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How to ship automotive parts

Large auto part reviewed by repairman

Auto parts, which are often heavy, irregularly shaped and susceptible to damage, can be challenging to ship.

What's the best way to pack up that exhaust system? How, exactly, are you going to fit a windshield or front bumper into a box? The stakes are high when your customers are waiting, whether you're shipping to big box stores, local mechanics or car manufacturers.

The last thing you want to do is hold up an assembly line, which can be costly to a car manufacturer. No pressure.

From shock absorbers and car stereos to all manner of used auto parts, follow these 10 simple steps to help prevent expensive damage and help to ensure that your auto parts arrive in the condition that your customers expect.

1. Determine if your shipment is better suited for freight or parcel.

It may be more economical and efficient to ship oversized, heavy auto parts via freight service. UPS® parcel shipments must be less than 150 pounds, up to 108 inches long and no more than 165 inches [(2 x width) + (2 x height)] combined. Measure irregularly shaped items as if they're enclosed in a rectangular box.

Packages that exceed these limits are subject to an Over Maximum Limits charge and may be better suited for freight. Get tips on preparing a freight shipment, from determining if your auto parts should be shipped on a pallet to preparing them for pickup.

2. Re-package your shipment, if appropriate.

Are you shipping items that arrived on a pallet? As tempting as it may be to slap on a new label and send the shipment on its way, it's best to conduct a thorough packing assessment first. Packaging that's appropriate for items stabilized on a pallet is not necessarily durable enough for UPS parcel shipments.

Once a part is removed from the pallet and prepared as a small package, consider all of the movement and handling involved, from chutes to conveyer belts. Avoid potential damage by enclosing your shipment within another appropriate box surrounded by padding or filler.

3. Prepare your auto parts for shipping.

A soggy box does not make for a stable shipping container. Be sure to drain and empty any lubricants or liquids from used auto parts to prevent leaks. While you're at it, wipe off any grease and residue with a clean dust cloth, and disassemble any delicate components so you can wrap them individually.

4. Choose an appropriate box or shipping container.

Selecting a box that’s sturdy enough to support the weight of your auto parts is critical. Always use a new single-, double- or even triple-wall corrugated box that’s rated for both the size and weight of your shipment.

Pro tip: The weight limits printed on the bottom flap of most boxes are specific to freight shipments, not UPS small package shipping. Consult the UPS Packing Irregularly Shaped Items Guidelines for suggestions on ensuring strength and protection.

Cylindrical auto parts like coil springs, shock absorbers and pipes may be suitable for sturdy mailing tubes. Include filler material at the top and bottom of the tube, and around the sides if there is space.

For especially fragile items, such as window glass, consider providing extra protection with a double box.

5. Prepare tires and bare metal items to ship without a box.

While a box always offers the best protection, items like tires, exhaust pipes, bumpers and other irregularly shaped bare metal auto parts may be shipped without a box if you pack them properly – and they're within UPS parcel size limits.

Shipping tires? Wrap them in cardboard to ensure they don't grip surfaces, stick to chutes or cause jams in transit. Apply your shipping label to the surface of cardboard that covers the tread, and then place clear tape over the label.

For bare metal items, securely tape pieces of corrugated cardboard around any sharp, pointy and protruding edges. Wrap the metal tightly with a protective surface like bubble wrap or plastic film to prevent scratches and dents. Apply your shipping label to the flattest, largest surface of the item.

6. Wrap, pad and seal individual auto parts.

Cushion individual items with bubble wrap or padded foam sheeting, including any delicate components that must be disassembled first. Wrap and pad sharp corners and rough edges, along with any vulnerable areas like threads and fittings. Enclose items like plastic moldings and small, loose components in plastic pouches.

7. Secure your auto parts with appropriate filler.

Fill any voids in your box with a suitable filler to prevent movement. Materials such as air pillow packing, packing peanuts and kraft paper are appropriate for lightweight items, but won't provide adequate protection for heavy or sharp auto parts.

For heavy goods, use fillers like spray foam, foam-in-place or engineered foam enclosures designed for specific products. Sending electronics? Use anti-static packing peanuts (and bubble wrap) to avoid potential damage.

No matter what filler you use, always secure items in the middle of the box, at least two inches from box walls, including the top and bottom.

8. Properly seal the package.

Seal your box with pressure-sensitive plastic tape or 60-pound nylon-reinforced filament tape that is at least three inches wide. Use at least three strips of tape to cover the seams where the flaps meet or overlap on both the top and bottom of the box.

9. Prepare and apply your label.

Pay close attention to any label requirements, as manufacturers and big box stores often have strict rules about specific information they want on the label – and where exactly you should put it on the package.

Customize your shipping label online with UPS Internet Shipping to meet any specific label requirements and avoid costly chargebacks.

If your package weighs more than 70 pounds, apply a yellow UPS heavy package sticker to your shipment as well. Write the weight of your package on the label, and stick it to the right of the address label.

10. Track your package.

Transparency, visibility and communication are crucial for good customer service. Provide your recipients with real-time tracking information through UPS so they know exactly when to expect their delivery.

Ready to get started?

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Related Resources:

UPS Automotive Industry Solutions

Hedges & Company: Car Parts Industry Trends

Downtime Costs Auto Industry $22k/Minute – Survey

Find Out More

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