23 May 2012

How To: Tips for making the most of a visit to the junkyard

When I bought my 1987 BMW, I knew replacement parts would not be cheap. Considering the age of the car and its European origin, even the smallest parts can command a hefty price. So when I needed to replace my front trim and other components, I looked not to BMW or a retail parts supplier but to the junkyard – the cheapest way to buy OEM.

The junkyard is a simple concept. Cars that are wrecked or past their useful life are sold for scrap and left to sit on a lot where anyone can pull parts at a greatly reduced price. The savings, however, can be offset by a lack of convenience – which is why it is important to follow these tips to save time and get the parts you want the first time.

  • Bring the Right Tools: Junkyards will not supply small tools like wrenches and screw drivers. Make sure you bring the correct-sized wrenches, as no amount of positioning or twisting will make an imperial socket turn a metric head. Some parts might also require specialized tools to remove, so make sure to bring those along as well.
  • Call Ahead: Save yourself a wasted trip by confirming that the junkyard has the car and the part you want. Many yards keep an electronic record of what has been bought from what car. While some parts may not be listed in the yard’s computer, a quick phone call could let you know if someone else already pulled the part you need.
  • Bring a Shop Manual: While small trim pieces and some parts are intuitive to remove, it is a good idea to have the book along as insurance against damaging the part you are trying to reach. A shop manual will also list what tools are required, so you can plan your trip accordingly. 
  • Haggle: At most junkyards, the price is negotiable. Save a few bucks by talking down the part you just pulled. Be prepared to point out damage or wear and tear to justify a lower price.

Junkyard "parts safaris" are a great way to keep your classic on the road and still have some money left over for gas. Happy pulling!

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Kelly Williams Mount Joy, PA May 31, 2012 at 10:31
    I enjoyed this approach for years, especially because removing something at the junkyard was a good dry run for removing it from my car. Unfortunately that era is finished around here. Junkyards no longer allow customers inside the fence due to liability fear.
  • 2
    Chuck O`Gara franklin, in May 31, 2012 at 11:07
    As a salvage yard operator for 23yrs. I still enjoy the hobby, I don`t enjoy the 2nd & 3rd. call, can ya see if it`s still got radio knobs,that your just going to put in your pocket anyway,or the guy that drops the headlite ring on the ground to get a T3 headlite,or I just need a clip off the heater control,auto zone don`t sell it. Honestly with lifetime warranty parts chinese auto glass & body panels & the general public being admitted to salvage pools, coupled with every out of work guy with a pickup truck scraping this buisnes has taken it on the chin, what hasn`t went down is taxes ins. utilities. I`ve chosen not to crush the old stuff, talking down a part you`ve looked for months for & just pulled without negotating a price first, will surely produce a negative result. Don`t start by telling me were you looked first,chances are I`ll give you a copy of Hemmings, or Old Cars weekly to broaden your search. I`m here 6 days a week Don`t poke the old Bear with a stick .The next time you buy a parts car let us pull the drive train for the body & the rest of the parts you`r not using on your current project, chances are when you remember something you forgot, it will still be on the hill not on it`s way to china. Angelo Van Bogart ( Old Cars Weekly ) wrote a article Junk Yard Protocol a must read & it`s worth reprinting Chuck O`Gara Hwy 44 Auto Parts
  • 3
    D Northwest Oh June 4, 2012 at 19:45
    Junk yards are a business like any other. If your lucky the owner will let you pull your own parts, with your own tools, do not ask to "borrow tools" Haggle: NEVER! that is a sure way never to get back in that yard again, pay the asking price and the next time you return once the operator knows you the price will become lower. I have been pulling parts for over 40 years trust me on this!
  • 4
    PAT DONALSON Birmingham, AL June 18, 2012 at 08:51
    I need a hubcap/cap for my 1985 Ford Probe GT.
  • 5
    CK ND July 9, 2012 at 20:27
    They are not junkyards. They are salvage or recycling centers. NEVER a junk yard.
  • 6
    Ria Depends what you refer to as affordable. You can get a major meadicl plan, with high deductable, which has office visits for a family inexpensive, which still could be $ 200-$ 400 per month. The other possible option is a savings health plan, I believe you can get regular doctor visits but like the major meadicl a large amount would have to come out of your pocket if you needed to get to the hospital.One more thought, there is insurance for kids, I would have to ask a buddy of mine what the name of it is that can cover the kids only individually. This is about $ 40 -$ 60 per month depending on meadicl.Hope this helps. November 29, 2012 at 04:27
    Depends what you refer to as affordable. You can get a major meadicl plan, with high deductable, which has office visits for a family inexpensive, which still could be $ 200-$ 400 per month. The other possible option is a savings health plan, I believe you can get regular doctor visits but like the major meadicl a large amount would have to come out of your pocket if you needed to get to the hospital.One more thought, there is insurance for kids, I would have to ask a buddy of mine what the name of it is that can cover the kids only individually. This is about $ 40 -$ 60 per month depending on meadicl.Hope this helps.
  • 7
    Paulo It really dpdnees on if your health insurance plan is considered a "Grandfathered Plan." If it is, then she will not be eligible for your coverage. If it is not, then there is no stipulation that she not have other insurance available. Your employer must provide you with a statement about the Grandfathered status of your health plan if they haven't yet, call and ask the Benefits or HR department.References : January 22, 2013 at 15:05
    It really dpdnees on if your health insurance plan is considered a "Grandfathered Plan." If it is, then she will not be eligible for your coverage. If it is not, then there is no stipulation that she not have other insurance available. Your employer must provide you with a statement about the Grandfathered status of your health plan if they haven't yet, call and ask the Benefits or HR department.References :
  • 8
    Holly James Toronto March 4, 2013 at 17:38
    My husband used to work for a company that did junk removal in Toronto and one of his hobbies was to see what he could salvage from the yard. We always had interesting metal pieces of art around the house that he would make for fun. Most people aren't allowed to do that anymore though so he was lucky that his employers let him. Thanks for sharing!
  • 9
    Jason Colombo Grove city ohio October 20, 2013 at 16:04
    Looking for a 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix rear bumper valance

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