We’ve all been there. You went in for an oil change, expecting to spend $50, when the car service salesman (and that’s exactly what he is – a salesman) tells you that you need a repair. And of course that repair is going to run you in the high hundreds. Instead of spending the $50 that you were planning on, you’re now looking at a $500 repair. But, if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, there is a way you can get out of draining your bank account in order to keep your car in good shape.
Find your parts at a junkyard
If you live in the suburbs, you probably don’t have a sprawling junkyard near your house, but chances are that you’ve seen one somewhere. It was probably off of a highway, and you may not even have recognized what it was at first. These look like what their name implies – junk – but there is unlimited buried treasure in there, as well as thousands of dollars of savings for you. Junk yards can be intimidating at first and you may feel like Oscar the Grouch navigating through piles of trash, but once you get through the initial hesitation the money you save will keep you coming back for more.
There are two types of junkyards: You-Pick or Full-Service
Full-service junkyards do the work for you. You are paying for customer service and for someone else to do the dirty work of hunting for the part that you need, so their prices are higher. This article is going to focus on another type of junkyard:
The Do-It-Yourself, or You-Pick, Junkyard
At do-it-yourself junkyards you do all the work. Because you are doing what full service yards pay someone to do, they are operating at a lower budget and their parts will be cheaper. At these yards you are responsible for locating and extracting the parts that you need.
Expect to go into the city and out of the suburbs when you go to these yards. You will park out front and pay a small fee – usually just a dollar or two – to go into the yard. What you will see will look like a vehicular graveyard. There will be rows of cars – mostly old and rusted – piled sometimes one on top of the other. There will be no order. There will be no organization. It is literally a dumping ground for the no longer wanted car. Make sure you brush up on how to avoid scams at these yards before you go.
Here’s how to navigate the do-it-yourself junkyard and leave with the car part that you need:
Know the Part That You Need
This sounds like a given, but if you have paid little attention to what’s under the hood of your car because you’ve paid for your local car service salesman to do all of your repairs, then you might need to do a little research. When you go to the junkyard, you will have to know:
What the part looks like
Where it’s located inside the car
What types of cars you will find it in
How to get it out of the car
Do your research so that you’re not standing in the middle of the yard for hours scanning your smartphone to figure out this information.
Pack Your Tool Bag
Because you’re going to be getting that part yourself, you’re going to need to carry a tool bag with you. Make sure you bring:
You should carry a bag into the yard with you with small items, but have some of bigger items that you’re not sure that you’ll need in the car. You don’t want to get caught without the right tool.
Get the Part
Once you find your treasure, you’ve got to get it out. You’ll use the tools you brought to get it out of the car. This is where some of the research you did before you came pays off. Hopefully you already know how to get the part out of the car and what tools you need to do it, but if you’re lost, there is probably a YouTube video that can walk you through it. Once you have your part, take it inside to pay.
Find a Mechanic
Most auto-repair shops will not allow you to bring in your own parts, so you’re going to have to find an independent mechanic to do the labor for you. Many mechanics that work in full-service repair shops do work on the side. Check out Google, Angie’s List, or Craigslist to find a good mechanic nearby.