Buying parts and performing repairs on your own sure is an effective way to keep your car’s maintenance cost on the lower side. However, being your own mechanic is easier said than done and takes a lot of training. If you are new to auto mechanics, it might be safer to leave major repairs to professionals.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do some of the minor stuff yourself. Indeed, basic maintenance such as oil changes and brake pad replacements are quite easy to do at home following the instructions you’ll find in a trustworthy car service manual here (you might not need a repair manual every time but it definitely helps when attempting a specific repair for the first time). The real question here is: for the jobs you can’t do on your own, should you buy the parts and bring them to your mechanics in the hope of keeping the repair bill as low as possible?
Why Order Your Own Parts?
Most experienced mechanics and weekend DIYers are already quite familiar with purchasing replacement parts. You can easily order the parts you need from the dealer, an auto part store, or online and yes, in most cases you might be saving a little here.
However, while most service and repair manuals will help you find which parts to order, you won’t get the part number in there; you’ll need a part catalog for that. Still, once you have a good idea of what you need, ordering parts is fairly simple nowadays.
When buying your own parts, you can also sometimes get a better deal or you can choose exactly which one you want instead of letting the repair shop choose for you. If you know your way around cars, that might be a good idea. Otherwise, you might be better relying on expert advice.
What Are the Drawbacks?
In most cases, buying your own car parts is more of a hassle than a smart move. And it’s especially risky if you are not a DIYer yourself and need a mechanic to replace them for you.
1. You might buy the wrong part
Let’s be honest here; if you are already an expert on car repairs, you won’t take your ride to a mechanic, right? In this case, buying your own parts is definitely the way to go.
However, if you plan to buy your own parts to have them installed in a repair shop, the advantages are definitely reduced. For instance, if you were to buy the wrong component, or simply receive the wrong one (that’s especially common when ordering online), you’ll only realize it when at the shop, when comparing it with the dismantled part. Your repair shop will have to order the right one and charge you for any additional time your car is on the lift.
On top of that, you’ll now be left with a part that you have to return, and if it’s non-returnable, you’ll just have wasted both time and money.
Still, if you want to be sure you ordered the right thing, your safest bet is to find the related system’s exploded view diagrams in a service manual software and compare it with what you received. Not sure where to find one for your car?
However, it’s frequent for vehicles spanning several years or sold in multiple variants to have slightly different parts. They may look very similar and still not fit your specific model — and you’ll only notice that when it’s too late.
2. No warranty or guarantee
Your mechanic is an expert and has been ordering parts for clients for years now. Mechanics have good connections with dealerships and trusted aftermarket parts stores, so they know what they are installing is premium quality and will usually outlast the warranty period. It is the very reason your mechanic is happy to back all the warranties of that product and ensure a sound repair. And even if the part fails, you won’t have to bother with anything. Your mechanic will deal with the warranty claim and get a replacement part in no time.
Now imagine a scenario where you brought your parts. Your mechanic doesn’t know if they are good or not, nor does he know whether they have been tampered with. Most repair shops are reluctant to install parts they haven’t supplied, and for excellent reasons. If it fails, owners might blame the mechanic for doing a lousy job, when in reality, it might have been caused by a defective component. Even worse, you’ll have to pay for labor costs again and buy new parts. Hence, it’s better to leave that to the experts.
3. The repair shop cannot be held legally liable
This one is the biggest drawback of bringing your own parts to the repair shop. In case a component fails, you cannot blame or legally bind the repair shop. Even if the mechanic installs the part you bought, they are not liable if something was to happen. Some repair shops might even have you sign a waiver so that if there’s a failure, you cannot blame or take legal action against them.
4. The illusion of saving money
Buying inexpensive parts might initially seem like a smart thing to do, but it is one of the worst decisions you could make. Let’s say you purchased cheap Chinese-made brake calipers and brought them to the repair shop. Decent mechanics could refuse to install them in the first place, ask you to return them, and let them buy quality ones instead.
Now suppose you do get the calipers installed at a shady repair shop; there is every chance they would charge extra to make up for the loss of profit. Remember, price isn’t the only thing for cars; always think of safety first. The last thing you want is your cheap brake caliper or pads failing while you drive.
So Should You Buy Your Own Car Parts?
If you ask me, the drawbacks of buying your own parts outweigh the advantages. Surely no one is stopping you from ordering parts online or from an auto part store but keep in mind the potential repercussions.
Buying your parts and taking them to a repair shop is like bringing your own food to a restaurant. Faulty and cheap products can even cause your annual maintenance costs to skyrocket, and quality is never guaranteed if you aren’t sure of what you are looking for.
Buying parts online is even trickier since you can’t see it until delivery is completed.
Finally, there is peace of mind, something you can only get when you let your mechanic handle everything, including buying the parts. That might cost you slightly more, but you don’t have to worry about part misfits or cheaper materials.
Long story short, if you have the experience and a car service and repair manual at hand, it is better to buy your own parts and fix things yourself. However, if you are reliant on a mechanic, leave that to the professional.