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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 2014

Achilles' Heel and the Pursuit of Perfection

 by james on 24 Feb 2014 |
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Even the greatest, despite enormous effort, are flawed.  In Homer's Iliad, Achilles was the greatest warrior.  His mother was Thetis, a nymph, and his father was a king.  Thetis tried to make her son immortal, by dipping him in the river Styx.  Despite being a nymph, or possibly because she was more beautiful than clever, it never occurred to her to double-dip him.  And so he had one weak point on his entire body.  His heel, where Thetis held Achilles when she dipped him the Styx.   And that heel, a small, weak piece of flesh, was enough to be Achilles's undoing.  A Trojan arrow pierced his heel and he died.  And the rest, as the saying goes, was history.  Or, in this case, myth and legend. In the olden days, sports car manufacturers could double dip their progeny in the Styx.  More accurately, they could develop their cars in endurance racing, before releasing heroic motor cars to the public.  Ever shorter product lifecycles with equally short development cycles mean that since the late 90's there have been many cars by medium to major manufacturers which have had issues.  If a car went to market with an Achilles' heel, and many did, the first the proud owner knew of it was usually when his car burst into flames, collapsed or otherwise suffered a serious case of "They all do that, Sir."   Today, armed with the internet, prospective owners know all too well and all too easily the foibles - I'm being polite - which can afflict their car.  This is the second attempt I've made at this blog entry.  I'm used to some editing, but not often a re-write.  And the problem was that I originally wrote a litany of issues surrounding the models that I sell parts for.  It looked like my intention was to badmouth these cars, when nothing could be further from the truth.  One of the things that I enjoy about doing what I do is that I am selling parts that I genuinely believe to be good quality for cars that I equally  genuinely believe to be worth owning, even if they aren't perfect. And there's the rub.  It's worth living with the idiosyncrasies of a car which delivers that ephemeral ingredient - fun.  As cars have become more and more reliable, safe and dependable, they've largely had the fun engineered out of them.  As typical owners have demanded more safety, comfort and reliability from their cars, so cars have put on weight.  When the original Golf was launched, it weighed around 800kg.  Forty years later, the seventh iteration of the car weighed as much as 1,400kg, almost twice what the original car weighed.   Modern cars may have more power than their ancestors, but they also weigh a lot more, and all that weight dulls them.  A lighter car, other things being equal, will accelerate, brake and turn quicker than a heavier car, which makes it harder for a car to put a smile on your face.  If all we cared about was reliability, we'd all be driving Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords; there's nothing wrong with them, they're just not very interesting.  Nobody ever looked at a Camry, grinned a grin and announced "Today I'm going to drive the long way home!". In fact it's worse than that - cars in general have become more average.  Just as it now takes real effort to seek out a truly awful car, it takes just as much effort to find a car that really excites.  Maybe it's the imperfections, annoying and frsutrating as they may be, that make interesting cars interesting. That said, in a recent US reliability survey, Porsche were ranked second, behind Lexus.  Perhaps Porsche have (re)-discovered the secret of dipping their cars in the Styx after all.
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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.
 
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