For a majority of gearheads, buying a car is only but the beginning of a long journey. This journey works towards making a vehicle your very own machine: one you can say will reflect your personality, taste, and overall goals in life. To get where we want to be with our automotive builds, the aftermarket has a plethora of offerings for styling, performance, and other improvements for our cars. Unfortunately, some of these ‘upgrades’ are not exactly what they seem; Counterfeits and products resulting from budget-skimming suppliers are all abound the aftermarket community, and you would effectively turn your car into a rolling death trap should something fail with these parts. There are plenty of them out there, but here are a few items you should be especially wary about:
Fitting Obscure Tires and Fake Wheels
There appears to be a trend these days wherein people are more concerned with the look of their vehicle than their general safety. We often see cars that are sporting ‘copy’ wheels from an unknown source in China or Thailand or tires that have barely recognizable branding. These parts – while they do give you the look for a much lower price – are missing a very critical point: Research and Development.
You see, the work that large wheel and tire manufacturers put into their products is no joke – these are afterall the very things that keep you on the pavement. Countless tests, certifications, and variables are stringently tested and upheld to ensure that the original products you receive are truly safe and capable of its intended use on the road.
Now ask yourself, how do these fake wheels and cheap tires get to such a low price point? Economies of scale can only go so far – it’s because they haven’t invested in R&D. Not every black chunk of rubber on your wheel is equal folks, and it’s best you do your homework before making a purchase.
Counterfeit Suspension and Cut Springs
Lowering your car to make it look better has been a default modification for as long as we can remember. There is just something about a low-slung vehicle that gives it a bit more presence on the road. But to achieve this effect, there will be certain trade-offs to performance depending on how you go about it. Comfort of course will likely be lessened, but what you choose to do with the bits underneath is a huge determining factor if you’re concerned about safety.
For starters, cutting the factory springs is perhaps the more dangerous option. Back in the day this was done as there were no options for aftermarket springs or shocks – nowadays though it is no longer the case. Cutting a factory spring that is engineered by someone way smarter than you to function a specific way could severely alter a car’s behavior. A jerky ride or severe handling issues may arise from an eye-ball spring cut – and that’s a serious no-no.
These days we also tend to see some cars sporting counterfeit lower arms, tie rods, and even subframes. While fitting these may look like you’re serious about your car’s performance, an improperly made arm or subframe will severely alter your suspension geometry – leading once again to horrible handling issues. On top of that, even for original components your mechanic should know how to install and measure these components to produce their desired effect. Do your homework with these items before you fit them. Again, a much smarter individual is behind all the bars and bits underneath that keep your car in place.
‘Class A’ Big Brake Kits
Really? Are we here to talk about what is arguably the last thing you should scrimp on when buying parts? Your brake system is what’s keeping you on this earth whenever you get behind the wheel of your automobile, and common sense dictates you should invest more into making it better or keeping it working properly. But with the proliferation of counterfeit products abound, even Big Brake Kits (BBKs) have fake versions being sold. These fake kits go for a sizable five-to-six digit sum in pesos and appear very much to be original – but they aren’t.
These kits usually have calipers and rotors that are not specced for your vehicle or worse, the original manufacturer never made a BBK for your car to begin with. These counterfeit kits are usually a mix-and-match of calipers, rotors, and other fittings by a third party to make a ‘BBK’ for your vehicle – and thus are not truly specified for use on your car. Issues such as stuck-up calipers to wobbly/easily warped brake rotors could arise from these considering they aren’t measured properly for your vehicle.
Original Big Brake Kits these days usually have a means to determine if your kit is the real deal. These can range from anything to certificates or even QR codes on the calipers themselves. The best option of course is to determine if you’re getting a kit from a legitimate source – you are afterall shelling out a sizable sum (not to mention trusting your life) on this part.
Plug-and-play “Tuning Chips”
Ever come across a product that promises an easy horsepower gain with a simple plug into your car’s On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port? What about those items that guarantee ‘improved acceleration’ or other similar performance benefits with a push of a button? Even with the advancement of engine management and computers in cars, a third party chip can only do so much. Sure you may ‘feel’ the benefits of these products, but what you aren’t seeing are the tradeoffs these devices are making and doing to your engine. For all you know, they could be pulling timing or altering air-fuel ratios at critical rpms. In layman’s terms, your motor could be a ticking time bomb and you don’t even know it.
The only true way to get power out of your motor via the ECU is through a proper flash tune with tested software or using full standalone ECUs controlled by a reputable tuner. Do your homework and ask around for people who could help you out, your motor isn’t cheap afterall. Skimping on a proper tune can cost you severely in the long run.
Improperly engineered fuel fittings and lines
When you think of bits and bobs to spruce up the engine bay, chances are you’ll eventually change out some lines and fittings. And for those who are more inclined towards the performance side of things, improving the fueling system is something worth looking into to get more power. Thing is, the moment we bring fuel into the picture we are now literally playing with fire; Anything that could leak or corrode could turn your internal combustion engine into, well, an external combustion engine – and you don’t want that.
That said, quality fuel fittings and steel braided lines are of utmost importance when laying out your fuel system along the car. Again, these items aren’t cheap yet there are plenty out there going for much lower costs. As in most cases, do your homework and consult with professionals before touching this area of the car.
Bonus: Social Media Mechanics and “experts”
If anything, perhaps the most damaging ‘mod’ out there would be the opinion of somebody who isn’t qualified to do work on your car. Countless forums and groups on social media have so-called “experts”, “gurus”, or whatnot who can ‘diagnose’ your car’s problem over text or videos. Some even go as far as recommending certain parts, upgrades, or items that would hardly do anything to fix your car. Worse, these parts could be damaging your car further. Any professional mechanic will tell you he can’t tell you the problem without actually inspecting the car in person – what makes someone on the internet any better?
Ask yourself if you’re willing to consult a doctor and get a diagnosis over the internet without being personally checked at a clinic. Doesn’t sound so convincing no? It works the same way with cars, it pays in the long run to find a trusted shop who knows what they’re doing instead of simply consulting some stranger on your screen.