If you're like most people who do their own automotive work, your first instinct when replacing a part on your car is to stop by the local auto shop or your friendly dealership and order whatever it is that you might need. This has the advantage of being quick and convenient, but it's also usually pretty costly. Buying from the local automotive store can also be a roll of the dice when it comes to the quality of the parts you receive. Often, you'll receive parts that are aftermarket quality at only a slight discount when compared to dealerships. And let's face it: shopping for auto parts just isn't all that fun, and if you're going to go to the trouble of repairing your own car you might as well make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
Junkyards to the Rescue!
There are three reasons that you should consider a junkyard any time you need to replace a part on your car:
What Can You Find at a Junkyard?
Now that you're ready to take your first trip to the yard, you might be wondering what parts you can find there. The answer, of course, is just about anything. Many of the cars in the junkyard will be complete or near complete, which usually means that you can pull anything your heart desires.
Unfortunately, just because a part is available doesn't necessarily mean that buying it at a junkyard is a good idea. If you know that a part is a maintenance item or something that commonly fails at a particular age or mileage, then buying a used example is just asking for heartache. For parts like this, stick to the safer, more expensive, and boring routes.
On the other hand, junkyards are a treasure trove for body, interior, and cosmetic parts. You can see for yourself the condition that these items are in and hunt through the yard for the best examples that suit your needs. You can often find seats, pieces of interior trim, or even whole dashes in like new condition and these parts will cost you hardly anything when compared to dealership or parts store prices. This is an especially great option if you feel comfortable repainting or recovering parts that you buy. Buying mechanical or electronics parts at a junkyard is fine too, just be sure that the part is something that would normally last the life of the car.
Will They Have What You Need?
The most stressful part of any junkyard visit is determining whether the part you need will even be in stock. The most straightforward solution is to just call the yard and ask. Junkyards keep reasonably good records of their inventory and can tell you over the phone if they have a particular make and model and whether or not it is likely to have the part that you're looking for. Most yards will also be willing to check to confirm that a part is actually available on a car in their stock. If you would rather avoid a phone call, sites such as car-part.com and salvageyard.net aggregate the inventories of thousands of junkyards so that you can zero in on the closest yard that has the part you need.
What Should You Bring?
If you've never been to a pull-it-yourself junkyard before, expect to bring whatever tools you would need to replace the part that you are interested in buying. Lugging a huge toolbox or bag through a junkyard can be a pain, so make sure to only pack what you need. Demolition tools (a lightweight, cordless multi-tool or reciprocating saw is never a bad idea) are helpful if you're pulling body parts, or the part that you're looking for is especially difficult to reach. Cutting some wires or hoses is generally okay as long as you don't do damage to any parts that are likely to sell. If you want even more details, Jalopnik has a great guide on making the most of your junkyard visit.
For more information, contact a company like Pick-A-Part Jalopy Jungle.