It’s understandable that motorists would want to minimise the maintenance costs of their vehicle as much as possible. In many instances, however, their efforts turn out to be “penny-wise, pound foolish” as the English saying goes. This means that they may feel they have saved a ringgit or two by buying a cheaper item but in the end, poor quality results in other problems resulting which cost more to rectify.
The safest parts to use are genuine parts and while they do typically cost a bit more, it depends on where you buy them from. Buying direct from the company’s service centre can be more expensive (although discounts are still offered) than buying from authorised spare parts dealers. This is because the dealers get a big discount for their purchases so they can have a reasonable profit when they resell to consumers. However, many choose not to make maximum profit and give attractive discounts that make the parts end up a bit lower than service centre prices.
So shopping around pays but you should also be cautious because unusually cheap prices could well be imitations. The reason for imitations being so cheap is that they are made from inferior materials that can cause damage to your engine, and might even lead to an accident.
Bear in mind, though, that there is a difference between ‘imitations’ and non-genuine products. Imitations are parts which are packaged to resemble the genuine parts, fooling consumers into believing they are getting genuine parts. There are also lower-priced non-genuine parts which are made to fit certain models and usually have certain levels of quality too. They cost less partly because the specifications and QC levels may not be as stringent as those an automaker would set for its own genuine parts.
Take light bulbs, for example. A genuine bulb offered by a manufacturer may have a specification that it must last not less than 3,000 hours and use higher-grade materials for higher performance. The manufacturer of the non-genuine bulb (which could fit a variety of models) may only specify 1,500 hours. So, in the long run, which one makes economic sense? That’s up to you to figure out.
Another thing is that genuine parts often come with a limited warranty on defects. If it doesn’t work after a week, you can usually go back and get a replacement. However, if a non-genuine part fails after a week, you may not get a replacement although the dealer may, out of goodwill, replace it at his own cost.
Use of non-genuine parts is not discouraged by automakers although they strongly recommend using genuine parts for assured quality and performance… apart from getting business for themselves, of course! What they do constantly warn against is the use of imitation parts because such parts are not only of poor quality and have been marketed with the aim of cheating customers, but they can also cause damage and accidents.
One of the items commonly imitated is the air filter, a regular replacement part. Although air filters last longer these days, they still need to be replaced after a while because the dust and dirt can no longer be blown off. The replacement interval varies depending on operating conditions.
The importance of using a high-quality air filter, preferably a genuine one, cannot be under-emphasised when you consider that adequate volumes of air are vital for good engine combustion and engine output. Imitation air filters may either restrict the amount of air getting into the engine, or have poor filtration and allow dirt particles to enter. The dirt can damage various parts of the engine, while restriction of air will mean higher fuel consumption because the specific ratio for combustion will have to be compensated by more fuel.
A genuine air filter will have its filter paper firmly joined at the end plate by a uniformly-applied adhesive. Imitations often have filter paper that is badly stuck to the end plate and poor quality adhesive is used. This is not so easily seen but if you look on the circumference or sides of the air filter, you will usually see reinforcements in between the pleats. These are for joints and are pressure-welded or joined by adhesive. Imitations don’t have this and are usually sewn together where they have to be joined. Finally, the number of pleats and the pleat width should be adequate, something which you’ll find loose and uneven in imitations.
Many modern air filters have paper filters and obviously, this paper must be of a certain quality and specification. It should be able to keep out dirt particles while allowing air to flow through as freely as possible. There is also a special resin to make it moisture-resistant.
To achieve such a specification means a certain cost for the paper and makers of imitations would try to keep the cost low by using low grade paper. They may also not stick it onto the frame using glue that lasts and after a while, the paper may become loose and get sucked into the engine – imagine what will happen then!
Even if your engine is not damaged, the poor quality of the paper may affect airflow and this will lead to performance losses as well as greater fuel consumption. In the end, you end up paying more for running your vehicle.
Lots of tests have been done by manufacturers on the performance and other characteristics of genuine air filters versus non-genuine and imitation filters. Here is some data from some tests conducted by a leading automaker to show why genuine air filters are your best bet:
Filtration area: 30% more filtration area
Cleaning efficiency: 99% throughout service life
Dust-catching capacity: 52% better
The above data (full chart provided in pictures above) was done against non-genuine filters. The results would be even worse with imitation filters which are well known to be made with inferior materials and processes that do not have high quality standards.
So the next time you have to change the air filter, be sure to use a genuine part for optimum performance. It may seem to cost a bit more than a Brand X part that also fits but in the long-term, you may find your maintenance costs higher.