Here at Autoindustriya.com we live and breathe cars, and a big part of enjoying our four-wheeled companions includes the act of modifying them. More often than not, modifications gives our cars a look and feel that only we -as the owners- can envision. We can choose to make it stand out among the rest or simply just appeal to their taste.
The downside? The cost. Modifying a car is expensive. Very expensive.
Lately, however, modding a car has become somewhat more affordable, and the reason is the proliferation of non-genuine car parts. Whether you call them counterfeits, knock-offs, faux, copies, pirated, reproductions, class "A", or fakes, the implications are the same: putting mod parts that aren't particularly genuine into your car can be dangerous.
Counterfeits of popular tuner brands are rife in the market, often priced far less than the originals they were based on; sometimes, they can cost as low as a tenth of the original.
But buyer beware: fake parts are everywhere. They're sold in many shops, and more commonly on online threads and sites. The bad thing is that these parts may put you, your passengers, and your car in danger, all for the sake of claimed performance gains or, most likely, aesthetics enhancement. The worse thing is that sometimes the sellers will not tell you that they're not genuine.
To give you better give a better idea of what to look out for, we list down the ten most dangerous fake modifications available on the market, and tell you why you should never install any of them because, after all, fake parts break hearts.
1. Wheels and lug nuts
The topic of fake wheels has been around for a long time. Genuine tuner wheels are very expensive, and knock-offs can be had for a fraction of the price and look every bit as good as the original.
A lot of the wheels come from mainland China, often made in factories that can quickly switch hands. The problem is that they copy the design, but not the quality; producing quality wheels means a significant investment in R&D, testing, metallurgy, so on and so forth.
A wheel of sub-par quality running over a decently sized pothole at speed will likely shatter; often the metals they use are of lower grade. Genuine OE (Original Equipment) factory wheels can easily take the hit, same goes for tuner wheels from reputable brands. Proper aftermarket wheels are meant to have a bit of give; brittle wheels tend to shear or shatter.
There is also a market for fake lug nuts; the four, five, or six nuts that hold the wheels in place. The last thing you’d want to experience while driving is your wheels falling off from low-grade nuts. The rule of thumb is usually to stay away from aluminum lug nuts as these easily shear from the threads. If you want to play it safe, stick to steel lugnuts.
Wheels often make or break the look of your car, but with fakes, it will be be more often the latter. Literally.
2. Racing-style seat harness and belts
With the trend of ‘race car inspired’ builds happening lately, there has also been an influx of fake racing harnesses. These harnesses may look cool, but will likely do little to protect you in case of an accident. In fact, you’re better off using the factory seat belt; they're tested to prevent snapping in the event of an accident.
Quality aside, an improperly installed fake harness can also cause the occupant to suffer more compared to the protection that the factory seat belt offers. Improper mounting of a racing harness can actually result in spinal damage upon impact. Safety-related equipment are things you never want to compromise on.
3. Racing bucket seats
One item that usually goes hand-in-hand with racing harnesses are racing seats, or bucket seats. They may give a circuit racer feel and look but unlike the real deal, they offer little protection when in an accident, much less a major crash. In fact, I personally used to have a copy bucket seat; it noticeably flexes when you try to twist about while seated, which really makes you question its quality. Most of these copy seats are made from cheap fiberglass that will likely shatter, rather than quality seat materials which can hold up to the most extreme of collisions.
4. Steering wheels, adaptors and quick release hubs
To drive a car, one must first be able to steer the car. Using fake steering wheels that easily bend would not only make it hard to drive, but also dangerous when in an accident. The same can be said with fake aftermarket quick releases. Quick release hubs are intended to be used on race cars with fixed bucket seats to ease access for the driver. A fake quick release could detach even while driving on the road, causing you to lose control.
5. Aftermarket brakes
No, we're not talking about the brake caliper covers that you'd easily find at an autosupply, but actual big brake kits. Using counterfeit brakes can not only harm you, but even those driving around you. The last thing that you'd want to happen is not being able to stop because the calipers seized because of any failure or fault. This could lead you to crash, or worse, hit someone else. In some cases, fake big brake kits lock up more easily and can greatly worsen performance instead of improving it.
6. Suspension components
Factory suspension components are made to withstand the daily commute a car goes through. Things like coilovers, dampers, and coilover sleeves are common in the market, though the most common item is the lower control arm. They're very popular, and are usually made of low-quality aluminum which could easily break; there are so many out there that it's difficult to discern what is real and what is not.
The purpose of buying upgraded suspension components is to improve handling and not for the looks. In fact, no one can really see your suspension components unless you don't run a rear bumper.
7. Critical engine parts
Building an engine is never cheap. Despite the allure of power, one should never result to using fake turbos, manifolds, radiator hoses, oil filters and more to increase power. The outcome of increasing power with non-genuine parts would likely be that your engine blows up, which would cause you to spend more rebuilding or replacing. One of the last places one should skimp out on is the engine as it is the part of the car that enable you to drive it. Otherwise, you will end up having a very large paper weight sitting in your garage, though you could make it into a table.
8. Oil, fluids, and lubrication
Nowadays, even high-quality branded fluids have fake counterparts. There are reports that fluids inside these fake products are usually recycled, and would likely decrease engine performance of your vehicle. Worse, it actually kills the engine considering most engines these days are very sensitive to the fluids used. Instead of spending hundreds for fluid changes, you will likely spend thousands repairing the engine and flushing out the bad fluids.
Yes, there is now such a thing as a fake tire. Counterfeiters make unauthorized molds of these tires to replicate the aesthetics such as the branding, the markings, and the tread pattern, but one can never be sure of the actual quality of the build. From the ply, the steel belts, the compounds, so on an so forth, all are question marks.
Upgrading to high-compound tires can greatly improve the handling of a vehicle. For those not into racing, a set of tires could also increase comfort for the occupants. However, running fake tires or re-grooved tires could do the opposite of improving handling and comfort. Worse, you can lose control at speed because of the tire debeading or exploding; Causing an accident not only involving you, but those surrounding you.
10. Batteries and related electrical accessories
Having a high-quality battery coupled with proper grounding accessories can not only increase battery life, but also improve ground and electrical charge of the vehicle. Fake batteries, however, are now present in the market. The problem? They would likely not hold charge as well as a brand new original battery. What's worse is they could leak during use. Furthermore, fake battery accessories such as grounding kits and volt stabilizers when improperly installed could cause the loss of ground or possibly even start a fire.
With the current norm of ‘budget meals’, there have been more fake parts going around the market. Remember to source your parts from credible shops to avoid being scammed into buying fake parts. Also, if the price is low and too good to be true, then it likely is.
As with most things, it is always better to save up for genuine parts rather than resorting to buying fakes. Sure, not everyone can afford original branded parts, but it would be better to leave the car stock rather than resorting to counterfeits or knock-offs. Staying stock may not be cool, but there's nothing cool about using fakes that can easily fail.
Special thanks to Lito Salva for his help on this feature