Used Auto Car Parts: Yay Or Nay?

First off, this general question warrants a specific answer. To put it simply, every car part is different, and has different requirements as to whether or not it can be replaced with a used one or a completely new OEM one. Here’s a quick little framework for you to swallow:

Rule #1: Some parts should never be bought used.

Rule #2: Some parts are OK to be reused.

Rule #3: Some parts are OK to be reused sometimes.

I know, rocket science right?

Our job here today is to uncover just what those parts are, and to help you simplify each step along the way.

Rule #1

General guideline: never buy used rubber consumables. This rule covers a lot of the hoses including radiator hoses, heater hoses and vacuum hoses as well as other parts such as belts, wiper blades, ball joints and especially brake lines.

Ever notice that a lot of places that sell tyres do not offer warranty? Well, they do so for good reason, as this same guideline applies to tyres as well – the liability is simply too great.

Rubber items are some of the most important items on your vehicle, and having them fail will cause you headaches when searching for replacement parts. Rubber tends to ‘dry rot’ over time and even a new looking part may be years old and be prone to fail.

Of course, this rule #1 does not cover all the parts that should never be bought used, so here’s a basic list that we’ve compiled that does just that:

  • air bags
  • air filter
  • ball joints
  • bearings
  • brake discs
  • brake light switch
  • brake pads
  • catalytic converter
  • clutch disc
  • cooling fan switch
  • cylinder sleeves
  • distributor cap
  • engine bearings
  • fuses
  • gaskets
  • head studs
  • headlights
  • ignition coil
  • ignition condenser
  • ignition points
  • muffler
  • oil filter
  • piston rings
  • rotor
  • shifter bushings
  • shock absorbers
  • spark plug wires
  • strut bearings
  • strut inserts
  • timing belt
  • tyres
  • valves
  • water regulator
  • wheel bearings
  • wheel cylinders

Take this list as simply a checklist you can quickly refer to when you’re about to head for repairs. If you find yourself checking every item of this list, then wondering whether you should invest in used or new car parts should be the least of your worries my friend.

Rule #2

These next series of parts however, fall in the category of it being OK to be reused.

General guideline: make sure to always know the exact part that you need before ever stepping into the shop. Probe. Ask questions. Risk looking like an amateur in front of the mechanics but don’t risk getting the wrong parts replaced. One may have you look like an idiot for 5 minutes, while the other will have you look a fool who didn’t know any better. And plus, it may have you fork out even more cash in the long run if the parts you wrongly replaced were to fail and warrant even further repairs.

These parts below are almost always OK to be reused, but just like any other maintenance repair and like how we’ve mentioned earlier, always stay on the side of caution with these parts:

  • abs controller
  • air box
  • body panels
  • body parts
  • bumpers
  • carburetors (to rebuild)
  • cigarette lighter
  • coolant reservoir
  • cooling fan, belt driven
  • door lock actuators
  • exhaust heat shield
  • exhaust manifold
  • exhaust pipes
  • fuel tank
  • gas cap
  • grill
  • hub caps
  • intake manifold
  • interior trim
  • jack
  • lug nuts
  • oil pan
  • power window motor
  • pulleys
  • rear view mirrors
  • seats
  • steering wheel
  • stereo system
  • sunroof motor
  • tail lights
  • throttle body
  • tie rods
  • turn signal lenses
  • vacuum lines
  • vacuum reservoir
  • valve cover
  • wheels
  • window glass
  • windows
  • windshield washer pump
  • wiper arm

These parts will be a goldmine for you when looking to save heaps of cash for your next repair. However, be sure to to always check these items for normal wear and tear before reusing. If you are in doubt, have it checked by a professional.

Rule #3

This is where things start getting a little complicated. I wish I could give you guys a black and white, yes or no, type answer but the fact of the matter is that there are some parts which simply belong in the ‘sometimes’ category.

Yeap, sometimes.

That means that there are parts which should be reused at times and not be reused during others. The key is to know exactly when those times are.

As a general rule of thumb, if the part you’re aiming to get is good, then you’re allowed to reuse them. Of course, ‘good’, is completely subjective. What may be good to a dishonest dealer may be horrible to an honest one. Ultimately, the decision rests with you. If you can confirm that they are ‘good’ by your standards, and if you trust the dealer, then by all means, save yourself a couple of bucks and go for it. Sometimes these dealers might even be open to taking your part back if it ends up as a dud.

If you want to stay even more on the side of caution, get these reusable parts only once they are reconditioned.

  • a/c compressor
  • a/c condenser
  • abs ecu
  • abs sensors
  • alternator
  • axle shafts
  • brake drums
  • camshaft
  • clutch master cylinder
  • coil packs
  • cooling fan, electric
  • ecu
  • cv joints
  • cylinder heads
  • dashboard gauges
  • distributor
  • engine block
  • engine mounts
  • flywheel
  • fuel pump
  • intercooler
  • oil cooler
  • pistons
  • power locks
  • power steering pump
  • pressure plate
  • radiator
  • steering rack
  • suspension springs
  • transmission
  • turbocharger


These lists should give you a good sense of what parts can, cannot and maybe should be bought reused or new.

There are thousands of parts in an average car, so if it wasn’t obvious enough already, these lists do not cover every single one of those parts.

They do however, cover the bare essentials, and that’s probably all you need if you’re deciding whether or not to get that used part or not.

Like we mentioned earlier, this should serve as a valuable resource for you next time round if you ever get stuck contemplating whether or not to buy a reused or new part.

These of course aren’t set in stone: some of the parts mentioned in Rule #3 can be swapped freely amongst those in Rule #2 and vice versa, it all comes down to how flexible and confident you are that your car will get back to tip-top shape while giving you the best bang for your buck.

But if you’re still too afraid to risk and gamble getting used parts, then simply spend some extra cash and get yourself new parts – you’ll have peace of mind and you’ll help the economy out at the same time. Everyone wins.

About Chad Ina


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