WASHINGTON - A consumer alert for car owners as a global shortage of repair parts means you could be in for long delays and higher prices the next time you need your vehicle fixed.
When your car needs repair - consumers have become used to a quick turnaround. Bring it in that morning, out that night. Or if you need more extensive work like body shop collision repair -- it might take a couple of days or a week.
But FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick says that whole dynamic has changed.
Dealerships, repair shops, even auto parts retailers are struggling to get replacement parts.
In the early days of COVID-19, factory shutdowns hit parts manufacturing hard. It's dragged on even longer than it should for a number of reasons, explains Paul McCarthy, president of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association.
"We have that biggest supply chain disruption since World War II, a once in a century pandemic, we have inflation that's the highest in at least 40 years, the greatest worker shortage since the 1950s," McCarthy said. "And if that wasn't enough, now we have a major European land war. So you add up all these things that go into every single thing that's affected our parts."
McCarthy says parts manufacturers have had problems getting raw materials, like steel, plastic, foam, silicon -- even additives that go into motor oil – meaning product shortages and higher prices.
"Whoever has the parts is winning right now. And everybody is just desperately trying to get the parts to our customers and to the end consumer," McCarthy said.
Dealerships and repair shops are having to get resourceful in a very competitive space. Some consumers are also now turning to used parts as an alternative.
Jonathan Morrow, president of M&M Auto Parts says it is a safe and reliable option.
"There are times when some customers have been looking for a specific part for sometimes up to a week to two weeks," Morrow says. "And when they realize we are a viable option, they call us and say thank you for solving my problem. So, it's happening, it's kind of happening on a more consistent basis since 2020."
Morrow says make sure the replacement part comes with a warranty.
Until something changes, car owners will need to be patient, flexible and persistent.
Both the aftermarket parts suppliers and recyclers want consumers to know they have the right to choose how they want their car repaired.
Industry experts say there aren't a lot of good solutions here. One is to keep your car maintained, so you don't need a major repair. The other is to plan ahead, work with your repair shop, so they can try to get the parts and supplies in ahead of time.