Auto Part Stores and Private Labels… why its bad.

Been to your local auto parts store lately?  Majority of them lead you to believe they have it all with their name on it… the ‘house brand’.  Years ago this was typically the cheaper part you overlooked because you knew that it was likely some pathetic attempt to sell you a knock-off, piss poor clone.

Now it seems those times are long gone.  About all of the major auto parts retailers like to put their pretty little logo on the box with some other manufacturers part inside.  A few examples; AutoZone has Durlast, O’Reilly has Murray, and Napa has Napa Temp (referencing AC and other cooling components – first hand experience from the water pump and coolant service job I did last weekend).

So what does this mean?  Typically it means a big ol’ surprise for the customer… and usually not a good one.  Customers like parts and will typically stick with a brand or two they know that works.  Putting your own label on the box only allows you to switch out the part in the box on a whim… thus duping the consumer.  Asking the counter person is typically useless unless you know them (believe me there are a few counter staff I wont even acknowledge in my local parts store…).

How did I figure this out?  Well remember that water pump job, I decided to swap the tired old fan clutch out while there (its already taken off the truck and pushing 200k).  I passed right by a new AutoZone and decided to pickup a fan clutch.  Got the part and looked inside the box (something ALL customers should do) and saw a fan clutch staring back at me… no big deal, seen thousands of them.  Of course the pretty Duralast logo was on the side reminding me I was in for a surprise eventually.  I asked the counter person who made it… and the responses were hilarious.  One guy (next to the one helping me) said it was a Hayden unit.  Works for me, I know Hayden makes stuff for the OE and can sometimes run tight but gets the job done.  The guy checking me out then tells me that’s wrong and its a different manufacturer now.  I asked if it was one of those ‘piss-poor’ clones I mentioned earlier.  He told me this was a different manufacturer than Hayden who was better because it had a lifetime warranty.  That’s when I knew I had stopped in the wrong store.  Not only did these yahoos not know what was in the box, but then they tell me there is a lifetime warranty?  Fan clutches wear out, period.  Just like lifetime warranties for brake pads are a bad thing.  They have to wear something else out since the pads are ‘lifetime.’  The fan clutch is the same way – if it does last forever something else has to give.  Its either marketing hype to sell me a piece of junk (what I suspect) or they buy these things so cheap from foreign vendors they can afford to just chunk more messed up products my way in hopes I’ll get one that finally works.

My $0.02

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