At the auto parts store

… a likely situation…


We have a local NAPA store that has been owned by the same family for 3 generations. The very experienced staff makes it worthwhile to pay a bit more than at the discount stores.

When I was racing my 86 Camaro 20 years ago, I’d go in and ask for a Timken Set 2 and set 6 bearings and get the very same question…

I had to say I had an 1986, 1988, or 1989 Camaro, depending on whether I needed caliper seals, brake rotors, bearings or axle seals. The counter person could not look up the location of the part, even if I had the part number, without first starting with the car year, make and model!

And it HAS gotten worse, as bad as the cartoon!

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About 30 years ago I needed a new float for the carb on my 84 GMC pickup. Went to ADAP or PepBoys. The counter guy looked at me like deer-in-headlights.

We have a local chain called Sanel Brothers that’s now a NAPA franchise. Most of the counter people there have been working there for years. Very knowledgeable. Only place I buy parts from.

On a recent visit, I thought I would circumvent all this by providing their specific SKU for the part. Nope, they couldn’t find it. Even claimed it did not exist. Not only did it exist, we found one in stock after some gymnastics with the computer system… Next time, I went to a different store of the same chain and it appears all of the knowledgeable people had transferred over there…

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It’s funny, you can give them a brake pad number and they don’t think it is possible to just walk back there and look on the shelf… I just order online and go pick it up after they have pulled everything in 30 minutes most of the time…

My local NAPA store frequently can meet or beat the other McParts store prices for quality parts. I order on line with a AAA discount for store pickup and if the stars align the parts are available in about an hour

I remember walking into a Auotzone and gave the guy at the counter the part number and their SKU number for a part I needed. he still asked me for the year, make and model.

I don’t know if they changed ownership or not but Napa moved to a new location. I don’t buy parts much anymore but the old guys from ten years ago seem to be gone. The last couple of times there has been an older woman staffing the counter. Of course I stereotype but to her credit she has done well getting the parts. When she dragged out two brake discs though they were a little heavy for her but she made it. It must be getting tough trying to find staff. I won’t say what the counter staff at the big O
reminds me of.

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When writing an estimate I specify “bulk hose”. If a technician writes “fuel line”, the parts department will price a preformed line that fits the repair description, anywhere from $40 to $100 and likely a special-order part. Proper communication is necessary.

A note about finding a part in the warehouse, having a bin location save a lot of time, let’s start with a part number.

Most parts sold have a warranty: year, make and model will appear on the invoice. Auto parts stores have been tracking customer sales and warranties twenty years ago using the customers phone number, each part sold is connected to a year, make and model. I believe they also use year, make model and location to track sales trends.


I’ve noticed parts stores are starting the process by asking for the car’s vin too. They are just doing what they’re told to do by their manager I presume. I can’t really fault them for that.

Funny nat’l chain parts-store story, happened a few years ago:

Me: I need 3 feet of 7/8 inch hose.
Staff: Brings out 3 feet of 1/4 inch hose from the back.
Me: But I need 7/8 inch hose.
Staff: This is what’s in the 7/8 inch bin … lol …

I’ve tried that, works most of the time. But sometimes the staffer can tell it has come in on the truck earlier in the day, but they can’t find it. Whoever unloaded the truck put it somewhere, but nobody knows where. So I say, no worries, I’ll come in the next day, give them time to find it; the next day a different staffer says since I didn’t pick it up yesterday, they sent it back to the warehouse … lol…

Or License plate number.

Having ordered a part to be in on a later truck is a different thing, when that happens, I call ahead at the pick up time they said to confirm it came in…

A lot of people don’t even know the correct year of their vehicles and therefor order the wrong parts… A VIN number gives the correct info as long as it is the correct VIN number…It is not the managers, it is the operating system asking for the VIN, call a lot of different make dealerships and the 1st thing most of the parts guy ask is the VIN…

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Long ago I called my regular parts store and mentioned needing a water pump for a vehicle and the counter man cut me off and asked if it had 1 or 2 heater outlets and hung up when I answered. In a few minutes the correct part was delivered. It seems they were too busy to small talk.