I am posting this as a review of the parts I ordered from Carbon Signal, as well as my general experience with the company. I certainly don’t want to write an overly lengthy account, but I want to include enough detail to fairly document my experience, so here goes.
In a nutshell, for those who don’t want to read the saga: My advice if you are considering ordering parts from Carbon Signal is Don’t do it!
As I was shopping around for a wide body kit for my project Z, I noticed there weren’t a lot of objective reviews or even accounts of anecdotal experience with most of the parts offered on the market. Well, I don’t even recall my reasoning at the time, but in late October of 2018 I wound up ordering the “Moonbeam” kit from Carbon Signal, in “fiberglass reinforced plastic”. I had seen a few photos of builds using these parts, I generally liked the styling, and I couldn’t find any write-ups about negative experiences with the company. So I took a shot in the dark and ordered with some hesitancy, particularly since the parts had to come from Dubai, UAE. The basic kit was “on sale” for $2500, and the total with shipping and Paypal fees came to a bit over $3500. For me, and I assume most people, this was a major expenditure. Carbon Signal required full payment up front, and quoted a six to 10 week lead time for the parts to be made.
The parts wound up shipping in mid-late February of 2019, roughly 16 weeks after I ordered and paid in full.
The parts were shipped internationally via EMS, and were delivered to my door via USPS. The first “package” that arrived consisted of the bumper/air dam, splitter, and running boards. I use “package” in quotes, because the items weren’t really boxed. They were taped between two large pieces of cardboard, and wrapped in clear plastic and additional tape. There was absolutely no crush protection or padding of any kind. Every part in this first package sustained shipping damage, some minor to moderate, but the splitter received major damage.
The fender flares arrived a few days later. These were properly boxed and arrived intact.
Thus began a pointless battle with Carbon Signal, Mr. Ali the contact, about the shipping damage. He told me to make a claim for the damage with the shipping company. USPS delivered the items to my door, they were shipped to the USA by EMS. USPS will not even accept a damage claim on an international shipment unless it is initiated by the sender. This was moot anyway, as I knew damn well that no shipping company, certainly not a cut-rate international shipping company like EMS, was going to pay a dime to reimburse shipping damage on such a poorly packaged shipment. It just wasn’t going to happen. In my opinion, Mr. Ali had to know these realities, and was simply acting in bad faith and refusing to accept any responsibility for the damage. We talked in circles for a few emails, after which Mr. Ali stopped responding to my emails and ignored me.
By now I had examined all the parts, and I was not the least bit happy with fit and build quality. The splitter, a part always subject to some abuse, was made of extremely thin hollow fiberglass, roughly 1/16” thick. I honestly believe I could crack that splitter with a firmly thrown tennis ball. The fender flares would have required major work to fit my car, and they too were so thin and brittle that I cracked two of them just “mocking them up” over my wheel arches. I knew if I used the parts and fitted them to my car, the build would be “wedded” to them, IMHO they were of poor quality, and I would basically be dependent on Mr. Ali for any replacements. By now I had concluded that Mr. Ali was a bad faith/dishonorable seller. The situation was not viable, and I quickly knew I would not be using the parts. IMHO they would only be viable (after much work) for a “show car”…not a driver. That was not the goal of my project.
While it is not really relevant to the review, a Paypal dispute followed and Paypal seized the funds during the dispute. Mr. Ali resumed contact through Paypal, and said the only two possible solutions were: A) He would replace the splitter only after he was reimbursed for his costs by the shipping company. Or, B} I could return the parts for a refund. I knew A) was not going to happen, so I began properly packaging the items to return them to Dubai.
This is where the cold realities of international shipping set in. The basic reason the large parts were so poorly packaged, was to keep the package small enough to be accepted by EMS in UAE. But EMS has different size restrictions from Dubai to the USA than they do from the USA to Dubai. Even with the shoddiest most minimalist packaging, it was impossible for me to pack the items in a small enough package to be accepted by EMS USA. The other options, Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, all would have charged me thousands of dollars to return the items to Dubai. Far more than my refund would have been. While the shipping dilemma is not the fault of Carbon Signal or Mr. Ali, I am quite certain Mr. Ali knew returning the items was not financially feasible, and the “refund” offer was a disingenuous gesture. But even if Mr. Ali was an honorable vendor, IMHO the realities of international shipping make buying/shipping parts of this size internationally financially non-viable. Important lesson here.
To be fair, during the Paypal dispute period Mr. Ali apparently got a bit nervous about losing his money, and offered to ship me a new splitter if I would cancel the Paypal claim. Once Paypal claims are canceled, they cannot be reopened. I knew full well if I canceled the claim I would never hear from him again, so I ignored him. By this point, there was no way I was going to use the Carbon Signal parts regardless. A new splitter would be of no use to me.
While not relevant to the Carbon Signal review, Paypal required me to submit a bunch of documentation, including a written independent review of the damage/quality of the parts, which I did. Paypal said they found in my favor regarding the dispute, and said they would refund my money in full as soon as I returned the parts at my expense. As documented above, there was no way I could do that. I tried to explain the shipping dilemma to Paypal, but with language barriers and canned/non-applicable responses from them, that was like talking to the wall. Ultimately Paypal denied the claim without refunding me a dime. I don’t blame Paypal too much for denying the dispute. I mean, it would be difficult to refund my money while I had the parts in my possession, even in damaged condition. But in terms of customer service and communication, Paypal proved to be one of the worst companies I have ever dealt with. It was maddening.
Bottom line, I spent $3500 on parts that most likely are going to wind up in a landfill. This was a painful and expensive lesson.
Carbon Signal Review:
Parts design/quality: C-/D+
Business Practices: F
Ordering large, bulky, expensive parts from around the world: Don’t do it!
I was just looking on the Carbon Signal website today, and noticed they no longer list/sell the kit I ordered. Maybe mine was the last one they sold. Not sure what that means….
Hope this review proves of use to someone. I wish I could have found something like this before I ordered these parts. All around, it was a big mistake.