Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rotten Rubber

Just when you thought it was safe to take your car for an MOT test, you spot that the handbrake gaiters you fitted not that long ago are totally and utterly knackered, yet again!!! I don't know about you, but I'm pretty fed up with the appalling quality of rubber parts on the market at the moment. The picture below highlights the problem perfectly as the rubber has become brittle and completely failed in less than two years and when you consider that for most of that time, the car has been off the road, it's just not acceptable!!!


The problem is nothing new for me as I've also had issues with knuckle joint dust covers and a few other parts. Reading this link on The Mini Forum, it seems that it's a problem for many others also. So far I've bought handbrake gaiters from the two big retailers; Mini Sports and Mini Spares and both turned out to be of same poor quality, deteriorating to the point of failure very quickly. In the past, when I've rung to inquire about the issue, retailers just pass the blame onto their suppliers and say they're looking into the problem, but there's not a lot that they can do!

The argument is that customers demand cheap parts, so suppliers make and supply cheap parts! It's market forces at work!! It's just that somewhere in the mix, all notion of quality has been thrown out of the window, apparently because we customers are too stingy to pay for anything better!!! To make matters worse, this problem seems to have been rattling on for years now.

It might seem that the future of classic parts looks a little bleak then... is this the path we are set to go down, where things get worse and worse because nobody is willing to pay for anything better. Well, hopefully not!! What we see in other areas of the parts market is a choice... generally you can select between either the budget version of a product, or its more expensive, higher quality counterpart.

So why don't we see this model extended to rubber handbrake gaiters and the like? I think that some of it is down to the fact it takes up to a year for them to fall apart, by which time we have chucked away the receipt and forgotten where we got the parts from. Even if we did have the receipt, who would march back in a year later with two rotten bits of rubber and demand their £4 pound back!!

But maybe we don't complain enough!! I think that if your're unhappy with the quality of the parts your're buying, it's important to complain to the retailer and let them know. It might sound negative, but it doesn't need to be, if you complain in a positive way, any retailer worth their salt will listen to your feedback and act accordingly. If many people are complaining about the same thing, then it might highlight a larger problem and action can be taken.

Anyway, I decided that before I lose all hope of getting anything decent, I'd contact Mini Spares one more time to see if there had been any progress... and it seems that there may be hope on the horizon! Chatting via email, they said that they recognise the problem are trying to address it by either replacing current stock with better quality items or alternatively adding an additional higher quality version of the gaiters giving customers the choice.

Whilst we were exchanging emails, it was pointed out that they do already have a wide range of rubber related products that come with the choice of 'value v's quality'; products such subframe mounts and engine mounts for example. They also pointed out that demand for the cheaper versions is generally more than double that of the high quality more expensive ones!!

So should we, the end customers take some of the wrap for the problem? After all, we're the ones demanding cheaper and cheaper parts at any cost! Well maybe, maybe not, either way, it all becomes a moot point if the choice is given to the customer. Those of us that have had a few too many goes on the cheap and cheerful roundabout might be willing to shell out a few extra shillings in exchange for a guarantee of original manufacturer's quality, whilst others might be happier with the cheaper option.

So when will we be able to get our hands on the good gaiters? Alas I'm not actually sure as there are no timescales yet other than 'soon'. So in the mean time, I had to put some feelers out on the internet to see if anyone else has had any luck getting hold of any decent quality stock. After ringing around a few of the suggested suppliers and asking some questions, I decided to buy a set from MOSS Europe as they seem to have a different supplier based in the US. The website was a bit of a challenge to navigate, but I eventually found them under part number 17H8057

Although their £2ish low cost initially raised my concerns about the quality, when they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by their appearance compared to the ones I've bought in the past. They had a more rubbery feel to the touch and the overall finish was better.

This was what was advertised, nice and shiny...

and this is what turned up, still nice and shiny...



a lot better than the previous ones of the past... These are the last set I bought back in 2014.




Obviously appearance isn't everything and the real test will be to look under the car in a few months time and see how they fared, so that's what I'll do and I just hope that they don't look like the ones I've had to change recently.




So after an hour's scrabbling around on the floor under the car, the new MOSS gaiters were fitted in the hope that their longevity is as good as their looks.




The fitting procedure is detailed in this post here, but for now it's fingers crossed and I'll report back in a few months...

Now, finally I can get the car booked in for its MOT test !!!



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