Spot the fake! Here's how to recognize fake from genuine car parts

Arif · May 22, 2021 01:00 AM

Spot the fake! Here's how to recognize fake from genuine car parts 01

It’s so easy to shop for consumable car parts these days. All you have to do is click/tap order, confirm your address, and pay up. The stuff will then magically appear at your doorstep.

Online shopping also makes it easy for us to browse our options and compare prices.
However, there is a big downside that comes with this. As easy as it is for you to purchase things online, it is also easy for dishonest sellers to con you with counterfeit items. Brand logos are easily duplicated and counterfeit packaging is very convincing.

Spot the fake! Here's how to recognize fake from genuine car parts 02

When online shopping doesn't work, we all come back here. Photo

Now, counterfeit car parts are dangerous. You and I already know that.

Regardless if one is a petrol-head or not, we all come across counterfeir car parts – spark plugs, brake pads, oil filters, and relays.

But how does one differentiate the original from the counterfeit these days? Imitation parts look so convincing, that even Frank Abagnale is at risk of being conned.

Suspicously low prices

Spot the fake! Here's how to recognize fake from genuine car parts 01

The major red flag to look out for when shopping online are suspiciously low prices. Just remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. It's tough to verify genuine items just by looking at online listings.

Pictures can be stolen, and sometimes, inaccurate images are used to show what you will be getting.

Packaging can be deceiving, but there’s still a way to tell

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One is real, the other is fake. Can you tell them apart? Photo: FE Car Services

Unfortunately, it’s hard to distinguish genuine from counterfeit just by looking at pictures. If you’re able to, just order the part you wish to inspect up close. If you can return the item (if found to be fake), then good. If you can’t, then just consider it as an item for future reference.

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The difference in quality of the holographic sticker is a dead giveaway. Photo: The Car Care Nut

The main thing to look out for in the packaging is if there is any holographic sticker. Genuine items have shiny holographic stickers with a good 3d effect as opposed to the dim holographic sticker on a counterfeit product with a "flat" finish. It seems that holographic stickers are the least easy to imitate.

This is really your best bet since funnily enough, counterfeit items can come with more attractive packaging than their genuine counterpart. Just look at this genuine belt from Toyota/Lexus. It only comes with a zip-tie as opposed to the “more attractive” packaging of the counterfeit.

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Sometimes the fake part can have a more attractive packaging than the original part. Check with the manufacturer to make sure. Photo: Silver Cymbal

And then let’s look at this cabin air filter, also by Toyota. The counterfeit comes with a plastic bag, giving off the impression of better packaging. The genuine cabin air filter is packed directly into the box without any plastic bags. Yes, things can be very confusing. In this case, you’ll have to inspect the filter itself.

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The Fake cabin air filter has a "fancier" packaging. Inspect the product itself and you will the inferiority of the counterfeit product. Photo: The Car Care Nut

If the con man was careless, you may notice “Made in China” stickers contradicting with the “Made in Japan” or “Made in Thailand” writings on the box. 

Now, let’s go through the common consumables we purchase

Also Read: Keep it real: how to know if your accessories are original?

1. Spark Plugs

Counterfeit spark plugs have a very obvious tell-tale sign – large centre electrodes/tips.

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Counterfeit on the left, genuine on the right. Notice the difference in size of the centre electrode/tip. Photo: Denso Australia

Genuine spark plugs have a thin centre electrode. In the case of this particular model by Denso, the genuine spark plug’s centre electrode has a diameter of 0.4mm. The counterfeit one has a centre electrode diameter of 0.9 mm. 

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There are other tell-tale signs of counterfeit items too that have been highlighted by certain spark plug manufacturers like the finish quality, printing quality, and thread quality.

2. Oil Filters

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It's not easy to distinguish the real from the fake oil filter. Photo: LoyalParts

A counterfeit oil filter could do some serious damage to your car. So how to tell apart the real from the fake? Look for the holographic stickers if there is any. Remember, genuine parts have high quality & shiny holographic stickers. Counterfeit parts have low quality dim ones.

You can also check for spelling mistakes. Look at this counterfeit Perodua oil filter – “Minyak” is wrongly spelt as “Minyaki”. 

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"Minyaki" instead of "Minyak". Photo: unkertech

The shape of the oil filter is also telling of its legitimacy, but you’ll need a genuine part with you to tell the difference. Small things like the quality of the grooves and dimples are sometimes overlooked by counterfeit part manufacturers.

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The result after passing "dirty oil" through a genuine oil filter (left) and a counterfeit filter (right)

What about the engine oil then? You’re going to need a lab to really differentiate this, but engine oil manufacturers have made it easy for you to distinguish genuine from counterfeit with the help of QR codes.

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QR codes are one way to combat counterfeit products

Also Read: Should you buy engine oils from hypermarkets?

3. Brake pads

You’re already aware of the risks. Counterfeit brake pads are dangerous. Yes, they don’t brake as effectively, and in some cases, they can even start fires. So how to differentiate fake from real?

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Yes, counterfeits are bad, but how do we tell the difference?

You won’t be able to inspect the brake pad at a microscopic level to tell if its genuine. What you can do instead is to look at the quality of stamping. This is a tell-tale sale even for precision items like piston.

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You won't be able to see this with your naked eyes.

Inspect areas that are more concealed and look the quality of stamping (if any).

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Notice the difference in quality of the stamping. Photo: PakWheels

If you’re more hands-on, take a look at how well the brake pad fits into the calliper. A genuine part will sit perfectly, while a counterfeit part will have a less than perfect fit.

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Counterfit parts tend to misalign.

Some brake pad manufacturers have authentication cards too, but that’s usually for the more high-end stuff.

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Some parts come with authentification cards.

Conclusion

Well, those are pretty much some tips we can share with you on identifying counterfeit parts. There are more parts we can talk about, but we’re stopping here to keep things short.

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Generally, observe errors on the packaging, inspect the holographic sticker, and have a good look at the quality of the item. In some cases, you could even call the manufacturer to check if the item is genuine.

Imitation items are rampant when it comes to car consumables. Watch out for tell-tale signs of counterfeit items.

For peace of mind, purchase genuine parts from authorise parts stockists and authorised service centres. Online shops are more convenient, but the risk of getting scammed is higher.

Also Read: Counterfeit vs original spare parts: How to tell?

Arif

Writer

Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.

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