In Defense of the Aftermarket

You guys... guys...


The exterior lighting products I had made last year have been the absolute bane of my existence for far too long. Even with everything else I went through last year, I never considered shutting down Redpants except because of these. The first problem was production that took longer than it was supposed to. To this day, the manufacturer hasn’t met a single deadline - and they’re the ones that have set all of the deadlines. When the inventory finally came in, there were fitment issues.

Reflector bad fitment.jpg

And as if that wasn’t enough, there were color variations in some of the light grey ones so I had to pick through and match them up so each set matched. None of this was ideal at all. But hopefully that’s all over and the soon-to-arrive inventory will be good to go. As soon as they arrive I'll go through the inventory to make sure it's okay and then start packing and shipping them.

Exterior Lighting Package.JPG

I sincerely appreciate everyone's patience during all of this. It's been an absolute nightmare for me and knowing that it's almost over is a huge blessing that will take a massive weight off my shoulders.

In Defense of the Aftermarket

Sometime a week or so ago someone made a comment in an Aston Martin group on Facebook about oil catch cans not being necessary. He said something along the lines of, "If it was necessary, the factory would have made it that way."

The obvious flaw in that argument is that it implies the list of common problems in Aston Martins is by design.

Headlights and tail lights, Bluetooth switcher kits, navigation screen gears, FEAD belts and idler assemblies, door modules, convertible roof modules, V8 thermostats, fuel vapor recirculation hoses, and even leather trim panels all failed regularly on early V8 Vantages and DB9s.

If any of these being reliable was necessary, the factory would have made them that way. Right?

Well, they didn't. All of those things have had to be replaced with newer versions, or the original versions are still being used and just have to be dealt with. Not only is it a hassle, we also have to deal with it on our own dime if our cars are out of warranty.

The fact of the matter is that car manufacturers have to work with a set of requirements for every single part they use in their cars. The part needs to be available in sufficient quantities, meet engineering requirements, and be within budget. Given an absolutely flawless part on one hand and a flawed part on the other hand, if the flawless part doesn't meet all those requirements, then the flawed part will be used if it does.

This also applies to wear items. Tires are a popular topic that I've discussed quite often. Sometimes someone will chime in with a comment like, "What's wrong with the OEM Bridgestones?"

Short answer is that they suck. I had forgotten how bad they were until I got my red car back from the guy whose FEAD belt I cut without having a replacement. I asked him what he thought of the BC Racing coilovers and his reply surprised me. He said the coilovers were great at driving speeds but he didn't like how rough they were at low speeds, like in a neighborhood or parking lot.

I'd never felt that so I was a bit confused until I remembered that I'd just swapped a set of OEM wheels and tires back on the car after selling the BC Forged HCA383 wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. I hadn't driven the car since putting the OEM setup back on. I drove the car to work the next day and almost immediately realized what Steve was talking about. It was the Bridgestone tires.

The ride quality of the OEM Bridgestones is so much worse than that of the Michelins I've used (Both the Pilot Super Sport and the Pilot Sport 4S) that it made the ride feel rough being back on them. The BC Racing coilovers have a stiffer spring rate than the factory springs - they're very similar to the Prodrive edition V8 Vantage - and they feel great with Michelins, but they transmitted a lot of the road's harshness that the Michelins dampen.

I'm a huge fan of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, but not all sizes are available in all markets. This ties back into the requirements for car manufacturers choosing parts and adds another step of complication: wear items need to be available in all markets. Things like tires and engine oil need to be readily available in any market in which the cars are sold.

And now, to circle all the way back to the comment that prompted this whole blog post, let's cover fluids really quickly.

There are two types of fluids in your car: those that are consumed and those that are replaced. Consumed fluids are gas (petrol) and windshield washer fluid. Fluids that get replaced are your engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and gear oil.

The factory will never equip a car with a catch can because it introduces a third type of fluid: one that gets collected and held until drained.

Using a catch can requires maintenance. That is, it has to be drained. If it isn't drained, the collected oil will eventually block the hoses that vent excess pressure from your engine. Don't worry, the catch cans have enough capacity that you can go for a couple years between drains. But I HIGHLY recommend draining it every year when you do your engine oil change.

Yes, catch cans do work even on a naturally aspirated engine. I first tested it on my Toyota 4Runner before putting one on my grey V8 Vantage (the 4Runner still has the prototype catch can I used for testing on my Aston). The catch cans on both vehicles do collect oil, preventing that oil from going into the intake manifolds of the engines.

What Am I Getting At Here?

The point I’m getting at is that OEM and factory-equipped parts shouldn’t be considered the only option. There are plenty of things that can be improved upon. Sometimes it’s that there’s a more suitable option for your specific needs, which is very often the case with brake pads. Sometimes it’s replacing a failure-prone part with ones that don’t have the same problem, like the bypass filter cover bolts that I swap out for normal hex-head bolts in my 4.3L Oil Change Package. (I get emails about those bolts all the time. Trust me, the non-OEM bolts are a huge improvement for 4.3L V8 Vantage owners!) Sometimes it’s adding a functional item to a vehicle that a car manufacturer wouldn’t be able to install for the reasons I stated above, like my oil catch cans.

If something is OEM, great. Hopefully it’s a reliable part because not all OEM parts are reliable. If something is an aftermarket part, don’t rule it out simply because it didn’t come from Aston Martin.