Upgrade or standard parts

Tiny
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  • 1998 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR
  • 5.4L
  • V8
  • 4WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 162,127 MILES
By experience will OEM be less of a factor or will upgrading to aftermarket parts with so called special purposes be any better?
Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 8:46 AM

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Tiny
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What are you referring to? Engine parts? Tires? Light bulbs?

If you're referring to suspension parts like ball joints and tie rod ends, the lowest quality you can get is original parts from the dealer. Anything aftermarket is superior. Some parts can only come from the manufacturer. Some parts from auto parts stores are actually supplied by the same manufacturer that supplied them to Ford.
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 2:40 PM
Tiny
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What about electrical parts including spark plugs coils, starter etc?
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 2:52 PM
Tiny
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Ford owners have been known to run into problems using spark plugs of other brands. Also, stay away from "improved" spark plugs with gimmicks like "split-fire" and special metal alloys. If the engine was not designed to need them, at best, you are wasting your money on things you cannot take advantage of, and at worst, your ignition system will not be able to develop the higher voltage needed to make the spark occur. The goal of any spark plug is to provide a place for a spark to occur. With special metal alloys, you still just get a spark.

Ford has had a real lot of trouble with their ignition coils. Often they fail by still developing a high voltage, but it is not high enough to fire the spark plug. The aftermarket industry does a real good job of providing improved replacement parts. Standard Motor Products is one manufacturer that has been doing this for a long time.

Moog/Federal Mogul is the nation's premier aftermarket manufacturer for steering and suspension parts. They have replacement designs to address Ford's outer tie rod ends that fail in less than 15,000 miles, and they have parts that allow alignment specialists to make alignment adjustments that the Ford designers left off their vehicles.

For some parts like starters and generators, the only way to get a new one is through the dealer, when the vehicle is still under warranty. Even then, you are likely to get a rebuilt part. A new starter will cost between about $500.00 and $800.00. Rebuilt starters use the old housing, covers, and major parts that are not worn. Typically brushes and bearings, and any other high-wear items, are replaced. There are a lot of companies that do nothing but rebuild these parts. You will find them at any auto parts store for a tiny fraction of the cost of a new one. The biggest cost difference between rebuilt starters has to do with the length of the warranty period. You need to return your old starter for the "core" charge, just like you return old pop bottles to be reused.

Almost all body repair panels come from aftermarket suppliers. Those that are certified are going to fit with less customizing work. Factory panels will almost always fit with the least amount of adjustment, but Ford is famous for not supporting their vehicles after they get to be as little as three years old. They have very little available for vehicles over seven years old unless the same parts were used in later years.

Wiring harnesses are extremely expensive because each one is hand-made. It is not uncommon to find a harness will cost over $1,200.00 through the dealer, so we repair them whenever possible. Some people will run a single new wire in an attempt to solve an intermittent electrical problem, but that is not the acceptable procedure. We want to find the exact cause of that problem, then repair it. If, for example, we find a fuse was blowing intermittently because a wire rubbed through where it was laying on the sharp edge of metal bracket, it is just a matter of time before the same thing happens to other wires in that harness. Finding the location of the defect gives us the chance to solve it and prevent that from causing you more problems in the future.

If a wiring harness is badly crushed in a crash, replacing it is often less time-consuming than trying to repair it. A salvage yard is the best place to find a good used harness. Two vehicles that look identical in every way can have a harness that is different. Ford makes a lot of mid-year changes, so you'll usually be asked for the build date on the driver's door sticker. Ford does a good job of putting part number stickers on their harnesses. That makes finding a match in a salvage yard easier.

Almost all brake parts come from aftermarket suppliers, even those you buy from the dealer's parts department. Every brake system has been carefully designed to provide balanced braking, front-to-rear, based on the weight of optional equipment, the vehicle's ride height/weight transfer. One of the variables is the "coefficient of friction" of the brake pads and shoes. Regardless of the cost and quality of those replacement parts, that friction characteristic, and how it changes as the parts heat up, must be identical to that of the original parts. The cost difference can be due to whether or not hardware such as anti-rattle clips are included, and what steps were done to prevent squeals and other noises, and what are left up to the mechanic. When you find more expensive parts, such as ceramic brake pads, it is generally because that is what was originally on the vehicle. The advertising makes you think you are getting something better than original, but regardless of that advertising, the parts must maintain the same coefficient of friction to match the old parts on the other axle.

Original batteries are almost always the lowest quality that will get the job done. The manufacturers get them at real good prices because they buy so many. You will have a hard time finding the same thing at the dealer or at any auto parts store. Everything will have longer warranties, more cold cranking amps, and more reserve capacity. A battery with higher cold cranking amps does not deliver more starting power, at least not directly. Many original batteries are rated at around 700 CCA, (cold cranking amps), but the typical Ford or GM V-8 starter only draws around 300 amps to get started, and about 200 amps to keep running. Any battery can supply that. The lead flakes off the plates in every battery over time. The manufacturer knows how quickly that happens, and provides the longest warranty period possible based on that. Once the flaked-off lead builds up high enough in the bottom of the case, it shorts out that cell, then the battery has to be replaced. Increasing the size of that area in the bottom of the case increases the amount of time before a cell shorts, but it decreases the room for those plates, so it's a trade-off.

As an alignment specialist, I am very fussy about maintaining ride height and factors involving wheels and tires. Without going into all the theory of the unseen alignment angles, and the legal ramifications of changing them, there can be some optional tire sizes you can use. Those sizes will maintain the same "scrub radius", and the associated handling, braking, and steering response. Replacement tires have traction, temperature build-up, and wear ratings that are all trade-offs with one another. Ford is well-known to pull tricks to make their vehicles ride much better than those of their competitors so they will sell more cars, and related to that, they will put on the tires that provide the best ride quality and comfort, with no regard to how quickly they wear out. In the 1980's, their Escorts and Tempos had front wheels that tipped way out on front so the tires rode on their outer edges. The cars rode very smoothly for a little lightweight car, but it was rare to get more than 15,000 miles on a set of tires. To add to the embarrassment, that "camber" angle could not be adjusted. Camber has the biggest effect on tire wear. Looking at the wheel from in front of the car, camber is how much the wheel is leaning out on top. Straight up and down is 0.00 degrees. Most cars call for them to lean out up to about 0.50 degrees. (90.00 degrees would mean the wheel is laying on its side). The Escort/Tempo called for 2 7/16 degrees, and the rear called for the wheels to be leaning in on top a lot. Those cars looked like a new-born horse trying to stand up.

The aftermarket industry came up with "problem-solver" parts that allowed us to fix the rear wheel issue and stand them up straight, but there is no way to fix the front wheels. These are the cars that had the terrible ball joint and tie rod end designs I mentioned. Even the dealers did not try to sell the Ford replacement parts. They had the improved parts delivered from the auto parts stores.

When it comes to replacing computer modules, Ford is not in the business of repairing them, but they do sell them. There are companies that do that for the manufacturers, and they do that for independent repair shops too. You can get a better deal by working with those companies directly, but a new trick started by GM is the need to have the replacement module programmed to your vehicle. Often that can only be done by the dealer, and they sure do not do that for free. GM started that customer-unfriendly business practice, one of many, on some of their 2002 trucks. That should not apply to your vehicle.

Belts and hoses almost always come from the auto parts stores. The dealers stock all the common sizes for most of their models and engines, but they still order them from aftermarket sources. There were six service bulletins that addressed belt squeal problems on Ford trucks, and according to my friend who worked at a dealership, none of them solved the problem. Much of that noise problem has been addressed by the major suppliers, such as Gates.

Ford does not make wiper blades. They buy them from the same suppliers that make them for the auto parts stores. The difference is when you buy the replacement from the dealer, you know it will snap on with little effort. The auto parts store will have fewer part numbers in stock, so it costs them less to maintain their inventory, but they are more likely to be a universal design that needs some minor modifications or adjustments to install. A few vehicles have highly-curved windshields, and the wiper frames need to be able to flex as it crosses those curves. Watch out for some universal blades that fail to make full contact over the full range of sweep.

When it comes to exhaust system parts, most pipes come pre-bent for the application, from aftermarket suppliers. Some cars will not pass emissions testing with aftermarket catalytic converters, so you may need to go to the dealer for those. If they do not have one available for your model and engine size, they will be the people who will know what will work for a replacement.
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 5:17 PM
Tiny
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So if the owners manual says that the spark plugs are platinum it will be best to stay with that application from Motorcraft? Or can I upgrade to double platinum plugs from Motorcraft? Will there be any difference? I already know that I do not want to use Iridium or any other brand other than Motorcraft.
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 6:03 PM
Tiny
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Iridium is one that I read quite often as causing problems. The best place to look for the part number is on the emissions sticker under the hood. It will be listed on the right side under Tune-Up Specs" or something like that.

The number called for usually already comes with the correct gap, so be careful to not drop them.

Be aware your engine computer is capable of counting misfires and it can figure out exactly which cylinder is responsible. Today a misfire is very rare, unlike many years ago when they were common. Your original spark plugs were doing a very good job of providing every spark. You cannot expect a different design to do better than that. If the manufacturer found an emissions-related problem caused by the type of spark plug, there would have been a recall to address that, and a new sticker would have been placed under the hood. That would not be common.
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 6:22 PM
Tiny
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Is standard motor products a good alternative if not the specific part it requires for Motorcraft Ford Lincoln? But the way thanks for your knowledgeable answers.
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Monday, November 6th, 2017 AT 7:38 PM
Tiny
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Is it okay to use full synthetic oil on this engine with 162,146 mile on it?
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Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 AT 6:51 PM
Tiny
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The best oil to use depends on the salesman you ask, or what he has on sale that week. I just did the first oil change on my truck today, and bought my first synthetic oil ever, because it was on sale and was the lowest price. I witnessed a couple of incidents where people switched to synthetic oil on high-mileage engines, and they developed pretty bad leaks. In both cases, those leaks slowed down, but never totally went away, a few months after switching back to regular oil.

My best recommendation is to stick with one brand of oil. Each one has its own combination of additives to include detergents, dispersants, anti-foaming agents, corrosion inhibitors, and seal conditioners. The additives in one brand of oil may not only be incompatible with those of another brand, the detergent in the new oil might attack the seal conditioner left behind from the old oil. Switching to any different brand seems to be when people notice a new oil-related problem, then they incorrectly assume it is due to the quality of the new oil.

Speaking of oil quality, I went over fourteen years and 150,000 miles without changing the oil on my old 1988 Grand Caravan. I had to add one quart every 1,000 miles, and that kept the additives replenished. That is abuse, not neglect, and obviously I am not recommending anyone else do that, but it shows what some engines are capable of. I only used the cheapest off-brand oil I could find, but I stayed with that brand the entire time. I could not have asked for more from a name-brand oil.

Standard Motor Products is just one of many manufacturers of replacement parts. Their market is electrical parts. I talked with an employee of that company years go, and he explained how they reverse-engineer products to figure out how to make them, and how they address the common high-failure problems. Be aware that very often the part you get from an aftermarket brand is just a reboxed/relabeled part that came from the same manufacturer that made that part originally. For example, Carter makes fuel pumps for Chrysler, and they sell the exact same pumps to NAPA, and probably other auto parts stores.

Turn signal switches for late 1990's Dodge Caravans have three part numbers stamped on them. One is the Chrysler part number, one is a Toyota part number, and the third one is for some other brand. You can be sure two of those brands are selling you that part through the dealer's parts department, but it was not made by that manufacturer.

When an aftermarket part is made for a safety system, like brakes, steering, or air bags, or for emissions systems, they have to meet the same specifications as the original parts. For other parts, like body panels, heater fan motors, etc, the aftermarket suppliers put a lot of effort into making them fit properly, and work reliably. If they fail to meet that objective, the salespeople at the auto parts stores would be fielding all kinds of complaints. They will stop selling those products and they will look for a different supplier that has that part perfected. They do not like listening to customers complain. Most of their customers are independent repair shops, and the people there will not buy parts for their customers' cars that they have had bad experiences with. If you find parts at an auto parts store, you can be assured the professionals are willing to use them.
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Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 AT 8:13 PM
Tiny
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What would be the pros and cons of replacing a ignition plug in coil set of 8 that produces 42kv output than verses a coil set that produces 32kv output?
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Thursday, November 30th, 2017 AT 10:25 AM
Tiny
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Real big misconception on ignition systems. Every ignition coil will develop exactly the amount of voltage needed to cause a spark to jump across the plug's gap, and not a single volt more. If the spark occurs when 13,483 volts is reached, that is the maximum voltage that will be developed for that event. Think of a dam on a river that is draining water from a lake. If the dam is twenty feet high, the water level will never get higher than twenty feet, even though the sides of the lake would allow the level to go higher. Once the level reaches twenty feet, any additional water would flow over the dam without piling up higher.

When you have an ignition coil that is rated for 40,000 volts, that just means it is capable of developing that much voltage if it is needed. If all that's needed is 13,483 volts to jump the gap, any coil capable of 13,483 volts or more is going to generate the spark, and only 13,483 volts.

A lot of people had trouble when GM introduced their """High-Energy Ignition system, (HEI), in 1976. The ignition coil was built into the distributor and was capable of developing over 45,000 volts. Standard procedure up till then when checking for spark was to pull off a spark plug wire at the spark plug, then crank the engine while watching to see if spark occurred. Most ignition coils of that era could develop around 20,000 volts. If you pulled the spark plug wire too far from the engine, you simply got no spark. The coil could not develop the amount of voltage needed. With the HEI system, if you pulled the wire away too far, with that much voltage, (pressure), pushing it, there was going to be a spark and it was going to go somewhere. Since it could not get to ground when the gap at the spark plug wire was too big, it found an easier path through the rotor, then through the distributor's shaft. That is called "punch-through", and it permanently damages the rotor. The current flow through the rotor leaves a carbon trail behind, and carbon conducts electrical current. All future voltage pulses causes current to flow easily through the rotor instead of to the spark plugs, resulting in a crank/no-start. The rotor is considered to be shorted.

The rest of the story is GM increased the spark plugs' gaps to generate a hotter spark, but they needed the higher voltage to jump those gaps. Very few engines need that kind of voltage, so the bottom line is the coil rated for the higher voltage will not do anything to improve emissions or fuel mileage. It is more likely to cause the spark to sneak through the plug wire's insulation resulting in a misfire. In every case when there is a misfire due to ignition coil voltage being too low, it is because the coil is defective, not because you need a higher-voltage coil. There will be no difference in performance between the new standard coil or the 40,000-volt coil.
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Thursday, November 30th, 2017 AT 3:32 PM
Tiny
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What would a tighter coil winding inside the coil pack for a primary output achieve?
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Thursday, November 30th, 2017 AT 6:17 PM
Tiny
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Output voltage comes from the secondary winding.

When current flows through a wire, it sets up a magnetic field around that wire. When a wire moves through a magnetic field, it "induces" a voltage which causes current to want to flow in it. The critical ingredient is there has to be movement between the magnetic field and the wire. That is why generators need to spin. In the case of transformers and ignition coils, that movement is the rapidly-collapsing magnetic field when it gets turned off.

For higher efficiency in a generator or a transformer, (which is what an ignition coil is), both wires are wrapped up into coils of very many loops. Each loop in the primary winding makes its own magnetic field, and their strength adds up to a very strong total. The secondary has way more loops of wire, so the magnetic field induces a voltage into each loop, and they add up to a very high total, high enough to create the spark.

To further increase the efficiency, both coils are wrapped around a metal core that concentrates and strengthens the magnetic field. Once all of these factors result in an ignition coil that does what it needs to do, with a little extra for reserve, there is no point in adding more loops of wire or moving them closer together. Remember the very high voltage from the secondary is looking for a place to cause current to flow. Electrical current always takes the path of least resistance. If you get the secondary close enough to the primary winding, it will be easier for the spark to arc to it rather than go through the spark plug. Obviously, moving the windings closer together is a very bad idea, but for advertising it sure sounds good.

Some people think the newer, smaller ignition coils have some value too, but to achieve that, the wire has to be thinner. That increases the likelihood of a wire breaking or corroding off one of its terminals its attached to. This is one reason we see so many ignition coil failures today, compared to almost none years ago.

If you have to carry a gallon of gas to your car, you can do that with a one-gallon gas can or a five-gallon gas can. You seem determined to find a reason to want the five-gallon can to do a one-gallon job. Forget about all the hyped "improved" parts and just stick with name-brand, quality stuff.
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Friday, December 1st, 2017 AT 12:50 PM
Tiny
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Ever heard of United Motor Parts or Araparts. Com or AIP electronics? What is a good aftermarket name brand for ignition coils without breaking the bank for regular stock?
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Friday, December 1st, 2017 AT 3:03 PM
Tiny
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When I go to the auto parts stores and ask for a part, they give me a choice of prices that typically vary according to the warranty the supplier offers. I take whatever they give me for the lowest price. You are wasting way too much time over-thinking this issue.

Any supplier you can list can have a stellar reputation but can have a bad run of one part. If you buy that part and have a problem, you or I could unfairly condemn the entire company and overlook their perfectly fine parts in the future. If an auto parts store bets their customers' satisfaction on a brand of parts, and they consider them good enough to sell to repair shops, those parts are good enough for me. There is no point in producing inferior parts because that company would have to replace them under warranty or provide refunds on a huge scale. They would go broke trying to do business that way.

You have to remember too that many parts only have one or two manufacturers, and they sell those parts to other suppliers who just re-box them and put their own name on them. For example, NAPA fuel pumps come from Carter, the same supplier that sells them to Chrysler. Toyota turn signal switches have three part numbers on them because they are used by three different car manufacturers. Why should a supplier design and build an ignition coil when it is less expensive to buy them in bulk from another company, and put their own name on them? The point is the part you buy might not even be made by the company named on the box. You could even get an original Ford part that has some aftermarket company's name on it. It is well-known that for steering and suspension parts, even the cheapest aftermarket replacement parts are an improvement over Ford original parts, so this proves price is not always a good indicator of quality. The engineers at Ford are experts at finding every possible place to cut corners to save a few pennies, but that does not transfer to what they charge for those parts.

If you look up a part on a site like for Rock Auto, they will have a list of that item from a lot of different suppliers. If one of them was responsible for too many complaints or warranty replacements, they would stop offering that one. The one notable exception to my story is with catalytic converters in the exhaust system. There have been some instances, (most often with import cars), where an aftermarket replacement works fine on the majority of applications it should fit, but here and there a few models will not pass emissions testing. This is one time your mechanic might insist on selling you a part from the dealer, to insure you do not run into a problem.
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Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 AT 2:57 PM
Tiny
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Is it necessary to replace the camshaft position sensor prior to changing ignition coils?
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Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 AT 11:20 AM
Tiny
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Nope. The camshaft position sensor and the crankshaft position sensor, (or whatever name it goes by for different manufacturers), develop signal pulses to tell the engine computer when a piston is coming up on top-dead-center on the compression stroke, and which piston is coming up on TDC. Based on those signals, the computer knows how to adjust ignition timing and fire the spark plugs, and when to fire the injectors. On some engines, the timing relationship of those signals can tell the computer if the timing belt has jumped a tooth or two.

A failure of any one of those parts won't cause a failure of any of the others.
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Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 AT 12:52 PM
Tiny
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Would you buy car parts online from a website that does not return your emails of questions or never answers the phone? I like to talk to live people and for them to email promptly. If they stand behind their products and offer a lifetime warranty with a defect rate of 0.5% will that be a good aftermarket choice for a set of eight coils for $59.99 for a 1998 Lincoln Navigator? The photo is the website I do not trust because of three days trying to get in contact with them and there is no response or interactions.
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Wednesday, December 6th, 2017 AT 7:12 PM
Tiny
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At first I thought the price was too good to be true, but I looked the coils up on the Rock Auto web site and found it is in the ball park. I expected the cost to be a lot higher.

I have mixed opinions on customer service. Most parts suppliers have a regular store or multiple stores that are staffed with numerous employees. They are expected to wait on live customers as well as answer the phone. E-mail messages typically get answered by different people as time permits. Those people are likely to be computer people who are not car or parts experts. Their job is to find out the answers to your questions, then e-mail you a response as soon as possible. How long it takes to get an answer may depend on the types of questions. For example, "What will it cost to ship this item" is a lot easier to answer than, "what type of lifters can I use with this camshaft", or "which type of vibration damper do I need if my engine is externally-balanced"? Stores like this have a lot of people who do not make money for the business, yet they expect a paycheck. When a salesman sells a part, the profit has to pay for the office workers, night cleaning crew, delivery drivers, all the utilities, taxes, and insurances, plus the people who answer e-mails, so you know you will be paying a little more for the parts.

Some of these employees are paid on commission for the parts they sell. Not only do they not make any money when they are on the phone, they cannot be taking care of paying customers. The better employees understand a phone contact can turn into a person walking into the store and buying their parts, but do not expect them to discuss the weather or a favorite sports team. They need to end the conversation as quickly as possible while still meeting your needs.

There are some parts suppliers that do not have a regular store front, or even multiple employees. They may not even stock any parts. With such low cost of doing business, they do not need to make as much profit. Their goal is to provide low-cost parts, not good customer service. The ignition coils you want might be "drop-shipped" from the manufacturer right to your house. You pay to the web site, and the site owner pays the part manufacturer. A lot of mail-order companies work this way to keep costs down. If the owner keeps his customers happy, and there is lots of repeat business, he could be running around like crazy trying to keep up with orders. He may forget to check for e-mail messages until it is time to quit for the day and go home. It is also possible he does not know the answer to your question, and needs time to find one. There are times I do not post a reply here right away because I need time to think about it and formulate the best reply I can. A lot of parts sellers on eBay are drop-ship stores too. All they do is handle the money, coming and going. They may never actually touch your parts.

Probably the biggest drawback to buying from a drop-ship company is what do you do with parts that need to be returned? You may need to make the request first, then the site owner contacts the plant where the part was made, they issue a return authorization with a number you have to include, so they know where the part is coming from, and why. Parts warranties and returns are part of customer service, so if this is a possibility, it is best to order those parts from a company with good customer service.

My opinion is to order parts from the lowest-cost source when you do not need special help or have questions, and when there's little chance the new part is defective or will not work in your application. You are getting less personal attention but saving money. Place the order, get the part, and you know what to do with it. When you do need advice or need to talk directly with a knowledgeable person, that is the time to put a premium on individual service, but remember you still might be talking with someone who needs to research your answer. It is rare to get someone who knows every technical answer right away, and you do not want someone making things up in an attempt to look like an expert. I would rather buy from someone who says, "I do not know" than from someone who thinks they can make up an answer that I will believe.
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Thursday, December 7th, 2017 AT 4:31 PM
Tiny
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Would you know what a P1300 boost calibration fault code mean on a 1998 Lincoln Navigator?
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Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 AT 5:20 AM
Tiny
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That sounds like a fault code related to a turbocharged engine. I come up with at least three different definitions, depending on where I look. The best one I found lists P1300 as "Igniter circuit malfunction, cylinder one". That refers to that ignition coil not sending a feedback signal to the engine computer. One way to identify the cause is to switch two ignition coils, number one and one other one, erase the fault code, then see if a new fault code sets for the cylinder you moved the suspect coil to, or it sets for cylinder one again.
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Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 AT 3:04 PM

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