Corner Wrench: What’s the difference between a wrecking yard and an auto recycler?
Used part searches are slowly entering the information age
Used parts have been a mainstay of pretty much all types of vehicle repairs, maintenance, and modifications since the early age of the automotive era. Some salvage yards have evolved in step with vehicles, but not all — there are customer- and environment-friendly automotive recyclers, and then there are scrap yards. You may not find major price differences between the two, but the differences between these types can make a difference to the end user.
With modern recyclers, you’ll often find suppliers that offer warranties (sometimes including labour fee coverage), have inventory posted online (often with helpful photos), and can connect you with the inventories of recyclers across the country (or sometimes even continent). This network can prove invaluable when searching for clean, corrosion-free components from areas outside the rust-belt. When dealing with less popular rides, having access to specialty recyclers can be the answer to keeping a vehicle on the road, or come time to decide to send it to a recycler yourself.
Steve Fletcher, managing director of Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), explains that more makes and models of vehicles with shorter lifespans means a recycler needs a wider variety of inventory to meet demand. It is getting harder and harder for one recycler to have all the part types available across the model years, so yards are connecting through technology to instantly access other recyclers’ inventory and successfully answer ‘yes’ more often to part inquiries.These facilities have also invested in training on automotive electronics and other systems to match increased demand and properly advise customers seeking to replace a module, computer, or the like.
Some DIY types I’ve spoken with have commented on price increases for used components. Recyclers keep track of current retail pricing on new parts, distributor supply, and market demand to set their prices accordingly, just like new aftermarket part suppliers do. These vendors can still offer substantial savings over new, but they now have to carry the increasing costs of more skilled workers, insurance, and environmental management. ARC members are further required to comply with the Canadian Auto Recyclers Environmental Code to ensure their operations pose no adverse effects. They are also currently working with Natural Resources Canada on a roadmap for the industry as it adjusts (or needs to adjust) to electric vehicles entering the mainstream.
Some items that were popular in recycling yards are difficult to locate these days. Airbag units and seatbelts have been dropped with many suppliers worried about liability risks, and catalytic convertors are also too hot for most used-part retailers to bother with.
Shoppers should also note that these systems are not foolproof. Though many systems track incoming vehicles, those end-of-life vehicles may not actually be complete. Also contributing to uncertainty is the nature of U-Pick lots, where parts can be removed and walked out without always being recorded in inventory systems. Don’t be shocked if a part that should be available from a vehicle on the yard turns out not to be there anymore.
Still, if you’re hunting for a used-part supplier, finding a member of an association like ARC (with over 350 members across the country) can go a long way to finding the right piece at the right price with a warranty to back you up. Part hunters can try its online parts search feature here.
Article originally appeared on Driving.ca July 26, 2022.