Car News

Fake wheels are dangerous, says peak body

Poor quality car components can fail, and fail dangerously. The FCAI has come out swinging at fake wheels flooding into Australia.

YOU GET WHAT you pay for. The term “aftermarket” means components you buy for your car that are not made by the car manufacturer that’s in contrast to “OEM” which means Original Equipment Manufacturer, or the people that made your car in the first place.

The range of aftermarket gear is huge, and a popular component is replacement wheels – even the OEMs now offer a range of options. That’s because wheels are an easy and distinctive way to change the look of your car, or modify its handling if you wanted to fit wider tyres. You see aftermarket wheels on everything from city hatches to 4WDs and sportscars.

Yet as with any car component, there’s a danger and that is poor quality gear. It doesn’t much matter if a cosmetic part like a rear spoiler is badly made, but when it comes to critical components like wheels you absolutely cannot compromise on quality. Unfortunately, the original equipment wheels are always very expensive compared to the aftermarket, so it is tempting to cut costs. One way around that is to pick up a second-hand set; I’ve paid $300 for four brand new OEM Toyota 86 tyres and wheels with 5km apiece on them.

To make consumers aware of the risks, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has launched a “Genuine is Best” campaign.  This is of course pure self-interest designed to promote the OEM wares of their members, but they do have a point because there is some shoddy gear available on the aftermarket.   However, they fail to mention the many high-quality aftermarket suppliers who match or exceed the original manufacturers standards, and offer a range of gear at affordable prices you just can’t get anywhere else. It is unfair to tar the entire aftermarket with the same brush. 

The aftermarket industry itself is passionately against (I’ve had the conversations) cheap and poor quality gear as it brings down the reputation of the aftermarket as a whole. And not just professionally, it’s actually personally offensive to many experts that junk gear is passed off as quality, it’s frankly a ripoff that leaves people not just out of pocket for the gear itself, but also the consequent damage, maybe a ruined holiday or worse. 

The most recent FCAI test was a pothole test using wheels designed to look like Mercedes-Benz original wheels, but available at a much cheaper price. That should be a warning right there, because reputable aftermarket companies would never copy exactly the original wheels – not only because people want to change either looks for performance, but because of copyright issues. To be clear, “fake” is not the same as “aftermarket”. Fake means an imitation, counterfeit. Aftermarket just means not produced by the original manufacturer. 

Anyway, to no great surprise these fake wheels broke apart at just 50km/h. The FCAI said this “occurred in separate tests, one in which the point of impact was close to a spoke and one where the point of impact was midway between the spokes. Under the same tests, the genuine wheels sustained no visible damage.”   And this comes after Toyota has launched court action against resellers of fake airbag parts.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries Chief Executive and Genuine Is Best spokesperson Tony Weber said: “You would have had an absolute tragedy if this breakage happened with a family on board at highway speeds. And the truth is these wheels could very well be on a family car on Australian roads – when we bought these wheels we discovered they were part of a larger shipment so there are more dangerous wheels exactly like this in the country, and possibly already on cars.”

Wise words.  Now what does that mean for you, the consumer?

Practical Motoring says:

Do not buy fake components for your car – and that means components which are passed off as identical in looks and specification to the original. It’ll be as good as that fake Rolex watch. However, that absolutely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy aftermarket gear. The trick is to choose the right aftermarket gear, and fortunately that’s not hard. Look for a company with a track record over many years, positive reviews, see what the enthusiasts are buying, and ask at large, well-established retailers, specialist mechanics with good reputations, and long-established car clubs. In short, do a bit of research and certainly don’t buy no-name gear off auction sites, no matter how tempting the price. And especially not if it’s a critical component like a wheel.

 


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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper