If Only We Could Print Out Replacement Auto Parts... - Toyota Parts Blog

We’d save so much money if we could just create our own parts and put them in our vehicles. Like this paper version of a pickup-truck – just print it out, glue it together, and BOOM – brand new pickup!

Printing out a new truck

Making a new Chevy truck from paper

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Each part of a car is carefully engineered to work in concert with every other part of the car for maximum durability and efficiency, and vehicle manufacturers specify exact dimensions and tolerances for all OEM parts to ensure flawless operation.

By definition, OEM parts are exactly what your vehicle needs.

Of course, OEM parts can be expensive, which is why it’s tempting to buy a cheaper aftermarket part made by some random company you’ve probably never heard of. There are two problems with buying these parts:

  1. A lot of these parts aren’t actually designed for your car – some replacement parts (particularly maintenance parts like brake pads and oil filters) are designed for a variety of cars, a sort of “one size fits all” approach. The manufacturer of your vehicle – which offered a bumper-to-bumper warranty, sought fit to design a part specifically for your car…so replacing it with a generic part probably isn’t a good idea.
  2. The parts usually aren’t warrantied. If you buy an OEM part, for example, you’ll often be provided with a 12 month, 12k mile warranty against defects. That warranty might not seem like much, but it’s proof that the part manufacturer has enough confidence in what they produce to stand behind it for a year. Many aftermarket part manufacturers aren’t willing to offer that kind of guarantee.

Now, in some cases, aftermarket parts can be just as good as the original. Some premium aftermarket brands like Raybestos, Delphi, and Brembo (for example) all offer top-notch aftermarket components. However, the quality of these parts often means that you’re spending just as much to buy aftermarket as you would buying OEM…and what’s the point of that? Is it really worth rolling the dice on an aftermarket part for a few dollars and cents?

Gambling with Aftermarket Fit, Finish, and Quality

There’s an old expression that is surprisingly accurate: You get what you pay for. Every time you put a cheap aftermarket part in your car, you’re gambling that the part will work as required. That it will last. That it won’t cause other functioning parts to break. Etc. There’s a bit of a risk.

OEM parts, on the other hand, are guaranteed to work and fit exactly the way they’re supposed to. Instead of worrying if the aftermarket wheel hub you installed on your SUV is going to fail on the highway, you can trust an OEM hub to last just as long as the hub you replaced.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but OEM replacement parts come from the same assembly line and are made to the same exact specifications as the part put in your car when it was built! That’s a big deal.

Are aftermarket parts always bad? Of course not. However, the best quality aftermarket parts often cost just as much as OEM parts, and when prices are so close, OEM replacements just make more sense.

As for cheap aftermarket parts, don’t do it. There’s always a trade-off in function, performance, and/or quality.

What About 3D Printing Replacement Auto Parts?

3D printing is an exciting concept. Instead of buying OEM parts, you can print off a replacement using 3D printing sites like Shapeways or Sculpteo. While there aren’t any companies currently offering these types of parts, a new website promising 3D models of replacement car parts that you can print yourself is supposedly coming soon.

Written by Tom Blackman