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Fatal crash leads to conversation about aftermarket parts and safety

The tragic car crash that killed two West Linn teens and injured at least two others is prompting a conversation about the safety of “aftermarket” parts.

According to the Oregonian, a “large, aftermarket bumper” contributed to the deaths of the teenagers. Their car was rear-ended at a high speed by a Jeep: the Jeep’s front bumper “intruded through the trunk and into the rear of the passenger compartment…” *

A different news outlet—KGW— reports a very different assessment from a Washington State Trooper, who stated “…the bumper was within state safety guidelines and was not believed to have contributed to the crash…”

It may be a long time before the investigation into that Columbia Gorge highway crash is complete. But in the meantime, the tragedy has ignited a conversation about the safety of aftermarket car parts.

Using aftermarket parts on your vehicle

Aftermarket parts usually fall into two categories: parts that were replaced in the vehicle after an accident, or parts that were added to the vehicle for cosmetic or performance purposes.

There is a huge market for cosmetic and performance car adaptations. Americans spent $33 billion dollars last year customizing vehicles: boosting the engine performance, adding specialized tires and rims, large custom bumpers, etc.

The primary problem: it’s a safety risk. 

All car and truck designs must go through crash and safety tests before they can be sold to the public. When you buy a new vehicle, it has the same original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts used in those safety tests.

Most aftermarket parts are designed, manufactured, and sold by third parties. Unlike OEM parts, aftermarket pieces have not been safety-tested by the manufacturer for use on the vehicle.

Even if the vehicle manufacturer designated the part as safe, an incorrect installation could make it very dangerous.

New tires and rims can change your vehicle’s alignment, suspension and brakes. Switching out your headlights for aftermarket high-intensity discharge lamps can cause electrical problems. An aftermarket bumper could affect how your vehicle absorbs the impact in a crash—which the Oregonian suggests happened in last week’s fatal crash in the Gorge.

Regardless of whether or not an aftermarket bumper contributed to severity of that crash, be aware that aftermarket parts can affect the safety of vehicle.

* Out of respect for the crash victims and their families, names have been omitted.

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