This is the 2nd problem I've encountered in buying mid-range Duralast auto parts from Autozone. The first incident from last year, I did not report.
Yesterday I purchased a Duralast rear wheel hub+bearing assembly for an Infiniti i35. A wheel hub+bearing is safety item; if it fails completely, then you're at risk of the car no longer operational; immobilized on the roadside, or even losing a wheel or brakes. Supposedly Duralast is Autozone's own "premium" line of parts, and this hub+bearing assembly cost roughly $90, about upper-mid range pricing for this particular part. By comparison, a budget China-made hub+bearing for the same vehicle application is available for $20-ish, and a high-end Moog or BCA brand (NTN, which Infiniti OEM Japanese bearings) is available for $115 to $140 range.
So, $90 is not cheap for this part, but above mid-priced. Problem: The Duralast's specified 30mm diameter bearing race was manufactured undersize by almost 0.005" (five thousandths of an inch) and so would not fit onto the spindle. Also, the Duralast bearing felt rough when I would spin the hub by hand. The bearing race's finish was crude and rough compared to the OEM part.
I measured the Duralast part with a precision Starrett machinist bore gauge and micrometer set to determine it was manufactured out of the specification range. The dimensions were far different than the original part. FYI, a 0.005" error on a bearing race is ridiculously huge - like cutting a wooden board for a piece of furniture a full inch off. I returned the hub+bearing for a refund, and the cooperative Autozone manager wanted to compare it with another assumed-identical one they had in their inventory.
The two parts were very different; different lug studs, different bearings, different shields on the bearings, but the exact same part#, box, and packaging. The 2nd bearing's inner race mic'd at 29.995mm vs. 29.873mm for the reject I'd returned. It may have fit?
Still, I took the $ refund over an exchange, as I now don't trust that other aspects of the part aren't faulty as well. I drove to another, different parts store and purchased a BCA hub+bearing for $116. It is excellent quality, and incomparable to the ***-poor Duralast. Relying on the knowledge that a particular brand of parts is either poor or good is actually a positive thing.
But NOT being able to realize whether that particular brand will deliver either consistently poor or consistently good products is absolutely unacceptable, because of the unpredictability involved. This is the worst scenario; not knowing whether you just bought junk or just purchased acceptable quality. Had I spent $25 for the reject part, I wouldn't have anything to gripe about, since I would have knowingly chosen a sub-average quality. But paying full price for a mid-grade part and receiving a reject in several capacities is a big gripe.
I will not again buy Duralast parts. They are not consistent, as they differ from piece-to-piece unpredictably, and the manufacturer's quality process is apparently not able to detect serious errors that can cause serious failures. Manufacturing of auto parts that are responsible for or related to vehicle safety in international markets (especially involving a large player such as Autozone) is supposed to comply with CE and ISO standards, which include specific quality control measures. Obviously, this part I purchased was not a one-off occurrence, but happens almost regularly with Autozone's Duralast line, as I read about others' similar experiences.
My advice would be to avoid this brand of auto parts.
If junk is acceptable to you, then you can buy it much cheaper on ebay or from known-compromised quality parts suppliers. There's no need to overpay for junk at Autozone!
Review about: Autozone Auto Part.
Reason of review: Bad quality.
Monetary Loss: $100.
Preferred solution: Let the company propose a solution.