One of the more expensive items in the modern household’s budget is often car repairs. The parts themselves can be quite expensive, and if you’re not handy with tools, the cost of the labor involved in the repair will also make a huge dent in your wallet.
If you (or your spouse/friend/family member) are handy enough to do some/all of your auto repairs, it can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Another way to shave some dollars off your repair costs is to buy second-hand parts instead of brand new whenever practicable, and if someone in your family is handy enough to do the repair, he/she could also go extract a suitable part from a local “auto recycling center”, or what we Worcesterites call a “junk yard” or “bone yard”.
In recent decades, many local junk yards have switched from a do-it-yourself model to one where yard employees take an order and do the extraction themselves, which is easier on the not-quite-so-handy customer, but you’ll tend to pay a bit more for this kind of service.
There was a time when you could go in for free and you were charged certain fixed prices based on whether you could carry it out, drag it out, or roll it out. These days, you’ll pay $2.00 just to get into the yard, and there is a lengthy menu of prices for various parts, most quite reasonable.
If all you need is a new(ish) set of tires, take a sharp right when you first enter Sam’s:
When a car first comes to Linder’s for “recycling”, if the tires are in good shape, they’re taken off the wreck, removed from their rims, and organized on racks in a side room. They’re sorted primarily by rim diameter, and then by width & aspect ratio. You’ll want to know what to look for when you get in there, so jot down your tire code (located on the outside edge of your tire) before you go in.
Many tires are under $30 each, and you can occasionally find a set of 4 of all the same brand/model. As they’re used, be sure to examine them closely for any obvious defects. I’m presently driving on a matched set that were only $20 each, and I’ve gotten a year out of them thus far, so I figure I’ve gotten my money’s worth already.
You might understandably ask yourself “Why would I want to drive on tires from a junk car?” Well, not every car that winds up at a “junk yard” is a dreadful heap. A late-model car with brand new tires may have had the misfortune to sustain enough damage in an accident to be considered a “total loss”, but the damage may not have affected the tires in any way at all.
If you’re replacing one tire and you already have the tire off of your car, the guys in the tire room can mount the new(ish) tire on your rim for you for an extra $10. Unfortunately, they don’t do balancing, so it might be worth your while to just have the mounting/balancing done at a tire shop or garage.
If you need something other than tires, you’ll have to get your tools together and pay $2.00 to visit the parts yard. The yard is quite large, and if you’ve never been there before, ask someone in the office where to find your partcular make of car in the yard. Japanese cars are fairly close to the entrance, but if you have an American car, be prepared to walk as much as half a mile.
It takes a bit of planning to make sure you’ll have all of the tools you need when you find the vehicle you want to get parts from. In some cases, it may make sense to have removed the faulty part from your own car beforehand, so that you’ll know exactly what you need. Doing so will also give you a sense of how long the extraction will take, so that you can plan that around your own schedule and the hours that the yard is open.
It should go without saying that some parts are better bought new. Should you buy a hubcap, a directional light assembly or trunk lid second hand? Certainly. How about a window motor or master cyclinder? Maybe — caveat emptor. A battery or water pump? You might be better off to buy those new. If you don’t already have an innate sense of what’s worth getting second-hand, ask someone who does. And do check with the auto parts store to see what the new part would cost, so you can decide whether the junk yard offers enough of a bargain to make it worth your while.
Occasionally, if you’re one of those people like my husband who drives something decades old, you may find there isn’t one of your cars in the yard, at least at that moment. Come back another week and you’ll probably find one, or visit another nearby junk yard. If you make a fruitless visit to Sam’s Pull-A-Part and feel grouchy about the $2.00 you paid to get in, do what my husband does — check the front seats of a few cars on your way out. You’ll often find some spare change that fell out of the driver’s pocket before he junked his car, wedged in between the seat back and the bottom cushion. With a bit of luck, you’ll recover that $2.00 and then some.
And don’t forget to take a moment to admire the handsomest hilltop turbine in the city.