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Understanding The VIN

by james on 02 Sep 2016
Understanding the VIN   Every vehicle manufactured since 1954 carries a unique identifier, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).  Since 1979 there has been a global VIN standard so that all VIN’s follow the same format.  The VIN, as its name suggests, identifies the car uniquely, and the manufacturer releases information associated with the VIN.  As manufacturers offer an increasingly wide and deep set of ‘options’ with new vehicles, the VIN becomes more and more important in identifying which parts fit which particular vehicle.   Fortunately for me (and for you, too), MINI and Porsche have stuck to fairly well defined formulae for their cars, so that a lot of the time components such as brakes, clutches and service items can be identified by knowing the car’s model and year.  One notable distinction is identifying the correct steering column switch assembly for 986 Boxster and 996 series 911’s.  In these cars there were 4 different switch assemblies offered: Two lever switch Three lever switch with cruise control Four lever witch with cruise control and onboard computer Three lever switch with onboard computer but no cruise control (this option was mostly fitted to GT3 models)   The manufacturers work with their chosen software partner to make the information available, usually at a price.  So, if you want to look up Porsche information, filtered by VIN, you can subscribe to a service called Partslink24, which provides parts diagrams for every roadgoing model Porsche ever built, from the 356 up to the new (at the time of writing) Boxster and Cayman 718.  (Taking time out en route to geek out over the 959, Carrera GT and 918.)   MINI owners can also use Partslink24 to get information about their cars, but if you have a MINI, you can also get car-specific information at (Note that MINI’s are searchable by the serial number, which is the last 7 characters of the VIN).   The following table breaks down the 17 characters of the VIN:   Char Value/Meaning 1 Manufacturer identifier MINI use WMW Porsche use WP0 for sports cars, WP1 for SUV’s 2 3 4 General vehicle characteristics.  Australian Porsches will all have ‘ZZZ’ in position 4-6 and the first 2 characters of the model code, followed by a Z in position 9. 5 6 7 8 9 10 Position 10 – 17 are used for vehicle specific information. 11 12 13 14 15 16 17   …and here is a sample Porsche VIN in detail:   W Germany (‘W’ is a carry over from West Germany) P Porsche 0 Sports Car Z These three are always Z for Australian delivered cars Z Z 9 First two characters of the model type 9 Z Always a Z for Australian delivered cars B 2011 model year S Made in Stuttgart 7 Third character of the model type – so this car is a 997 1 Not used in Australia 3 Serial number (designates vehicle type in US market) 1 8 2   Fortunately, for most of the parts sold by Master Parts, it’s enough to know your car’s model year, but if you are ever unsure of the correct part for your car, feel free to call, email or contact us online to identify the right part for your car.

Who Made This?

by james on 22 Dec 2015
Who Made This?   In the world of medicine, you will often have the choice between brand name drugs or generic equivalents.  Developing new (pharmaceutical drugs) is big business.  To protect the company’s investment in R&D, the drug company has a window during which their patented drug may not be copied.  The drug company has a short-lived monopoly, and generally prices the drug the way you would expect a monopolist to price, i.e, they charge like a wounded bull.  Once the patent expires, other companies may market their versions of the drug and all those lovely free market forces come into play, so generic drugs are usually vastly cheaper than the brand name drug.   With drugs, unless you are an analytical chemist, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are buying.  (Although if you want to test for fake little blue pills, it’s not hard.)  Judging by the enormous numbers of spam emails which I receive for gentlemen’s strengthening tablets, there is an enormous market out there for fake pharmaceuticals.  And where a generic drug contains the same active ingredient as the brand name equivalent, a fake drug is exactly that: a sugar coated piece of chalk.   There’s a strong incentive to make fake drugs: the margins are enormous.  I don’t know what the chalk costs, but having researched this stuff, for purely academic reasons, I suspect I am in the wrong business entirely.  The little blue pills sell for around $4 each.  That’s good margin for chalk!   In the world of car parts, it’s a similar story, with hopefully a lot less spam involved.  The pecking order for car parts goes mostly like this: Genuine Parts OEM Parts Aftermarket Parts Fake Parts   Genuine parts carry the marque’s branding.  For some parts, there is no option.  If you want a steering column switch for your Porsche Boxster or 996, it’s a genuine Porsche part.   OEM parts are the same parts as fitted in the factory, but with the manufacturer’s branding.  If you buy a genuine MINI oil filter, you get a Mahle filter in a MINI box.  If you buy genuine Porsche brake pads, you get either Pagid or Textar pads in a Porsche box.  What you don’t get with OEM parts is the ‘genuine’ price.  This is why Master Parts sells OEM parts as far as possible.    Aftermarket parts covers a broad range, from high quality items manufactured by reputable brands, to parts that are just plain junk.  If a Mahle oil filter for a particular car is not the factory fitment, then that filter is not OEM, but it can get murky.  F’rinstance if Porsche use a Mahle oil filter for one model, and a Mann cabin air filter, then Mahle are OEM for oil filters, but aftermarket for cabin filters for that model.  Some aftermarket parts are indistinguishable from OEM (and genuine) parts, and in some cases it doesn’t really matter.  Cabin air filters are probably a good example.  There’s probably very little down side risk to using an aftermarket cabin air filter, but you’d be brave if you made it your mission in life to seek out the cheapest oil filter for your car.   The tricky thing with the term ‘aftermarket’ parts is that it covers everything from totally unserviceable items that bear a passing resemblance to useful car parts to items that are substantial improvements over the factory fitted items.  Within the Master Parts range, examples of aftermarket parts that are upgrades from factory fit items are: Numeric Racing shifters and cables for 996/7 and 986/7 models BMP aluminium coolant reservoirs for R53 MINI Cooper S L and N Engineering IMS bearing updates for 996 and 986 model Porsches   And then there are fake parts.  Piracy in car parts really does exist.  I’ve been shown examples of fake oil filters, air filters, clutch components and brake pads.  It goes without saying that buying fake parts is just not worth it.  Of course, nobody would knowingly buy fake parts but the old wisdom holds true: if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.   So, the question arises: If you have a choice, which car parts should you buy?  The answer is simple:  First prize is OEM, where this is available.  You get genuine part quality without genuine part prices.  If OEM is not available, look for OEM equivalent aftermarket parts.  Within the parts you’ll find on we’ve made every effort to indicate the part’s manufacturer, and if you are interested in a part that doesn’t have a manufacturer identified, please ask.  

Who's Driving This Thing?

 by james on 26 May 2014 |
No Comment
Cars are taking over the world!
The rot started to set in with the introduction of ABS braking.  For as long as I’ve known the option, I’ve preferred cars that do nothing for me, but what I ask them to do.  As a result, I find myself increasingly drawn to older cars.  And, giving my age away a bit, I find it scary that some of those “older cars” are models that I recall as brand new cars.  If you’re laughing at that, don’t.  It’ll happen to you sooner than you think.
Apple has announced an initiative to integrate their CarPlay technology with cars from Mercedes, Ferrari and Volvo, and is in talks with several other manufacturers.  An Apple marketing executive is quoted as saying “CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car”, other manufacturers already have links to tap into Apple’s hands-free technology.  While there is an argument that says that bored drivers are easily distracted and therefore more accident-prone, does anybody seriously think that offering motorists “incredible experiences” is a clever idea?
The ability to cover hundreds of kilometres in a single day, or cross a city in minutes is already an “incredible experience”.  The incredible experience of being in charge of over a ton of metal, capable of injuring its occupants and the occupants of similar missiles, not to mention those poor schlubs reliant on their own legs to get around demands fewer driver distractions, not more.
When they’re not offering us “incredible experiences”, tech companies are working on delivering autonomous cars.  Google are road testing driverless cars in the US.  Audi is likely to launch a self-driving car in 2016, according to this article which is kind of ironic, given that according to another article a woman was trapped inside her Audi when the car’s keyless entry malfunctioned and locked itself.  The thought of going from a car that can’t remember where its keys are to one that can keep track of everything else stretches credibility.
One of the necessary evils of responsible motoring is the requirement to be insured.  The first case involving person A’s autonomous car driving into person B’s autonomous car will be an interesting one from a legal point of view.  Expect to see an unseemly rush of insurance companies falling over one another to avoid liability while government authorities wring their hands and bounce from foot to foot while they try to decide whether to hold the vehicle manufacturer, the software writer or the “driver” responsible.
“Why Things Bite Back” is book by Edward Tenner, which describes what he calls revenge effects.  Among other safety innovations, the author looks at research into ABS systems and their effect on accident rates.  Once upon a time, shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution, ABS was an option on some cars.  It seemed that accident rates for cars equipped with ABS were slightly worse than accident rates for the same model of car without ABS.  One theory was that drivers were compensating for the increased car safety by driving more dangerously, showing a touching degree of faith in ABS to save their skins.  From conversations I’ve had with less car-obsessed friends, you can probably add a mis-understanding of what ABS is supposed to do into the mix.
This may be an unfair stereotype, but I suspect that most acronym-laden technology for preventing vehicle/scenery interfaces does more to keep over-exuberant owners of pocket rockets safe than it does to keep Mabel from spinning her Nissan Micra into the hedge.  OK, make that two unfair stereotypes.  The point is, fast cars should be capable of killing you for a moment’s inattention.  If you own an air cooled  911, go on, admit it: there’s a huge amount of satisfaction in driving a car that, if not driven with suitable respect, has a propensity to do a half-pirouette in every corner and then use its engine to seek out the nearest immovable object.
Some of the changes in automotive technology are genuine steps forward.  Modern cars need far less maintenance than their forefathers did.  While old tech such as points-based ignition and carburettors were reliable as long as they were properly maintained, modern cars require far less routine maintenance and are easier to live with.  But there’s still a nagging feeling that for those of us of a petrol headed persuasion, the bargain we’ve struck is not a good one.
I, for one, do not welcome our four wheeled overlords.  


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All pictures and references to the brands and logos are for reference only, and do not imply any association with the brandholders. Most parts offered are OEM or quality aftermarket parts.  Genuine Porsche or MINI parts are specifically identified as such.  Master Parts  is not responsible for any typographical errors contained within the site.   Information within this website is for reference only.   It is your responsibility to verify that you are technically competent to carry out repair and maintenance procedures.  By entering this site, you agree to hold Master Parts free from any liability arising out of the use of any information contained within.
Master Parts is Australian owned and operated in Australia, for Australian customers.
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