Tuesday, 15 December 2015 00:24

Behind-The-Scenes Tour of CAPA Parts Certification Vehicle Test Fit/VTF Process

Autobody News recently had the opportunity to learn how the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) certifies parts. This included visiting the 14,000-square-foot facility in Irvine, CA where automotive technicians conduct Vehicle Test Fits, a key CAPA certification requirement aftermarket parts must pass before they are introduced to the market as CAPA certified. Referred to as a “Test Fit Center,” the laboratory is operated by Intertek, CAPA’s third-party validator.

“As CAPA’s validator, Intertek evaluates the parts that manufacturers submit to CAPA for certification to confirm, or validate, that the parts comply with CAPA’s standards,” said Matt Philbin, Intertek Irvine’s department manager.

“CAPA developed the Vehicle Test Fit (VTF) in the mid-1990s to confirm the fit quality of the parts it certifies,” said Debbie Klouser, director of operations for CAPA, based in Washington D.C. “The VTF has played the single most critical role in the industry’s acceptance of CAPA certified parts.”

As a testing laboratory, Intertek is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 standards by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA). Philbin said it is the international standard by which a laboratory’s commitment to quality is evaluated. “Intertek achieved this accreditation by demonstrating technical competence for testing with the operation and effectiveness of its laboratories,” he said.

Three Intertek facilities currently perform CAPA program operations. In addition to the Irvine, CA location opened in June 2012, Intertek operates a 22,000-square-foot Test Fit Center, located in Grand Rapids, MI. A third location, in Taipei, Taiwan, is primarily involved with factory and part inspections.

With its global headquarters in London, England, Intertek employs more than 38,000 people located in 1,000 laboratories and offices in more than 100 countries. In addition to automotive testing and services, Intertek also serves other industries including aerospace & defense, marine, chemicals, construction & engineering, energy & commodities, food & healthcare, government & trade, and products & retail industries.

Established in 1987, CAPA was the first and only independent certification program for replacement parts in the United States. Klouser said its formation was a result of collision repairers telling insurers that they were no longer satisfied with the quality of aftermarket parts that they had been using for insurance-based collision repairs. “The insurance industry responded by creating CAPA to develop standards for aftermarket parts in 1987,” said Klouser.

Currently, CAPA has standards for metal and plastic exterior crash parts, lighting, foam rubber, bumper parts, and radiators – CAPA’s latest standard issued in July 2015.

“The foundation of CAPA’s standards is demonstrated comparability to the OEM service counterparts,” explained Klouser. “If the materials and construction techniques used to produce a CAPA-candidate part can be demonstrated to be comparable to those of the OEM service part, then the CAPA-candidate part will perform in a comparable manner to the OEM service part.”

CAPA has four main components to the certification process:

1) Manufacturer Approval: The process that a potential manufacturer must complete prior to submitting parts. It includes an audit of the factory by Intertek to find out if the manufacturer has a system that meets CAPA’s requirements, and confirm that system is followed. If approval is granted, a participant may produce and submit parts for certification.

2) Parts Certification: This includes material testing, Vehicle Test Fit, (VTF), fixture approval and Dimensional Inspection. For lighting parts, photometric testing is a CAPA certification requirement (see sidebar article). While CAPA certification is based on demonstrated comparability to the OEM service counterpart, a lighting part must also meet the requirements identified in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108.

3) In-Factory Inspection: Once a part is certified, CAPA inspectors visit the manufacturers’ factories to confirm that they are complying with CAPA requirements.

4) Marketplace Surveillance: This includes the CAPA Complaint Program and Marketplace Monitoring.

Process of Complaint Program

CAPA encourages consumers, auto body shops, part distributors and insurers to provide input concerning the quality of CAPA parts. If a user of a CAPA part believes it may not meet CAPA’s standards, they may report it to CAPA online at www.CAPAcertified.org or by calling toll free 1-800-505-CAPA(2272) 24/7.

Step 1 – Initiate

Upon receipt of the complaint, CAPA contacts the complainant to review the complaint and potentially secure the part.

Step 2 – Investigate
If the complaint part undergoes what is referred to as a “COM VTF,” the complainant is sent a letter advising them of the VTF outcome.

Step 3 – Resolve
After the COM VTF is performed, regardless of the outcome, CAPA provides the manufacturer of the complaint part with a full report. Klouser said if a defect were observed, the manufacturer must identify and correct the problem that caused the defect. Potential results of the investigation include decertification of the part or part lot.

Process of Marketplace Monitoring

This entails a quality check of CAPA parts in the marketplace. Any CAPA certified part may be selected for a Marketplace Monitoring (MM) VTF. The CAPA validator purchases new CAPA parts from parts distributors. The part then undergoes the MM VTF to confirm whether or not it passes, just as it had to when it originally achieved certification.

Future of CAPA Standards

Klouser said since 1987, industry stakeholders have relied on CAPA’s standards and CAPA certification to identify high-quality alternatives to OEM service parts. “For many years, CAPA certification was only available for exterior sheet metal and plastic parts, but that began to change in 2002, when the CAPA lighting standard was released,” she said.

Since that time, CAPA has responded to industry requests for quality standards for bumpers and radiators. “In addition to developing standards for new part types, the CAPA Technical Committee is also charged with reviewing existing CAPA standards to assure the continued quality of CAPA certified parts,” said Klouser.

CAPA encourages body shops, insurers and distributors to reach out to them to tour the CAPA test labs facilities and learn more about CAPA certification.

All CAPA standards are available to the public on request via the CAPA website http://www.capacertified.org 

For more information about Intertek, visit www.intertek.com