averse to getting grubby if he needs to. After another session of brain picking on the blower, he decides to undertake to job himself… much against my advice I may add, sensing that some serious profit is to be made out of the MG.
Well, it now transpires that my hapless chum has suffered the trauma of buying cheap consumable parts over the internet, and paid for it. He bought a head set including bolts and postage for something in the region of £45, fitted it all himself along with a cambelt and drove around in it for a few days thinking life was good. Until very recently when returning from Ipswich he detected a miss fire and noticed his coolant bottle was virtually empty. Dispatching the car to his local mobile, the conclusion was that he would have been better off making a gasket from an old birthday card.
The head dimension and condition was fine, as were the cylinder liners, but the fire rings on the gasket itself were of such poor quality material that one had split, thus causing coolant to flood into one of the cylinders. Simon has since recovered the car back to his gaff and has not yet decided what to do with it, he’s also swallowed a bitter pill by means of refunding a deposit to his customer who bought elsewhere. But this is by no means a rare tale of sorrow, it happens every day simply because the trade and Rover owners so often cut corners, with the aforementioned being the result.
Our own Keith Adams went through the same trauma with his Rover 75, but the difference here, was that we knew it was knackered to start with and relished the challenge of taking a very very sick K series and transforming it into something better. So be very aware of cheap imported components on the internet. XPart and Victor Reinz provide the very highest quality components when it comes to K series HGF – quite honestly nothing else will do. And don’t even think about not upgrading the crankshaft oil rail either, just do it right first time to simply fit and forget!
Many of these inferior parts are made in the Far East and sold on the web simply because there is little face to face comeback when it goes wrong, as it so often does. Your local factor will not stock such rubbish as a rule, owing to the fall out caused by warranty returns but it also extends to other parts too. I know of one person who purchased some Chinese imported brake pads for his Vauxhall Omega that cost a quarter of what his local factor could have supplied a set of decent Ferodo items. Every week his alloys were as black as the cobs of hell and after just 7000 miles, they were worn down to the limit – was the saving worth it?
My take on this caper is a simple one, if you are tempting fate on such poor quality cut price components with the above examples providing proof that its foolish to think something comes for nothing, can you actually afford to run a motor car or afford to do the job twice?