Aftermarket, OEM, OE Auto Parts Explained

Aftermarket, OEM, replacement parts–you see these words in almost all auto parts stores online. What do these terms mean?

For a passive buyer, these things are but ordinary terms used in the automotive market but for someone meticulous and who wants the best for his auto, these things matter considerably. Deciding which among these to purchase is just like deciding what car to buy.

O.E.M. stands for Original Equipment Manufactured. This means that OEM Ford parts are manufactured by Ford itself, Chevrolet parts are manufactured by Chevrolet, Toyota parts by Toyota, BMW parts by BMW and so on. The terms O.E.S. and OE are also used; these mean Original Equipment Supplied and Original Equipment, respectively. While in many cases, OEM and OES mean the same, OE is more general referring to any part that came as original equipment on the car. Some of OE car parts and components are not actually made by the car manufacturer but are purchased and assembled by the automakers to create a vehicle.

Those referred to as “aftermarket auto parts” are not made by the original car manufacturer; furthermore, they are bought and added to the vehicle only at the dealership or after the vehicle left the dealership. In terms of design and function, aftermarket products are almost the same as the stock auto parts since they are primarily used to replace a damaged original part so that the vehicle can continue to run. If you need replacement parts for your car, however, you can either buy O.E.M. or aftermarket auto parts. There are numerous sources of aftermarket auto parts. Stores like Auto Parts Discount give you a great variety of parts for almost all makes and models.

Some cars, especially the base models are not completely equipped so users just add aftermarket parts later on. For example if you have purchased an old Toyota Corolla, you can add aftermarket Toyota fog lights, Toyota spoiler, Toyota turn signal light or Toyota mirrors. Aftermarket products can also help you give your car a fresh new look. Even if your original parts are not yet damaged or worn out, you can replace them with or add specially designed aftermarket auto parts like Honda taillights, Ford center cap, Chevrolet chrome bumper, and Mercedes Benz Front Cover Towing Eye found at Auto Parts Discount.

Enthusiasts, on the other hand would opt for custom parts and specialty equipments. Compared to a universal fit auto part, which can be installed to any vehicle make, year and model, custom aftermarket products are designed to fit only a particular application. Examples of custom parts are your Ford hood, Ford fender and Ford doors. Specialty equipments on the other hand, are intended to make the vehicle more stylish, comfortable, convenient and more up-to-date.

Most auto users prefer aftermarket products because they are less expensive than OEM replacements. While it is true that there may be some aftermarket auto parts that do not meet high standards of original equipments, it is not right to say that aftermarket products are generally inferior in terms of quality and style. Replacement parts sold at Auto Parts Discount, for example are made by car parts manufacturers that are mandated by high international standards.

Which is better, OEM or aftermarket replacement part? It depends on the product. Some OEM parts are not durable enough while the aftermarket parts you use to replace them could last for many years. If you want to give your car a different look and also, if you want to save, aftermarket products are worth a try. However, make sure to get these replacement parts from trusted sources.

The Differences Between OE OEM and OES Parts

OE: Original Equipment:  This part is either made by the car manufacture or is made by an automotive part supplier and is branded with the car manufactures logo and/or in the car manufactures box.  

OEM Original Equipment Manufacture

OES Original Equipment Supplier

Car manufacturers do not make all their parts that they put on their vehicles during assembly or repair, they contract out to auto part manufactures to make parts for them. For the most part the car manufacturer makes the body, frame and major engine components the rest they ‘farm out’ to OEM/OES manufacturers. The car manufacturer provides the specifications to the OEM/OES manufactures for the parts they need. The OEM/OES manufactures the part to these specs, adds a logo and ships it to the car manufacture.

Bosch, Bilstien, Boge, Beru, Mann, ATE, to name a few, are all OEM or OES suppliers to the car manufacturers. They make parts from spark plugs to exhaust parts. The difference between OE and OEM/OES is mainly the OEM/OES usually don’t have the car manufactures logo, but they are the same exact part. Sometimes the logo is ground off the part by the OEM/OES company so as not to affect there contract with the car manufacture. Same part coming off the same assembly line as the OE part does.

The OEM/OES parts are less expensive because they do not go through the car manufactures part system. Every time an OE part goes through a depot, warehouse, dealer, there is a little more money added to the cost of the part. This is the major reason that OE parts cost more. OEM/OES do not go through this procedure, our buyers get them directly from the manufactures, keeping the prices down.  

Aftermarket: aftermarket parts are just that, aftermarket. They are not made by the car manufacturers. They can be made by one of the original equipment manufacturer companies or by a completely different manufacturer. The main difference is they are not made completely to the car manufacture specifications. This is not always bad. One example is Bilstien. They are an OEM/OES supplier, but they offer aftermarket parts also. There HD struts/shocks are original equipment, but their Sport struts/shocks and suspension kits are not made to OE specifications, better but not OE, so it’s now an aftermarket part. Another example is the Stewart EMP BMW water pumps. Stewart EMP is NOT an OEM/OES manufacturer but the pump they make is better and stronger than OE. It is an aftermarket part but a better part altogether.  

But still another example of an aftermarket BAD part is a counterfeit part. Counterfeit part manufacturers use backward engineering to get the specifications of the part without paying the car manufacturer. And almost all the time these parts are made with very low quality components. Sometimes these parts are very hard to identify because a lot of emphasis is put on the look and feel of the part and not what it is made from. One way to identify an counterfeit part is its unbelievable low price, the old adage you get what you pay for fits here. The best way to avoid these cheap low quality parts is to purchase your parts from a reliable source, one that offers a warranty and return policy.

Almost all Performance parts are aftermarket parts, again be careful with these parts also. Buy from a reputable supplier or/or manufacturer.  

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Versus Original Equipment Equivalent (OEE) – Auto Glass

But I Thought You Said This Windshield Was Original Equipment?

Here is a common story for a consumer. A person has a brand new or leased vehicle and a piece of glass becomes damaged. They call an auto glass company and the consumer is told OEE is an original equipment equivalent replacement piece for their vehicle. But when the auto glass technician shows up to complete the replacement, the piece of glass does not actually have the vehicle makers OEM manufacturer logo.

OEM – Original parts installed by the vehicle’s maker during the assembly of your vehicle.

OEE – Parts produced for installation in the “aftermarket” by third party companies.

What Is OEM Auto Glass? (Original Equipment Manufacturer)

When a new vehicle is designed the vehicle maker can use an existing windshield part from an older model vehicle, or they can create a whole new windshield and part number. If the decision is made to create a whole new windshield the vehicle maker contracts a glass manufacturer to create the part. The glass manufacturer and vehicle maker create a unique mold and a unique molding/firing process to produce the OEM windshield (Original Equipment Manufacturer). The parts are installed when the vehicle is assembled at the vehicle makers factory.

OEM parts are available for purchase through your local dealership or through an auto glass company. Do be aware that OEM installations through a dealer will be significantly higher priced than choosing a third party company for the replacement. OEM parts are typically more expensive than OEE. In fact, OEM can cost over 100% more. Although Carlite (Ford) windshields are extremely affordable!

What Is OEE or OE Auto Glass? (Original Equipment Equivalent)

After a new vehicle has reached dealerships and is sold to consumers, third party glass manufacturers will actually acquire OEM glass and reverse engineer a mold to manufacture their own aftermarket glass parts. This mold is created after they digitize an outline of the part. Then the companies create a firing process to bend and shape the glass. OEE aftermarket parts are slightly different in size, they have slight differences in the bend of the glass, and the glass may have high distortion when viewed from a side angle. All of these differences may be minimal or dramatic depending on the manufacturer. The cheaper the glass, the cheaper the manufacturing was.

Removal Of The Manufacturer Logo

Some auto glass installation companies remove the windshields manufacturer logo to fool consumers into thinking its actually OEM. Remember to never buy glass without a manufacturer product label. The label is usually about 1 square inch in size and is located in the bottom areas of the windshield right above the painted black ceramic band. The manufacturer logo includes information about where the glass was manufactured, and has information for the Department of Transportation. Removing the logo is illegal.

What Are The Main Differences Between OEM and OEE.

1. Side View Clarity – All glass that is bent during manufacturing has some distortion when viewed from a side angle. This can be described as waves or waviness. Aftermarket glass is pressed, molded and fired during manufacturing in a slightly different way than the original process set by the vehicle maker. As a result of the difference in manufacturing the aftermarket process typically creates more distortion in glass when viewed from a side angle. Sometimes its a lot more!

2. Safety – Both types of glass meet all federal safety standards and also go through testing at such places as AMECA, Automotive Manufacturer’s Equipment Compliance Agency Inc.. Because both types meet certain safety guidelines, many auto glass installation companies push the argument that aftermarket is equivalent to the vehicle makers original replacement equipment simply based on this one similarity.

3. Glass Thickness – The federal government actually has mandates on the thickness of a windshield. Most windshields are between 2-3mm (millimeters) thick. OEE glass may have a.01mm or more difference in thickness. This may result in the idea that aftermarket is more cheap. Although this is still as safe and equivalent to OEM, I find it is different none the less and may have a higher risk of cracking from debris impacts.

4. Black Ceramic Paint Design – Both types of glass will typically have the same exact paint designs around the edges of the glass, although there are a few unique OEM windshields out there. This black design only hides areas from view (ex: under the dashboard, behind side pillars) and it protects the urethane glass adhesive from UV emitted by the sun. UV will degrade the adhesive which will result in the glass falling out or coming loose. One of the few differences found in paints bands may be, the vehicle maker or vehicle model logos embedded in the design. An example is a Ford Mustang windshield. The OEM windshield includes a picture of the Mustang logo above the rear view mirror bracket in the third visor.

5. The Manufacturer/Vehicle Maker Logo – OEM windshields have a logo that matches all of the other pieces of glass on your vehicle. This is the easiest to see if a piece of glass has been changed before, or to confirm if an auto glass company has ordered the right glass for you. The logo will either have the vehicle maker logo or the original vendor logo.

6. Rear View Mirror Brackets And Sensors – Aftermarket windshields (OEE) use a different process to adhere the mirror brackets to the glass. I find that their quality of adhesion and location is not as accurate as OEM parts. In fact, aftermarket distributors repeatedly drip glue on the glass below the bracket which may stain the black ceramic band on the interior side of the glass. When it comes to sensor components such as a rain sensors, the problem it not as rampant. But on a BMW windshield, a mirror bracket not correctly aligned may hinder the re-installation of the mirror’s plastic cover assembly which hides the sensor and bracket.

So Which Windshield Should I Choose, OEM or OEE?

The biggest impact on your decision will be budget. OEM parts are almost always higher priced. Most consumers simply choose OEE because they have no choice, everyone needs to save a few bucks. Don’t be scared of choosing aftermarket glass though because safety is mostly impacted by the technician installing the windshield correctly, not the glass itself. But if you really love your vehicle and expect the best quality, you should choose OEM. And if you are leasing your vehicle, your dealer may have restrictions on what type of glass is acceptable upon returning the vehicle. You may get a fee added if you have an aftermarket glass installed. Call your dealer for more information.

Aftermarket Auto Parts Vs Used OEM Auto Parts Vs Brand New Discounted Parts

Alright! The worst thing has happened to your car and that worn out / damaged part needs a replacement. What is the first thing that comes to your mind?

I am sure it would be, “how do I get a replacement part that fulfills the need at the lowest possible price?” And believe me; most sensible people would think the same way.

Let’s face it; nobody likes to spend big bucks on car repairs and part replacements. In fact, if given a choice, nobody would even want to be in a situation where his/her car needs a repair or a replacement part.

This is basic human nature and we all exhibit it. As far as I am concerned, I would rather spend extra money on a fancy car stereo than go for a costly replacement auto part. I would any day prefer the cheapest possible repair or part replacement that does the job and so would you unless you are a celebrity and money sticks to you like a shadow.

So what are the options you can consider if your vehicle needs a replacement part?

In the current market scenario, we have 3 major options namely:

  • Aftermarket Parts
  • Used OEM Parts
  • Brand New Discounted Parts

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each so that we can make a decision.

Aftermarket Parts for a vehicle may be defined as auto parts made by a manufacturer other than the original vehicle manufacturer.

But that is not necessarily the correct definition as most vehicle manufacturers do not make all the parts themselves. They may ask a different company to manufacture a certain auto part for them. In that case, the first definition would not hold true.

I believe the following example would make the concept clear.

If you are fitting an Air Filter in your ABC car and that Air Filter is not manufactured, not considered a standard fitment (stock option) and not recommended by the ABC Company, it qualifies as an aftermarket part as far as ABC Company is concerned. In that case, all warranty from ABC Company for your ABC car is void.

That is not the only consequence of fitting aftermarket parts in your vehicle. These parts are not tested for compatibility with all makes and models of cars. As a result, an aftermarket part may not function properly in your car leading to unforeseen problems. For example, an aftermarket Air Filter can harm you car engine if it is not compatible with your car model resulting in low engine-efficiency or perhaps total engine damage.

Aftermarket parts don’t necessarily confirm to laws and regulations for quality and performance. For Example, aftermarket headlights may not confirm to the local regulations in your state or perhaps your aftermarket engine does not meet the emission standards in your state. It is imperative that you ascertain correct details and features of an aftermarket part before you purchase it.

Depending on factors like quality and brand-name, an aftermarket part can cost less, equal or more than a brand new OEM part.

A good quality aftermarket part manufactured by a company specializing in a particular domain qualifies as a performance enhancing auto part and usually costs more than what a brand new normal OEM part would. Unless you are willing to shell out money on car customization, you don’t need to tread that path.

One truth about aftermarket parts holds good even today; “use it at your own peril.”

Used OEM auto parts for a vehicle are manufactured by the same manufacturer that made the vehicle. The only factor being, these parts are not brand new. They have been used before, probably in another vehicle of the same make and somehow found their way to a scrap-yard or salvage-yard.

In this case, a fact that one should consider before purchasing a used auto part is that used parts from a certain ABC car most probably will fit only ABC cars of the same model and year as per company standards. This is because manufacturers might introduce slight changes or enhancements in auto part designs and specifications every year for any particular model.

Since all OEM auto parts from a particular car manufacturer are of the same quality and tested for optimum performance by the manufacturer, you don’t end up making any compromises on this front. Remember, this is not the case with aftermarket parts.

Used auto parts could be your best option in terms of cost-effectiveness and quality provided you select the correct auto part online and buy it from a recognized seller only. The advantage of buying from established sellers is that you get original quality tested parts at low prices and usually with no shipping charges.

The only worrying factor about used auto parts may be about their history. The part could be salvaged from a car that got destroyed in an accident or perhaps from a car that was scrapped after serving a lifetime. Then there are also some used auto parts available that were used by the original manufacturer for testing purposes.

Whatever be the history of the part, you can get a confirmation from the seller over the phone before buying. Major used auto-part dealers exercise quality control by maintaining a log about the condition and history of a particular auto part so that the customer knows about the exact age and origin of the part he/she is buying.

Moreover, vehicle’s manufacturer warranty does not get nullified if you install a used OEM part in your vehicle.

Used auto parts are the most cost effective out of all the three options since they cost just about one-third the price of brand new OEM auto parts.

Brand New Discounted Auto Parts probably don’t need any description. These are brand new auto parts sold at discount prices. Definitely a great option but these are not available everyday and at every store. In fact, they are available occasionally and at the sole discretion of the dealer. If you are lucky enough, you might find the part you need on discount but as is the case usually, the parts that are sold at a discount are the ones that have the least demand. Hence, if you desperately need a brand new replacement part for your car, you might have to wait till it is available at discount prices.

To conclude, you can choose any of these options depending on your need and suitability but please remember that in the case of repairs and part replacements, you should take a step only after weighing the pros and cons of each available option.

Happy Motoring!

James Rodham

www.QualityAutoParts.com