This is a guide for getting the most out of your Self-Service junkyard visit, especially if you have to travel a long ways to find one.

  • Be prepared! Know the rules of the junkyard you are going to, for example, the one I usually visit will allow power tools, and even provide long extension cords to get to the car you are pulling apart. You are pretty much limited to sawzalls and electric impact guns, etc. Anything that creates sparks is not allowed at my junkyard (grinders, torches, etc.) Some may allow Generators / Compressors etc, if they don’t have power hookups. Call ahead before you go out, so you will know what you can and can not bring.
  • If you aren’t allowed any power tools, bring breaker bars, penetrating oil, hacksaws, bolt cutters. Remember, the cars have probably been sitting out in the weather with their hoods up for a while. Bolts and Fasteners are going to be rusty, unless the vehicle just freshly arrived. You can never have too many tools when you visit the junkyard.
  • Bring Water or drinks to keep yourself hydrated. My yard gives out free water bottles when you arrive on hot summer days, you might not be that lucky.
  • Dress properly. Put on coveralls, this isn’t a place for well dress people. You’re going to be walking on dirt roads and isles, there will be puddles if it just rained. Bring work boots or old shoes, not flip flops. Insects and small animals might be working where you are.
  • Find out if they take credit/debit card. It would suck if you spent the whole day pulling a motor and find out they only take cash.
  • Take a look at all the cars there with the engine model / parts you want. You might get lucky, someone may have pulled out what you need to get to another part. It could be laying on the ground or someone could have put it inside the car somewhere. I’ve found starters, rack and pinions, engine parts, interior pieces, steering columns already pulled out.You might also find some performance goodies. Aftermarket intakes, MSD ignition boxes, flowmaster mufflers, stainless exhaust, thick gauge battery cable, etc. Remember most of these cars are straight from the insurance crash yard, and the owners don’t always donate their cars there.
  • Get familiarized with where they put certain vehicles. At my yard, it’s separated Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and imports. They also have a listing at the front office of every year, make,  model and engine size, and which row they are in. A lot of yards are going digital these days, but some older yards, you will just have to ask them where your model might be. It sure beats walking around for an hour looking for a certain vehicle.
  • Find out what works and what is equivalent. While a lot of yards have interchange books or databases, do your research. If you’re looking for a Ford 302 part, they weren’t just used on Mustangs, they were in Crown Victorias, Econoline Vans, Fairmonts, Explorers (later models), Full Size Bronco’s and a whole lot of other RWD vehicles. My personal tip is to use and look up the part you want, click on the Blue part number, and a listing comes up for all the other vehicles that part fits. Another good site is, this also searches a bunch of junkyards, and shows you which vehicles have equivalent parts to what you are looking for. You might get lucky and find a junkyard near you, and sometimes they have the used prices listed there too.
  • Can’t find the part, don’t get discouraged. There’s craigslist, ebay, classifieds, other junkyards. Junkyards are constantly turning inventory. Popular cars like 5.0 Mustangs with T5 transmissions, and vehicles with the Ford 8.8 rear ends constantly get stripped right away by enthusiasts. If you see a car in the processing area (the area where you aren’t allowed to go), you can ask and see if you can get something from it. More then likely you will be allowed to, because then they make a sale.
  • Don’t steal anything. Hiding parts in your toolboxes and pockets may seem like a good idea, but they have a right to search your toolboxes when you arrive and when you leave. It’s their junkyard. It wouldn’t be good if there was only one car with the part you needed, and you got caught stealing and banned from the junkyard. What would you do then? The part couldn’t be found anywhere else. Think about it. Most junkyards have really good prices, and that’s from us (the customers) not cheating them when we leave. If they start selling less parts, guess what? The prices will go up! No one wants that!

That’s pretty much it. Self Serve Junkyards are fun. You can find a $50 sensor for $3, or a good used set of tires for $50. You never know what you will find, and that is the fun in it!

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