Engine under the bonnet of a red car

How to Find OEM Car Part Numbers

When something goes wrong with your car, the worst case scenario might – depending on the issue – involve replacing parts that are expensive, labour intensive to change or worst of all, hard to track down altogether.

Unless money is no object where your car is concerned, there’s a fine balance that should be kept between how much you spend on a new part and how reliable it should be. After all, you don’t want to swap out a broken part for one that’s going to fail itself after another 10,000 miles.

Allow Scrap Car Comparison to shine a light on replacement parts and explain how you can get hold of OEM car parts in particular.

What are OEM Car Parts?

The acronym OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, meaning that these are parts that have been made either by or to the exact specifications of the original manufacturer of the car. If you choose to buy OEM car parts to fit into your own vehicle, you can rest assured that they’re going to be up to the standard of the company that made your car in the first place.

If they’re manufactured by an approved external company, then they won’t be branded with the official logo, but OEM car parts will be indistinguishable from the original. There’s also no guarantee that they won’t be better than the parts originally included with the car.

Importantly, OEM car parts are also covered by the car’s warranty, so if something else goes wrong, you don’t need to worry about the manufacturer trying to talk their way out of a compensated repair job.

It’s worth noting that OEM parts do differ from ‘genuine’ parts, only in the sense that genuine parts brandish the car manufacturer’s logo. These parts are the same as those that were inside the car when it rolled off the production line and produced in-house by the car maker.

What are Aftermarket Car Parts?

Take a stroll through any shop of absolutely any kind, and you’ll see that there’s almost never just one brand that makes a particular item. The same goes for car parts. Aftermarket parts are those manufactured by a third party company, with no connection to the original manufacturer at all other than a licence that allows them to do so.

Aftermarket parts are sometimes known as ‘non-OEM’ parts, or ‘generic’ parts and are often cheaper than OEM. This could be a telling sign that the quality just isn’t at the same level as OEM or genuine parts, but don’t immediately jump to this conclusion. It’s not unheard of for some aftermarket parts to perform better or offer more bells and whistles than OEM parts.

If you’ve made any aftermarket modifications to your vehicle, you’ll have to declare this with prospective insurers as you hunt for the best car insurance premium, but if the part is widely available and cheaper than the default, you may even find yourself quoted a little bit less than expected.

A downside to aftermarket products is that they may be designed to fit more than one type of car, a stark contrast from the precise and exclusive world of genuine or OEM parts. So, make sure you weigh up your options before making a decision.

How to Find the OEM Part Number for Your Car

Your first port of call when looking for a specific part’s OEM number should be on the component itself. If you have it to hand, and as long as it’s not physically damaged beyond recognition, you should be able to find the number somewhere on the part. Examine it and once you find the quality control sticker or plate, you’re in the right place.

We would love to be able to give you the format of each code so that you can easily spot what you’re looking for, but unfortunately, there isn’t a uniform way of producing each OEM number. In fact, every manufacturer will have OEM numbers that look different, the only real similarities being that they’re alphanumeric and will sometimes (but not always) contain dashes.

For example, Volvo’s part numbers are fairly simple; all numbers with no dashes. Mazda, on the other hand, fill their part numbers with letters & numbers and break them up with dashes. Some parts are split into 3 sections. Other part numbers have 4 sections.

  • Volvo Rotor Screw (2016 – 2021): 30640811
  • Mazda Reservoir Cap (2013 – 2020): KD33-43-55 YD

To the uninitiated, it would be hard to recognise that these are both OEM part numbers. But, now you know where to look, you’ll be able to identify the part numbers of every piece of your vehicle.

An alternative method, for times when you don’t have the part that needs replacing, or if the number is illegible, would require you to contact the original manufacturer and ask them for the part number. Once they provide you with the number, you’re free to search around for the part.

Thirdly, you could always resort to using your car’s VIN number to find the OEM part number you need. VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number and is as unique as you are, differentiating your car even from the exact same make and model builds that left the factory alongside it.

Locating your car’s VIN number is really quite easy, but you may have never even noticed it before. Stand outside the car, next to the passenger-side front wheel, then take a look at the dashboard. Direct your attention towards the bottom of the windscreen, right about where the glass meets the dash. In that area, you should see a 17-digit alphanumeric code which, at a glance, seems like gibberish.

Actually, the code contains information relative to your car and your car only, so it’s incredibly useful when you want to find parts that are guaranteed to fit your vehicle. It also happens to be great for identifying your car if it’s stolen!

Youngcardriver.com has put together this image explaining what each section of the VIN number means:

VIN explanation digram

If, for whatever reason, you can’t find the VIN number on your dashboard there are several other places that you can look, starting with your V5C logbook.

On the car itself, however, check in the following places:

  • Driver’s side front door frame column
  • Machined pad on the front of the engine
  • Inside the left side wheel arch
  • Steering wheel or steering column
  • Radiator support bracket

Once you’ve found your VIN number, most part dealers will be able to use it to find out which parts will fit your vehicle.

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How to Tell the Difference Between OEM & Aftermarket Parts

Once you’ve found the relevant part number and you know what will fit in or on your car, it’s time to decide whether you want to go down the OEM or aftermarket route. Bear in mind that unless you know exactly what you’re looking at, you might struggle to even tell the difference. Genuine parts will carry the branding of the original manufacturer, and OEM parts may do the same – or of the company that made them for the original team. Aftermarket, however, will be branded entirely differently and with the logo and packaging of the third party company that made them. There are other differences, so here’s what separates OEM and aftermarket. There are pros and cons for each.

  • OEM parts are considerably more expensive than aftermarket parts, due to their bespoke nature and the fact that they’re produced directly by or through the original manufacturer.
  • Aftermarket parts are more of a one-size-fits-all solution, or in some cases, it’s one-size-kind-of-fits-all. With OEM parts, you’re guaranteed a perfect fit, which some people may think justifies the larger price tag.
  • When buying OEM, you can buy with confidence that you’re getting a ‘real’ product. Aftermarket parts have the potential to be a little more shady, with counterfeits also being produced. Of course, there will also be counterfeit parts labelled as genuine, so do some research into the seller, too.
  • Quality and performance can also be an area of difference for aftermarket and OEM parts. But, if you’re expecting OEM parts to be better without question, you’re not entirely correct. Sure, it’s quite likely that an OEM part will be better quality (you usually get what you pay for, after all) but that’s not always the case. Some aftermarket manufacturers can design and build car parts with the best of them, matching or even surpassing the mechanics that your car’s creators built for your vehicle.

There’s a lot to think about when deciding what to buy, but now you’re equipped with the details to make an informed decision.

If your car is falling apart from the inside and your new part expenditure is growing month on month, maybe it’s time to cut your losses, sell it for scrap or salvage and find something new. Here at Scrap Car Comparison, we can find you the best deals from scrap car buyers around the country in just 30 seconds. They’ll collect at no extra cost, so find scrap car buyers near you and sell your car today!

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