Fake brakes 101: How to tell counterfeit brakes from genuine ones

Fake it 'till you brake it
by Drei Laurel | Sep 17, 2017

For obvious reasons, your ride's brakes aren't something you want to scrimp on. Having a vehicle equipped with a solid set of brakes—regardless of whether you're on the race track or simply driving to the office—can spell the difference between a close call or a trip to the hospital.

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With that in mind, counterfeit brakes and brake kits are definitely something to keep a lookout for. Fake manufacturers have become so good at replicating branded brakes that even reputable aftermarket dealers and garages can be fooled. Even worse, some establishments or individuals actually sell these knockoffs knowing full well they aren't genuine. These fakes may look like the real thing, but remember that their build quality and the materials used aren't up to spec.

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You need to do your homework, especially when you're straying away from OEMs. Yes, there's a wide variety of aftermarket brakes available out there with different levels of performance. Many of these are priced fairly competitively, too. Just be sure to watch out for the following:

1) The seller. Again, even legitimate businesses can fall for counterfeit products. But if you have concerns about the legitimacy of a seller, contact the official distributor or check with their main office to be sure. If you're buying online, be sure to read comments and reviews.

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2) The price. If a set of brakes' price is too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of huge 'discounts' and 'deals,' especially online. A quick search for aftermarket brakes in the automotive sections of online marketplaces will yield a doozy of results. We came across brakes which went for as low as P700, which is very suspicious. Keep in mind that some unscrupulous sellers will actually slap fakes with believable price tags to help pass it off as original.

If you're not sure of a product's market value, do your homework. Consult trustworthy sources such as reputable vendors, representatives or salespersons (legitimate ones of course) from your brand of choice, or people you know who are familiar with the aftermarket scene. Again, ring up the official distributor if you want.

3) Packaging and security features. Many legitimate aftermarket products come with packaging equipped with several security features. Some even come with QR codes which, when scanned via smartphone, can validate a product online. Check for signs of tampering (a legitimate box doesn't necessarily mean its contents are legitimate) or anything off with packaging or labeling.

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Remember: These counterfeiters are good, but not perfect. A well-trained eye and knowledge of the product is an excellent line of defense against fake brakes or other merchandise.

4) The catalogue. This is something that's simple to do, yet commonly overlooked. For one thing, be sure that the brand on the label actually sells brakes—no doubt there'll be counterfeiters out there who'll simply slap a brand on a box in hope of fooling someone (sadly, they sometime succeed). Check the official distributor's or brand's online catalogue to see if it is indeed selling a certain item, right down to the product code.

Another thing: Depending on the manufacturer, some brake sets are only sold as just that—sets. They're not sold by part or component. Keep an eye out for this in catalogues as well.

5) Durability and performance. Now, here's where it gets tricky. Your new brakes' performance will depend heavily on your driving style and how often you use them. Still, there are telltale signs to watch out for.

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Firstly, if wear and tear begin to show on the pads or rotors too early, immediately check with the seller. If there's damage early on to a supposedly authentic set of brakes which are properly installed, something might be up. This can be seen in the form of crumbling, small cracks, uneven wear, too much residue, or even strange noises.

Then there's the feel. Fake or low quality brakes will feel different from what you're used to; they'll either bite too hard, not hard enough, too late or too early. Well, if they bite at all, that is. Braking distance will feel longer or inconsistent, too. What's more, fake or low quality brakes could cause heating issues.


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PHOTO: Ian Magbanua
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