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​OE vs. Aftermarket

​OE vs. Aftermarket

Published by Kaleb Bengston on Jan 31st 2022

OE vs. Aftermarket

Which should you choose: aftermarket parts or OE parts? The answer is obvious: there is no obvious answer. There are plenty of reasons why aftermarket parts can’t always be trusted. There are also situations where OE parts are just not as refined as much as an aftermarket solution. Unfortunately, there isn’t a catch-all answer to this problem, to the bane of mechanics and DIY’ers everywhere. We’ll try to break down exactly what parts to trust from the OE and which you should buy from the aftermarket. Let’s get into it.

Let’s start with OEM parts, which are the parts that the manufacturer put on your vehicle because they claimed it was the best part for the job. This isn’t always the case, an example being 90’s era General Motors alternators. From the factory, the front alternator bearing was too small to handle the belt load, and they would often overheat, fail, and then the insides would weld themselves together, if the whole vehicle didn’t catch on fire first. This is obviously less than ideal, and the solution was an aftermarket alternator with an appropriately sized bearing. If you were to buy the same GM alternator (Delco at the time) and install it, it wouldn’t fix the issue, since you were replacing one bad part for another. Almost instantly the aftermarket released an alternator with a larger front bearing, and this fixed the issue for good. If you are or ever have been a mechanic, you will see this often with TSBs (Technical Service Bulletins), where the issue would not resolve after replacing a part several times. Often the OE part was just not designed correctly and was missed at the assembly line.

On the flip side, there are just as many issues with aftermarket parts, if not more, than there are with OE parts. Anecdotally, I have a Santa Fe that was having power steering issues. We put pump after pump, rack after rack in, to no solution. We were stumped. In total we put 6 pumps in and 3 racks before finding the issue: it wasn’t an OE pump. The veining in the pump was less than that of an OE pump, therefore restricting fluid flow and aerating the fluid. It was such an easy fix that the shop manager overlooked to save a dime. It ended up costing more in the long run than just paying the extra $30 or so for an OE pump.

This won’t always be the case. There are plenty, a good majority, of parts that you can replace with aftermarket and keep your peace of mind. There are some parts you would prefer to replace with OE parts, just to be sure it’s exactly to specifications. But we’re a little beyond the years of garbage parts that will only get you down the road. Most aftermarket companies make just as good, if not better parts than OE. Take Dorman’s ‘OE Fix’ line, which is dedicated to fixing off-the-line problem parts and replacing them with better than OE parts. If you haven’t checked out Dorman’s ‘OE Fix’ line, I very much recommend that you do, they’re doing some very impressive work over there.

Unfortunately, there are no clear answers to this question. It really depends on what the issue was in the first place. If it was general wear and tear, you’re likely good to go with either option. If it’s a recurring issue with the same part, you may be more inclined to try an aftermarket part. If an aftermarket part isn’t fixing the issue when it should, you should try an OE part. We suggest you get a deeper look at the issue instead of what a lot of shops try to do, like with my Santa Fe, and just throw parts at it. That generally doesn’t work and will result in a lot of extra cost for both sides.

As always, let us know what you think! Do you prefer OE parts, or are you just fine with aftermarket? You can let us know and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all of our blogs and deals on tools!