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Check Your Parts

Just a quick note about maybe taking a look at those parts before you leave a parts house.

My daughter picked up a bunch of routine maintenance stuff for her '05 Mustang and she’s coming out this weekend to perform some everyday catchup. Believe it or not, she loves cars, what makes them tick, and loves getting her hands dirty, even though she’s an accountant. She’s a bit petite and has trouble wrestling a few things that are overly tight but she makes an effort anyway.

Anyhoo, she stopped at O’Reillys to pick up a set of spark plugs which she had forgotten earlier.

The counter clerk pulled a box up with 6 plugs in it and for some reason chose to yak it up with her (she’s cute) and pulled one of the plugs out of the box. It was burnt to a crisp. This led to opening the others and they were all fried.

Apparently some honest citizen chose to keep the new and inserted the old ones back into the boxes for return. They even reinstalled the paper thread protectors on them and used a dab of glue to seal the box lid back down.

When she left there the manager was HOT and was determined to find out which employee took those plugs back.

This happend a couple of years ago with her Mitsubishi when the ignition switch failed. She picked up a switch from AutoZone, I installed it, and nothing.

Come to find out the switch was a return item that had been foisted back onto AZ.

The worst swap I’ve ever personally seen was a used transmission (cleaned at the car wash) being substituted for a factory reman unit but I would never have thought of checking spark plugs for something like this.

I always check before leaving the store. Most of the time, I even bring in the part to be replaced to match it up. Saves on core charges. Those parts guys can and do pull the wrong part by swapping a couple of part numbers around or plugging in the wrong year or engine option on the computer.

I took some unused brake shoes back to the parts store recently. The first thing the clerk did was check them. I asked why, and he said that they often get used brake shoes back after the person changes them out. I was amazed, but apparently it happens often.

Went to Autozone for a new oil pressure sender unit due to it leaking for my 89 Mustang GT. When I opened the box to make sure it was the right one, it was dirty, old looking and had old pipe thread tape on it that that was falling off.

I have my parts delivered to the shop. So I don’t open the box until the parts store truck leaves. But I have never found old/used parts in the box.

But what I have found is parts that are mispackaged. Right part number on the box but the wrong part in the box. But even if I had gone to the parts store to get the part and opened the box, I wouldn’t know it was the wrong part until I compared it to the old part or tried to install it.


Was doing a brake job on my son’s 04 Mustang yesterday. Pull the front rotor off and when I went to put the new one on, I realized the lug holes didn’t line up. Then put the old one ontop of the new one and the new one was about an inch in diameter bigger. When I called back the auto parts store he pulled my paperwork and stated that he gave me brake parts for an 04 Taurus. Lesson learned. Will double check everything even if it means being a pain to the counter person.

The most common error I have noticed has been transmission pan gaskets. I memorize the outline and also count the holes. Every other time that I am picking this up at the store, the part in the box does not match with what the box says.

I will say that a good back counter parts man (the one the mechanics go to)is a real blessing. After handing out the same perts so many times they know what you will need and stop many problems before they start.

An excellent suggestion. I always check to be sure the parts in the box are the same as the part number ON the box. I’'ve never yet run into used parts at an auto parts store, but I have run into used and repackaged broken items at other retail stores.

[b][i]I’ve Been One Of Those Guys. I’ve Managed Dealer Parts Departments And As Long As The Mechanic Realizes And Accepts The Fact That A 3 Month Supply Of Some Parts = Zero Parts, Then All Is Good.


I had a clerk (at a now defunct parts chain, go figure) give me an upper radiator hose once that looked like it was for a Russian tractor. No amount of arguing with him would convince him that it was the wrong part. So I went down the road and got the right part somewhere else.

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Although returning an old part for refund is not new it seems to occur more often lately. And the miss boxed parts is also on the increase. It seemed that the old mom and pop stores watched more closely for such rip-offs and mistakes.

I learned the importance of checking parts when I replaced a water pump on my parents’ 1969 Pontiac LeMans. I went to the auto parts store with the old pump for the core exchange and walked out with a new pump. When I put the new pump on, the pulleys did not line up for the belts. The shaft was too short. I took the pump off and went back to the auto parts store. It turned out that the 350 V8 engine in the 1969 Pontiac LeMans had three different styles of water pumps. The counterman and I found the old pump I had taken off and measured the shaft lengths on his stock until we found the correct pump. I lost half a day doing all this work.