A Guide to Getting Familiar with Automobile Parts

If you own a vehicle, during its lifetime you will eventually be buying automobile parts. Just like changing the oil and getting gas, buying and replacing parts on your car will be an expected form of maintenance that will happen somewhat regularly.

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If you aren’t familiar with how your car works, the sooner you acquaint yourself, the better. There is nothing less pleasant than having unexpected car trouble and being completely in the dark about what is happening to your car and why. Start by reading the manual that comes with your vehicle-or if you don’t have one, you can usually look it up online and see if there is a PDF version of it somewhere. If anything else, your car’s dealership should be able to provide you with one if you contact them.

The Expected

There are a few automobile parts and accessories that you can definitely expect to not only have to purchase, but plan ahead for. Some of these include the following:

  • Tires - If you travel a lot or commute far distances for work or school, then you will have to replace your tires much sooner than the average driver. Checking the tread every 45,000 miles is a good habit to form. That way, when you notice that it is time to change them, you can start shopping around for some good deals.
  • Brake pads - More than likely, your mechanic or vehicle inspector will alert you to the fact that your brake pads are wearing out. To avoid having to pay for immediate replacement, schedule to have your brakes checked when you check your tires. They start wearing out around the 35,000-40,000 mile mark.
  • Air filter - If you take your car in to get regularly serviced (like an oil change shop), usually the air filter gets checked at every visit. While they might push you to buy a new air filter every 3,000 miles, typically if where you are driving has decent weather conditions you can get away with just cleaning it. Most air filters don’t actually need to be replaced until they have been used for over 30,000 miles, but that’s with regular cleaning.
  • Car Battery - One of the scariest things is when a car won’t start and you aren’t sure why. More than likely, it’s your car battery not holding a good charge. Typically it is good to replace it every two or two and half years. If you are having an issue with your battery before hand, try getting a jump from another vehicle and see if that helps. If it does not, it could indicate a problem with your alternator.
  • Fuel Filter - Fuel filters are hard to work on in most modern cars, but thankfully only need replacing every two to three years. Ask your mechanic to check on it when you hit 18 months, just to be aware of any potential issues.


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The Unexpected

Sometimes things happen, like car accidents or major car malfunctions. While you shouldn’t have to replace any of these items during a normal and uneventful car lifetime, below are a few automobile body parts and larger issues you might need to be aware of:

  • Front or rear bumper - If you ever get into a minor traffic accident, this is usually the body part that gets damaged. While it is unsightly to look at, your car should still function fine enough to drive around if you cannot immediately repair or replace it. Thankfully, the parts aren’t usually too expensive (depending on the material it is made from), but the labor might be.
  • Tail light - While this is not a major issue, it can be an unexpected one since you cannot see if there is a taillight problem when driving. Sometimes really nice people will alert you to it, but there are other times where you get pulled over by a police officer and get ticketed for it. Once you are made aware of your taillight being out, try to replace the bulb immediately. The ticket might not cost a lot, but you don’t need them to keep accumulating.
  • Side mirrors - Usually you shouldn’t have to do any maintenance with these, but a sideswipe can leave your car without one. While by law you only need the one on the driver’s side for your car to be legal, dealerships should be able to order you a new mirror if needed.
  • Transmission - This is a critical part of your vehicle where a number of things could be wrong. Transmissions are supposed to last hundreds of thousands of miles before they start going bad. It is best to do some preventative care by flushing out the transmission and replacing the fluids every 60,000 miles.


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Where to Get these Parts

So be it that your issue falls into the expected or unexpected category, it is a good idea to have a few places scoped out for when you actually have to buy automobile parts. Knowing what you have to buy brand new versus what you can buy used is also helpful, as it can save you money in the right situation. Below are some places where you can buy not only new but used automobile parts as well.

  • Car dealerships

This is a good option if you need to replace a computer part in your car’s engine, or order anything very specific to your make and model. Typically, dealerships can also sell you things you can upgrade in your vehicle, like seats and custom floor mats. A quick Internet search will pull up the closest dealership in your area.

  • Junk yards

For random pieces of a car (especially older model vehicles), junk and salvage yards are a dream. You can get parts you wouldn’t even think of looking for-like SUV hatches and door handles. This is also an excellent place to start if you need anything related to the body, like a new door or bumper. For more experience gear heads, you can usually get your hands on engine parts that dealerships stopped producing-as long as someone else hasn’t gotten them first. Try looking in the phone book or asking a trusted mechanic where a good salvage yard is. They probably won’t have a website and depend heavily on word-of-mouth business.

  • Automotive parts shops

Places like AutoZone and O’Reilly’s Auto Parts will have the basics for when something needs to be fixed quickly. Go to one of these when you are looking for oil, oil filters, air filters, brake pads, taillights and other small things. Leave the bigger issues like transmission parts to a mechanic. There are a ton of these shops all over the nation, and can easily be looked up on Google.

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Better and longer car service

Now that you have a better understanding of basic automobile parts (and hopefully of your own vehicle), you are much better prepared to face any problems that may arise with your vehicle when it is in use. While in life you learn that accidents happen, it is imperative that you do not ignore your car’s basic maintenance.

Just remember one last thing-like your own health, preventative care on your car can definitely help prevent possible malfunctions later down the line. It may take a little time and money, but it will definitely be worth the effort in the long run. Your car will run better, it will probably last longer, and you won’t have to worry about any impending disaster just because you couldn’t take care of something small.