Car Care

How to Get the Most from Your Junkyarding Trip

How to Get the Most From Your Junkyarding Trip

Whether you’re repairing some crash damage or looking for a used part to fix that check engine light you’ve diagnosed using the FIXD sensor and app, junkyarding can be a fun and rewarding way to hunt (literally!) for what your car needs.

In this digital age where you can get used car parts sent to your home from the convenience of your smartphone, there’s still something to be said for heading out to a junkyard near you and pulling parts yourself. While there are many types of auto salvage yards out there, it’s the pick ‘n’ pull style yards that are the best for DIY mechanics. Here are some tips to get the most from your “u pull it” junkyard trip.

Call First

Unless you just like wandering around a junkyard searching for random car-part treasures (hey, there’s nothing wrong if you do), you should call ahead in an attempt to verify the pull-a-part junkyard has the vehicle you’re looking to take parts off of. Sometimes, the yard will even be able to tell you if specific parts are available.

Bring Too Many Tools… and Plenty of Water

Keep in mind that it’s much better to bring too many tools and leave some in your vehicle than to not have the right tools for the job. If you know exactly what part you need, it can be easy to know all of the tools that will be required for the part removal, but there are times when you walk by a car and realize you need a part you forgot about. In addition to your typical sockets, wrenches and ratchets, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to bring along a pry bar and a big hammer for a little added motivation from stubborn parts as well as a pair of thick leather gloves to protect your knuckles.

One of the most helpful junkyarding hacks I’ve ever used was bringing a beach umbrella. You might get some strange looks, but living in Florida, the last place you want to be without shade on a hot, sunny day is in the middle of a junkyard – especially if you’re going to be working on a particular part (like an axle removal) for an extended period of time. Trust me, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Finally, be sure to bring some water with you. There’s nothing worse than sitting out in a field of cars under the beating sun without a cold drink.

Scout the Yard First

Even at a modern junkyard where all of the cars are categorized and mapped out for their specific location, it still helps to go out and scout the yard for the part you need before lugging your tools around. Once you’ve found the part(s) you’re looking for, then you can head back to retrieve your tools and then inquire about part pricing on your way. Nothing is worse than pulling a part only to find out the auto salvage yard is asking a bit too much for it. Don’t forget you can always haggle, too!

You might be looking for parts for one type of vehicle, but you should always keep in mind that some parts are shared across various years as well as different makes and models. For example, when I go looking for parts for my wife’s 2012 Ford Escape, I also look at all 2008 Escape models as well as the same years for the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute. Some of the body work and trim might not be compatible, but most of the parts are identical. This is sometimes the case for dissimilar vehicles by the same automaker with examples that include taillights from a 1998-2003 Dodge Durango also fitting the 1996-2000 Chrysler minivans and the fog lights on a Pontiac Solstice being the same as the 2004-08 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Take Pictures/Videos of Parts Being Removed

If the part you’re replacing is small enough, it never hurts to bring the faulty item with you to make sure that salvage yard part is identical. If you haven’t removed anything from your vehicle yet, you could instead take pictures and/or videos of the process and part. This could be valuable knowledge when it comes to reinstalling said part, especially if you aren’t able to replace it right away. Also, whenever you’re removing a part from a salvaged vehicle, be sure to take all hardware that goes with the part.

Don’t Forget to Clear Those Warning Lights

If the cause of your junkyard trip was to repair something that triggered a malfunction indicator light, then don’t want forget to double check the new part works and clear the codes, too. That’s where the FIXD car scanner and app comes into play. If you have a check engine light (CEL) on, FIXD easily shows what’s triggering the fault code and you can get information showing what repairs are needed.

Finding the Best U-Pull Junkyard Near You

When it comes to finding an auto salvage yard near you, the most obvious answer is using search engines, but that isn’t always the most helpful. If you’re looking for a particular type of vehicle, say a Jeep or an older car, the nearest junkyard might not always be the best option. That’s when you should turn to social media and let other like-minded junkyard hunters help you find the best yard for your needs.

What’s Your Worst Horror Story While Junkyarding?

There are countless hazards associated with junkyarding, but we want to know what horror stories you’ve encountered. For me, it came when I was removing a rear seat assembly from a Ford Escape for use in my wife’s vehicle. I had taken out all of the nuts and bolts holding the seat frame in place, and when I went to lift the seat out, the rear cargo tray tipped back and dumped hot, smelly, stagnant water (the result of the liftgate and sunroof being left open) all over me.

What’s the worst thing that happened to you while perusing for used car parts at the pull-a-part junkyard?


Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a ’91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

Jeffrey N. Ross
Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a '91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

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