The true cost of cheap car electronics

Recently I had a request for a quote to install a laundry list of lighting and accessories into a 2013 Jeep Wrangler. The customer sent me links to the gear that all appeared to be purchased through a major online retailer (rhymes with shamazon). As I prepared the quote, that little voice started up, telling me to lower the price to make sure I get the job. I have learned a few things over time and was able to overcome the little voice and prepared a quote that was realistic with the amount of time involved. I never heard back from him.

Not winning the job brought on a sense of relief rather than disappointment. Why? Because I know the consequences of taking on the job. I know that, within a year, at least one of the components will fail and the customer will be calling me to repair it and expect the labor to be part of his warranty. I know all this going in, yet the excitement of a new prospect still clouds my better judgement.

IMG_2306Over the last year I have had a couple personal experiences where family members purchased a couple of items for their cars that failed within the first year. First was a Jeep headlight upgrade to convert the old fashioned sealed beams to H4 bulbs and housing. In order to make sure the bulbs got all of the voltage they need, the relay harness was ordered from one of the largest online performance shops.  Most people look at relays and wire harnesses as commodities. I used to think the same way. That relay harness failed in a little over a year. The manufacturer used cheap relays that were not waterproof and the cheapest possible PVC wire that was at least a gauge too small. Rust got in and destroyed the relays as well as the wires where they were crimped on to the connectors. The result was a total failure of the headlight system. I replaced the relays with Hella waterproof relays and the Jeep was back up and running.20171130_134730

Recently another family member purchased some cheap headlight housings for his Ford Ranger to replace the old nasty looking housings. Simple enough, right. How can you go wrong with housings? Well, turns out that these housings have internal wiring to use different bulbs than the factory used. The wiring failed in under 6 months and the housings are now in the landfill.     20171130_134746

These cheap electronics may seem like a good deal but most of the time there is an unexpected cost on the back end. Ultimately you may end up spending more in the long run than just buying quality in the first place. They may work fine when they are first installed but they must withstand all types of elements like dirt, Sun, water and vibration over time. There is a reason that they are substantially cheaper. Costs are cut by using cheaper materials, thinner wires and electronics that are not properly protected. There are also quality products sold online but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Before buying, do your homework. Talk to people that actually own the product (and hopefully have some time with it). Look for products that provide real specifications, such as wire gauge. If there is a circuit board, is it coated to protect from the elements. A quality product won’t hide the specs. If you are not sure how to interpret the specs, contact an expert. We are happy to help you with online purchases, just send us a DM.

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