Reader Question: Aftermarket Alternatives?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mike asks: I’ve got a cracked (plastic) headlight that won’t pass state safety inspection in my state. The dealer wants an obnoxious sum (more than $300) for a factory replacement. So I looked around online and found what look like the same thing for less than half as much but they are not the “factory” part. Do you have any advice? Am I dumb to even think about buying the non-factory part?

My reply: I’ve personally had good experiences – plural – with aftermarket replacement parts, including headlights (for my ’02 Nissan). The fit/finish of the driver’s side headlight assembly – aftermarket – seems to be identical to the factory Nissan piece on the passenger side. After five years in service, I’ve not noticed any marked deterioration with the aftermarket part, other than the usual yellowing of the plastic – which I correct by buffing it out with rubbing compound (I have to do the same with the factory piece; they all yellow over time).

So I’d say it’s worth the risk – for the certain savings.

Sometimes, you get an aftermarket part that’s clearly not quite right. It doesn’t fit as well as the factory piece or it’s not as well-made. But – knock on wood – so far, so good. Hopefully it will be the same for you, too!

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  1. It depends.
    For my ’97 Mustang I bought knock off ’98 cobra headlamps when one was damaged. They certainly are not made as well as the OEM (the body/reflector plastic seems lighter/thinner, lens seems similar) but they perform better than the stock lamps and have lasted many years just fine. the cloudiness did show up but not as bad as OEM. So all in all good enough. Brand is ‘Eagle Eye’.

  2. Occasionally, you can get an aftermarket part that is equal to or better than the factory for less money. For example, with plastic headlights, you can sometimes replace them out with plastic that is UV resistant and yellows much more slowly or, if the shape is right, even glass lenses that don’t yellow at all. Another example, my old Explorer’s original front hubs were made by Timken. The Timken-branded aftermarket replacement hubs are less than half the cost of the Motorcraft-branded replacements. The only difference between the two is the part number stamp and the brand stamp. Both were made in the same factory using the exact same processes.


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