Thursday, October 15, 2009

Your guide to junkyard exploring

Junkyard parts installed.
Junkyard explorers, your treasures await. That was my first thought as my friend Wayne and I drove to the local pull-your-own-parts junkyard. I needed a fender, front bumper, header panel and core support for my latest project car – a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. From wrecked to redemption was my plan. Wayne was looking for a wheel for his dad's Saturn and some miscellaneous mid-1980s Firebird parts. We had a full day of junkyard exploring ahead of us. It is always good to have a list of several items when shopping at junkyards. You don’t want to come home empty handed.

Pull Your Own Parts
Spray can paint job!
At most pull-you-own part yards you pay an entry fee and sign a waiver. The waiver says you won’t hold the business liable should you become injured on their property. Our usual plan is to roam the yard inspecting would-be donor cars for the best parts. Then converge on the best parts and begin removal. We were prepared to spend a few hours hunting and gathering. After lots of walking while wheeling a wheelbarrow full of tools, we narrowed our choices down and spent an hour and a half removing parts together. We needed a trailer to haul our cumbersome parts to the cashier. On this particular day, a Spanish-speaking employee transported us and our parts to the main building. We paid for the parts and attempted to fit them into my wife's minivan. After a bit of dismantling of the fender from the core support we got it all to fit. Luckily my wife didn't notice the grease on the carpet.

They Pull It
Most big city salvage yards have a knowledgeable counter man or woman who acts as all-knowing gatekeeper of the junkyard. The counter man should know if your part is on the yard and where it is located. The cars and parts in the junkyard are the business assets. They don’t take request to wander the yard lightly. Part pulling is reserved for their employees. If they have the car with the part you need, negotiate a price. If it’s a sheet metal part, you should inspect it first. Soak up the atmosphere on a stool at the counter. You may be in for a wait until a veteran part dismantler reappears with your junkyard gem.

Tips for junkyard trips 
    • Bring tools 
    • Have a list of what you need 
    • Wear gloves 
    • Wear long sleeve shirt 
    • Avoid rodent nest if possible 
    • Be prepared to get USED parts, these aren't new by any means 
    • Negotiate the best deal 
    • Bring a camera if allowed (you probably won't see the same car again) 
    • Have fun looking, you may discover a new old car to love 

    Why am I a junkyard junkie?
    I have fond memories of junkyards. My dad once owned one and it provided us the means for food and clothes. Most of all it gave me the chance to explore a world of automobiles. My day exploring brought me the parts to turn my $400 project car into a daily driver. Take a trip to a junkyard. Explore the past and build your future.

    Jody Potter
    — Junkyard Life

    If you have any junkyard photos, tips or junkyard memories email me at

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