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Thank God for Junkyards Thank God for Junkyards
Bruce was in a bind. While far into the Rubicon Trail, both axles on his Wrangler broke. Inquiring into how that happened, he had... Thank God for Junkyards

Bruce was in a bind. While far into the Rubicon Trail, both axles on his Wrangler broke. Inquiring into how that happened, he had no idea. Maybe they were just worn out! Hopping in a buddy’s car, they drove out to get cell coverage. Bruce dialed up a junkyard in Sacramento and learned they had a Wrangler like his. Even better, it had two good axles. Plus no days lost waiting for ordered parts. They had them right now.

Those axles in hand – and after a visit to a parts store in South Lake Tahoe for ball joints – Bruce was on his way back to the Rubicon to repair the vehicle. The trip was saved. What a great place to spend two extra days.

Spare parts from a junkyard? Yes! In fact, regular four-wheelers learn early on the value of this under-the-radar resource.

Self-service vs. retail style

Junkyards come in two basic formats.

Self-service: Customers remove parts from cars in the lot.

Retail style: Customers select what they need from parts in the yard. The local staff dismantles the part for you. Junkyards tend to stock high-demand items, such as fenders, mirrors and taillights. But they also carry a selection of alternators, axles, and all other parts.

Some junkyards focus on particular brands. AMC Auto Salvage, near Los Angeles, collected only Jeep and Mercedes vehicles. (Sadly, AMC is closed. I visited many times, and really miss the place.)

Even if the junkyard isn’t self-service, they might let you walk the grounds. Bringing donuts helps grease the skids. That’s always a lot of fun. You never know what you might find while poking your nose around.

Junkyards acquire their vehicles in a number of ways. One common method is to bid on vehicles totaled out by insurance companies. While a certain portion of the vehicle is heavily damaged, other areas contain parts that are in good working order.

Why buy parts from a junkyard

The biggest advantages for shopping at junkyards are cost savings and availability of parts. Parts stores doesn’t normally carry some of the parts we break. Having to wait overnight or several days for a part to be shipped in by Greyhound bus is excruciating. Junkyards generally price their parts at 50% lower than new – sometimes even less. They have a keen sense what new parts cost, so customers are assured of getting good value.

Staff are very knowledgeable about the vehicles on their grounds and parts available. A brief phone call will let you know what’s on hand.

Junkyards are good places to shop for spare parts. Stock up on those important items without making a large finance commitment. For example, you might score a handful of fuses – worth about $50 – for $5. A real deal, indeed.

It’s also a good opportunity to upgrade your vehicle. Grab a like-new lift kit or set of air lockers. Choose from a variety of items to make your vehicle bigger, better and stronger. All at heavily discounted prices.

This is why it’s a good idea to stay in touch with the junkyard. They can let you know what they’ve brought in recently. Perhaps somebody recently rolled a new Jeep. There could be some good parts to grab off the vehicle.

Junkyard mechanics are a fountain of knowledge. They’re dismantling vehicles all the time. They know what’s good and what’s bad; how to mix and match parts.


Junkyards stand by their parts

While junkyards sometimes warrant their parts, they will offer a replacement if the used part doesn’t work. Return the bad part and swap for another.

Overall, customers find that parts purchased at junkyards perform well. Remember that the parts are pulled from those areas of the vehicle not affected by the crash. If the vehicle is nearly new, you’re getting a like-new part.

Junkyards are willing to call around

If the first junkyard doesn’t have the part, don’t fret. Oftentimes, the counter guy is willing to call around. (What’s known affectionately as the Hoot ‘N’ Holler system.) He can be a real miracle worker in that respect.

It’s good policy to patronize a ‘yard that goes the extra mile. Buy something on occasion. Or drop off a box of donuts as a thank you.

How to find a junkyard

The best method for finding a junkyard is to ask around. Start with someone who owns the same brand of vehicle. That’s how I heard of AMC Salvage many years ago. I talked with other Jeep owners, and learned of a great resource for used parts.

An internet search is useful as well. If the junkyard has a website, review that for specific details, such as brand(s) of vehicles they specialize in. Call with any questions.

Strange as it may sound, a junkyard is a great place to shop for spare and replacement parts. Prices are heavily discounted and, in many cases, the parts are relatively new. It’s possible to upgrade a vehicle for a tidy sum. Consider adding a junkyard (or two) to your list of resources.


Tom Severin

Tom Severin is an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association© certified professional 4WD Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and President, Badlands Off Road Adventures.