A recent YouTube video by The Car Care Nut (H/T CarScoops) shows us a hidden danger ICE cars now face: counterfeit parts that don’t work well. In this particular case, it was a fake Toyota oil filter that came apart, starving part of the engine of vital lubrication.
What’s particularly insidious about this problem is that it targets the people who are trying to give their vehicle the utmost care. Most people wanting to save a few bucks on parts would skip Toyota or another manufacturer’s parts and go with some cheaper (but still good) filters from a company like Fram. But, buyers looking for a genuine Toyota part can end up buying complete junk that fails instead of a cheaper part that works as intended.
The Real Problem Here
The obvious problem is one of supply chains. If you’re cool with paying dearly for parts, you can get them at a dealer’s parts department. If you go to a discount supplier, and perhaps even a website with third party sellers like eBay or Amazon, it becomes possible for cheap knockoffs to get in with the real parts while appearing to come from a good source.
This is avoidable by only buying the most expensive parts directly from the source, and buying cheaper parts from trusted suppliers like auto parts stores. But, cheaper parts don’t give counterfeiters as much incentive to make knockoffs, because that would be a lot less profitable.
But, that’s not the real root problem. The real root problem is complexity.
A modern combustion engine is a complicated machine. You have not only a block, the crank, the rods, and the pistons, but you also have a complex valvetrain. Atop the engine, you have multiple camshafts, turned by a chain or a belt. These camshafts help control the valves, which control the entry and exit of air, fuel, and exhaust in and out of the combustion chambers. With four valves per cylinder being common, you’re talking about a lot of small moving parts here.
While there are great reasons for the complexity, especially for fuel efficiency and emissions, there are some serious drawbacks. More parts means more opportunities for failure, which (thankfully) doesn’t happen all that often. But, the opportunities for failure can give really dumb things, like a defective oil filter, a chance to cause serious and expensive to fix problems.
Given that this is CleanTechnica, my answer to this is going to be obvious, too. If you want to eliminate the complexities of ICE engines and their vulnerability to idiotic weaknesses like counterfeit oil filters, eliminate the ICE engine entirely.
For those unfamiliar, an electric motor and a gear reducer has far fewer moving parts. The motor itself only has one part that moves, and the gear reducer doesn’t actually shift gears in most cars, meaning there are only a few reduction gears and a differential. Things can go wrong, particularly with power electronics and battery cells, but the failures are far less common than broken ICE components.
Featured Image: a screenshot from the embedded YouTube video.
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