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I did a quick search and didn’t find a topic on fake or counterfeit spark plugs so I figured I’d do a quick PSA. I apologize if this has been discussed already and I missed it.

Last August I was in the market for new plugs since the FJ was soon to turn 100K and I was preparing for a long trip. After much research I decided to go with Denso to keep the FJ stock. Seeing that they were about 20+ a piece locally I turned to the interwebs to try and find a good deal. I soon found that there were many sellers online that had great deals on Denso plugs. Who of us doesn’t shop around for a better price on car parts? Especially on trivial things like spark plugs! They of course advertised “Genuine Toyota Parts” “Straight from the factory”... etc and I was sold.

As it turns out 2013 FJs are a royal PITA to replace plugs... something about emissions equipment that was added that year that made it harder to get to the plugs. So much so that the dealer wanted around $600 for the job. I ended up using a local shop I trust but it was still a whopping $400 affair. Nonetheless, I was at least glad I had saved around $100 on parts.

Fast forward to a week ago and you’d find a rough-idling FJ with crappy fuel efficiency and a blaring “Check engine” code that turns out to be “random cylinder misfire” “cylinder 6 misfire”. I was actually in the process of working on diagnosing a separate issue when this occurred. So of course I was thrilled that now my beloved FJ was falling apart.

After the FJ spends the weekend at the shop I finally get the callback with the diagnosis. My tech states: “I pulled the #6 plug and the gap I personally set last time is gone... I figured it was a bad plug so I pulled the #4 to confirm but I was wrong, that one also looked like hell. So I pulled all the damn plugs and they are all destroyed. I think these are fake plugs.”

At first I thought I was getting BS but a quick search online revealed that the shop was right. Apparently this is an issue that’s been around for a while and I was completely oblivious to it. Here’s a few pictures of the original plugs they pulled in August and the counterfeits they pulled today. Without the obvious wear, could you spot the difference? They certainly got me. Even the boxes are counterfeit! Today’s bill was $500. The lesson is, however, priceless. My best wishes to those fine people that thought my $30 was worth all the trouble they caused or the potential ramifications of their ingenious business tactics. There’s a special place for them in spark plug heaven. Out of all things they could counterfeit, spark plugs? Really?!?

Real
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Real
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Fake
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Fake
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Left is fake
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Bottom 2 are fake
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Left 2 are fake
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Left 2 are fake
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Wow. Looks like the supposedly iridium tip is gone.

I just ordered a flash drive for my computer. 2 TB, USB 3.0 for $4.99 SHIPPED from Hong Kong! I'm really wondering what I'm going to get, but I'm only risking $5... counterfeit spark plugs are a different story. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Did you order the plugs directly from Toyota or a Toyota Dealership? If not, where from?

Ether way, A good idea when ordering parts is to go to the manufactures website and check their list of authorized sellers to avoid fakes if you can't order/purchase directly. This is especially true with USB storage thumb drives, RAM, and many other computer parts.
 

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Wow. Looks like the supposedly iridium tip is gone.

I just ordered a flash drive for my computer. 2 TB, USB 3.0 for $4.99 SHIPPED from Hong Kong! I'm really wondering what I'm going to get, but I'm only risking $5... counterfeit spark plugs are a different story. Thanks for sharing.
Not just $5 you're risking. Also risking losing 2 TB of data.
 

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Not just $5 you're risking. Also risking losing 2 TB of data.
Sure. But if it works out of the box it will probably continue to work. I won't use it for long term storage anyway.
 

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Sorry about your luck cmg1012, but thanks for a great write up with photos
 

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I worked a GM dealership in high school/college, in the mid-80's, in the parts department. The manager got a great deal on a case of HEI rotors, a part that was commonly replaced at that time. It turned out they were fake, pretty darned good fakes, but still counterfeit. The rotors themselves looked virtually exact, but the boxes were pretty obvious to be fake.

I'm not sure how many he had, but it was hundreds, if not a full thousand.

His biggest fear was warranty work. GM would occasionally send a ringer in for warranty work, then verify what work and parts were done/used. Using a fake rotor on a warranty car could have gotten him fired.

So, all warranty work got a genuine Delco rotor, right from the factory sealed box. Those empty boxes were stached in another larger box. When that larger box got full, they would pull the fake rotors out their obviously-fake boxes, put it into one of the legit boxes, then hot-glue the box to seal it. These were put on a special shelf, so they wouldn't get mixed in with the genuines used for warranty work.

I never heard of any problems with those, however, so I guess they were actually reasonably functional fakes.
 

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"I never heard of any problems with those, however, so I guess they were actually reasonably functional fakes. "

No doubt that assh*le caused no end of trouble to formerly trusting customers ripped off by his illegal actions (foisting off known bad parts on paying customers).

No wonder auto mechanics have a bad rap.
 

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A duckduckgo search of "counterfeit spark plugs" comes back loaded with Toyota content so it must be fairly pervasive for this brand. NGK is well represented as well.

Right after I changed the spark plugs on my GM derived boat engine with ACDelco's (sourced from "that auction site" at a good price) last year during winterizing, I read an article in one of the car magazine/blogs about fake plugs so I researched ACDelco plugs. I discovered that all ACDelco's supposedly come pre-gapped from the factory. I contacted ACDelco and was told that the particular model plug leaves the factory with a gap of .060", which is the recommended gap for my application. The ones I got all had apx .045" gap out of the box. (I gapped properly and when about my business.) Obviously fakes. Nothing else gave it away to my eye although I am sure ACDelco QC could have otherwise spotted them. Now I have to decide what to do before start of the season ...
 
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