Whoever says that imitation is the best form of flattery apparently has never been ripped off before. From pirated DVDs and downloaded music to cheap knock-off versions of our favorite high performance alloy wheels, the world’s marketplace is filled with fakes and sub-par interpretations.
Take brake manufacturer Brembo, for example. Over the course of the past 55 years, the first name in high-tech stopping power has tackled everything from aftermarket big brake kit upgrades to supplying auto manufacturers with OEM alternatives, and now it faces its greatest challenge yet: counterfeiters.
According to a press release from the company earlier this year, Brembo has run into some serious counterfeiting issues over the past few years, and the results can be dangerous: Nefarious counterfeiters are basically taking cheaply-made brake components and affixing them with the Brembo logo in order to make more money. This is not just dishonest but dangerous as well, for inferior alloys and manufacturing processes can cause irreparable damage and brake loss, which is not something you want to experience when piling into an apex at 80 miles per hour.
These imitation Brembo components are primarily limited to copying the aesthetics of a particular component, and most knock-off manufacturers are incapable of reproducing the same performance quality as a legitimate system. That means that most clueless buyers have no way to know, and won’t know something is up until they begin testing out their freshly installed brakes, at which point issues will finally start to show themselves. By the time they realize that they’ve been duped, the vendor has disappeared in order to move on to the next unsuspecting target.
So in order to prevent you from getting ripped off, here are five tips to help you distinguish an authentic Brembo product from a fake. Remember, the Brembo inscription does not guarantee authenticity, so regardless of whether you are replacing a seized caliper on an older Subaru STI or upgrading your muscle car with a disc conversion and a big brake kit, check out these Brembo-specific tips before clicking the purchase button.
1. The anti-counterfeiting card
The first dead giveaway that you’ve got a fake on your hands is the absence of Brembo’s “Anti-Counterfeiting Card.” Every single Brembo product comes with one (both for cars and motorcycles), so if the distributor tells you it’s real but can’t cough one up, walk away.
The card can be found nestled alongside the instructions inside a sealed wallet, which forces buyers to “scratch” the silver strip on the back to reveal a six-digit code. After typing this code into a form on Brembo’s website, you will be rewarded with a notification confirming that this is indeed an authentic component.
2. Sale of calipers alone
If a vendor attempts to sell you calipers by themselves, without any other key components, know right away that you are looking at a fake product. Brembo is an “all-in-one” parts manufacturer, so when you get something from it, you typically will receive a complete package that includes rotors, calipers, pads, and adapter brackets (if applicable). Naturally, if you are replacing a worn OEM component you can get individual replacement parts, but when selecting something like a Brembo aftermarket big brake kit, you should definitely be on the lookout for this giveaway.
While it may look like an original, the specifications on most knock-offs rarely meet Brembo caliper requirements, and forgers will often recycle used OEM Brembo components and respray them to make everything appear as authentic as possible. This can be potentially dangerous since while the caliper is indeed a genuine Brembo product, you have no idea what it was specifically designed for originally, so overheating, warped rotors, and complete brake failure are still legitimate risks.
The old saying that “You get what you pay for” is particularly true in the world of high performance brakes. If a Brembo product is being sold at a ridiculously low price, stand back and ask yourself why it’s so low. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is, and you should reference the next tip to make sure you’re dealing with a certified vendor.
4. The distributor
As with all major purchases, it is always best to confirm the identity of a salesperson and their business prior to buying something, and if you have any doubts, you can always make sure that the vendor is a customer of an official Brembo distributor. One way to do this is by contacting a certified Brembo distributor in your country by phone and then asking whether the vendor who is selling the product is licensed to sell said brake components. Another option requires the perusing of an approved list of vendors, which can be found here, and if the company in question is not on this list, know that it’s time to look elsewhere.
5. The catalog
Occasionally, new braking components come to market and buyers don’t know that Brembo has never produced designs like them in the first place! Even though it covers a vast array of automotive applications, Brembo does not produce brake upgrades for every vehicle out there, mainly because the demand for big brake kits on something like a Dodge Aries is minimal to nonexistent.
If you want to guarantee that you’re getting the real deal, you can always consult the application list on the Brembo website, which describes every single car the manufacturer makes parts for, both aftermarket and OEM. So if you don’t find your vehicle on this list, chances are the components being offered to you are either fake or a mixed bag of various authentic components. When in doubt remember that everything Brembo produces is cataloged, without exception, and by double checking with a certified Brembo distributor, you can help put a stop to knock-off brake systems.