NJ has a car parts shortage — industry unsure when trend will end
Last week, we reported on a time-honored New Jersey statute that empowers vehicle owners to retain their damaged parts after a car repair.
Turns out they might really need them.
Supply chain snags that have bounced from industry to industry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are now affecting car parts, according to automotive experts.
Joe Erickson, AAA Club Alliance Approved Auto Repair territory manager for New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, said these issues "can't be overstated."
They began with the "tip of the iceberg" of microchips, and Erickson said they now extend to electronic seats and liftgates, brake parts, engines, transmissions, and electronic steering racks.
One mechanic even told Erickson he'd had a car sitting in the shop for six months waiting for a steering rack.
Available airbags are a concern too, according to Charles Bryant, executive director of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey.
"The shops are having trouble sometimes getting parts now," Bryant said. "They get halfway through a job and they can't get a part that's necessary to finish the job."
Erickson said at the 100 or more repair shops he visits, workers have become more and more resourceful when it comes to who they choose to supply their parts.
That's out of necessity, he said, because manufacturers and suppliers are talking every day about how to free up the dam, but come away shaking their heads.
"It would be unusual if I walked into a shop and they weren't on the internet looking for something at some point," Erickson said. "So it's definitely an issue."
It seems that when one problem is solved, according to Erickson, another one pops up, and he said a lot of it actually stems from the shortages of both new and used cars themselves right now.
So drivers are just trying their best to hold on to what they've got.
"People are repairing their cars, that's what's creating this issue," Erickson said. "People are putting money into vehicles they weren't putting money into three, four years ago."
Back to the damaged car parts: Erickson said places like junkyards are combing through parts from cars that have been in wrecks because the demand is so high.
"Salvageable parts are now more expensive because they realize that the body shops can't get some of these parts, so they're marking up the usable parts," he said.
And all consumers — and repair shops too — can really do right now is wait.
But motorists should know they can still expect quality work.
"The thing that consumers have to remember is that no shop is going to let a vehicle go out with an inferior part on it," Erickson said. "They still have to warranty the vehicle."
He said this will all work its way out ... but it hasn't yet.