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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 http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/select (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 materparts.com.au 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.  

February 2012

Slippery Stuff - All About Oil

 by pirateparts on 28 Feb 2012 |
No Comment
A Very Slippery Subject – Oil You Need to Know Few topics arouse as much passion in petrolheads as that of engine oil.  People cling to articles of faith about their favourite oil with the same degree of strength, certainty and fervour as TV evangelists trying to pry open wallets.  There are three things that you need to know about an oil in order to make an informed choice: 1.       How good is the oil?  This question is answered by its API rating. 2.       How well does the oil flow?  This question is answered by the viscosity rating. 3.       What is the oil made of?  This question is answered (sort of) by whether the oil is a mineral oil, a synthetic oil or a halfway house, neither fish nor fowl semi-synthetic oil. Let’s take a closer look at each of those indicators in turn.   API Ratings Over the years oils have improved enormously.  One of the main areas of change over the years has been the additive pack, the detergents and other chemicals that oil companies add to their oils to reduce wear, carry acids and other by-products of combustion and generally make engine oil the useful stuff that it is.  API ratings for spark combustion (i.e., petrol) engines are S-ratings.  The current rating is SN, but you will see older ratings such as SM, SL, SJ or even SG still around.  The API rating is really the only unambiguous indicator of how good an oil is, although it doesn’t quite tell us everything that we need to know.   Going With the Flow - Viscosity This section is a little more complicated, but I will try and be brief.  As well as having a pleasing golden colour, motor oil shares other characteristics with honey.  For one thing, it is a little known fact that bees manufacture excellent motor oil.  OK, I made that bit up.  Here’s the real story: like honey, oil flows better when it is warm than when it is cold.  Most of Australia has a mild to warm climate, which means that we do not need to worry about the oil in our car’s engines turning super-gloopy in winter.  Even so, oil flows better when it is warm than when it is cool.  This is one of the reasons why fanging a cold engine is bad for it – the relatively gloopy oil does not create a suitable film between moving parts, which leads to wear.  Which is also why you will often hear the claim that most engine wear happens at start-up.   In the early days of motoring, engine oils were monogrades.  So an oil might have a viscosity of SAE10, which would watery be like 3-In-One oil, or SAE40, which would flow a lot slower.  As oils warm up, they flow better as they thin out.  So a monograde oil with a viscosity of SAE10 might flow nicely when cold, but might thin out so much when warm that oil pressure would drop off.  And an SAE40 oil might be great at maintaining pressure when warm, but when cold, would not flow enough to lubricate properly.   Enter multigrade oils.  An oil with a viscosity rating of 0W40 flows easily when cool (that’s the 0 part), but remains viscous enough to maintain good pressure when hot (that’s the 40 part).  In other words, it has the viscosity of an SAE0 oil when cool, but an SAE40 oil when warm.   Oil pressure is a lot like porridge temperature – there’s a “just right” amount.  Not enough oil pressure doesn’t get oil to where it needs to be.  Too much oil pressure pops oil seals.  The right amount of oil pressure ensures that oil gets where it needs to be, but it’s oil flow and not oil pressure that really does the work of lubricating the moving parts of an engine.  And oil flow and oil pressure are usually inversely related: more pressure means less flow, less pressure means more flow (all other things being equal).   So what viscosity should you be using?  Well, you should be using the thinnest hot viscosity oil that delivers the oil pressure that your engine requires.  And as thin when cold as will stay in the engine.  I’ve found that very thin oils (and I am talking about the cold viscosity here) have a way of sneaking past seals and gaskets, especially in older cars.  So, to re-cap, a 0W40 oil and a 10W40 oil will flow exactly the same at operating temperature, but the 0W40 oil will flow better when cold than the 10W40.  The downside is that the 0W40 might be able to find escape routes from your engine.  I guarantee that you will hear people telling you that a 0W40 doesn’t offer the same protection as a 10W40.  They are just plain, flat-out wrong.   Synthetic vs. Mineral Oil The oil that bubbles up from under the ground is the mortal remains of dead animals, usually plankton and algae formed over millions of years of being compressed under sedimentary rock.  This is crude oil, the basis for petrol and mineral engine oil (among other things).  Clever chemists found ways to manufacture synthetic oils in the laboratory.  Marketers persuaded us that synthetic oils were better than mineral oils, and by and large they are right as synthetic oils are better at not breaking down under high temperatures than mineral oils.  This is what makes synthetic oils a good choice for motorsport applications.   More recently, a court case found that synthetic oils can be manufactured from mineral oil base stocks, and everything got confusing all over again.  Which brings us back to API ratings as the only definitive measure of how good an oil is.   Which oil should you use?  In a modern car, you should use the highest API rated oil you can find, and as runny an oil (i.e., a low viscosity rating) as will deliver the required amount of oil pressure.  Use a synthetic oil if your engine manufacturer recommends it, or if you are spending time on the race track.
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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.
ABN 56 151 486 654
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