Monday, March 10, 2008

Buyer's Guide to Parts and Supplies (Part 1 of 2)

See Figure 1
Do - it - yourself has become an economic necessity for many of us. It's an opportunity to save some money and have some measure of fun working on the old buggy at the same time.

You'll find, if you haven't already, that it's easy to change the oil and filters or handle minor repairs, but you have to be sure you're getting the correct parts, at the best price.

Today, manufacturers and retailers know you're interested in do - it - yourself repairs to save money. That's why you'll find parts packaged or displayed with application charts to help you select the right parts for your vehicle.

Auto supply stores, discount and department stores, automotive jobbers, and other sources sell complete lines of quality parts for auto repair enthusiasts like you. You may want to comparison shop these outlets to see where you can get the most for your money. It's wise to compare price tags and quality all year, instead of expecting to find bargains on infrequent shopping tours. Sales on replacement parts are common. Weekly specials, holiday, and seasonal promotions all offer a chance to save on your automotive needs.

It doesn't really matter whether you buy name brand or store - brand parts. You can save a little money on the store - brand items as opposed to Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) parts, but you may end up replacing them a little sooner if you buy too far down on the price scale.

The main thing is to be sure to get the correct part for your vehicle. An incorrect part can adversely affect your engine performance, fuel economy, and emissions, and will cost you more money and aggravation in the end. To avoid buying the parts piecemeal, many manufacturers have taken to offering do - it - yourself tune-up packages, containing, plugs, rotor, and sometimes distributor cap. Spark plug wires can be purchased already cut to length and ready to install, or as a kit, in which case you cut the necessary lengths yourself.

To get the proper parts for your vehicle, you will probably need to know some or all of the following information:

  • Make: Jeep, Saturn, etc.
  • Model: Cherokee, SL2 Sedan, etc.
  • Year: 1996 (example)
  • Engine size: The engine size may be designated in cubic inches (242, 116, etc.) or in cubic centimeters (cc) on imports (1600, 2000, etc.). Usually, it will be given in liters (4.0, 1.9, etc.). If you are not sure, there is usually a designation on the engine or under the hood that tells you the engine size. There may be a letter with the number that you should copy down, too. When in doubt write down all the information you can find it will save you repeated trips to the parts store.
  • Number of cylinders: 4, 5, 6, 8, etc., for example
  • Carburetor (or fuel injection): If the engine is carbureted, you'll need to know if the carburetor is a 1, 2, 3, or 4 barrel (abbreviated bbl) model. You may also find the word venturi (abbreviated V) used interchangeably with the word barrel when describing carburetors. On fuel injected models you may need to know which injection system is used. This is important because there are instances where a given model in the same year may have two engines with the same displacement, and the only difference may be the injection system. These are usually described on the engine in some sort of acronym SFI, SPFI, MFI, PGMFI, etc. In addition, your fuel - injected engine may be turbo - charged. These conditions will usually have ramifications that will effect other engine and fuel related parts.
  • Air conditioner: Yes or No
  • Quantity of oil: How many quarts
  • Engine code: Since 1981, this code has been important to all domestic and some import vehicles. The engine code is part of the 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is visible through the front windshield on the driver's side. On GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles, the engine code is the 8th digit. On many import vehicles the engine must be identified by a tag on the engine or a number stamped on the block, bell housing or other location.

Figure 1 Make copies of this chart and keep with your vehicle


For quick and easy reference, you can use this form to Jot down frequently used information concerning parts available for your vehicle.

Tune-Up Data
Firing Order
Spark Plugs:

Type (Manufacturer/No.)

Gap (in./mm)

Ignition Timing
Vacuum (Connected/Disconnected)
Valve Clearance (in./mm) Exhaust

Engine Oil (qts/litres)

With Filter Change

Type of Lubricant Cooling System (qts/litres)

Manual Transmission (pts/litres)

Type of Lubricant

Transfer Case (pts/litres)

Type of Lubricant

Automatic Transmission (pts/litres)

Type of Lubricant

Differential (pts/litres)

Type of Lubricant

Commonly Forgotten Part Numbers
Use these spaces to record the part numbers of frequently replaced parts.
Part No.

Part No.
Part No.
Part No.

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