Off-Road Salvage: Essential Tools for Junkyard Success

Aug. 10, 2010 By Justin Fort
Being prepared for a junkyard trip is crucial to getting the parts you need.

The difference between getting what you need from a junkyard and getting frustrated is defined by preparedness. A surgeon who doesn’t have the necessary clamps, pumps or gauze is going to have a horrible success rate, right? Don’t blow a run to the junkyard – we’ve got a pretty solid prep list here of the tools you can use to keep a trip for what you need from turning into a trip up a creek.

Not Scary – Junkyards are a Smorgasbord.
Embrace the laws of the junkyard (salvage yard, recycling facilitator, partial automotive re-ownership broker) and you’ll understand your tool needs – accuracy and correct removal are important, but so are time and efficiency. Removing parts that want to be apart is the easy part, but when a bolt’s bent or frozen, or serious mechanical force is required to overcome something complicated, you need to be prepared with alternative measures for application of force.

Carry stuff right – we’re hooked on tool bags. Small pockets rock.

Keep in mind that some ‘yards pull the part for you. There’s more to pay but less to fear of the process. It’s not a bad way to get comfortable with the junkyard.

Pay close attention at the junkyard and you’ll learn a few things. Some cars are a fount of goodies for all sorts of other vehicles – Volvo 240s, for instance, and Japanese trucks. If you look at the ground, you’ll see that as many nuts and bolts as rocks and gravel make up the aggregate. A good junkyard cycles cars more often, but some smart smaller yards leverage a good carcass for longer periods of time by marketing them effectively.

Basics mean the necessary sockets, ratchets, extensions and adapters.

It doesn’t hurt to reconnoiter the junkyard for what you need – you can make an adventure of it, especially if you’re intimately familiar with your own mechanical needs. Don’t delay on getting back when you decide there’s something you want, though, because you’re not the only dude planning an R&R. Bring friends along to help with the recon, and those selfsame folks are great for hauling big stuff like axles and doors. Besides, everyone loves a junkyard.

Junkyard Theory – What’s Necessary
This brings us to the two-faced nature of what needs to be with you at the ‘yard. If you know the vehicle you’re parting, you’ll know most of what’s necessary. Figuring a few things out in advance is a good thing, and information is key. For instance, taking things off a Toyota means metric tools, with lots of 10mm this and 12mm that. If you know that you’re taking an axle off and FJ80, then you know that a quarter-inch drive anything is probably useless, but a 16mm deep-well on half-inch will be handy. Extensions, adapters, a wobble-head or two and a breaker-bar are useful. You can decipher what’s pointless to bring, keeping the baggage to a minimum.

Also necessary: crescent/adjustable, box, combo, flare and open wrenches.

Speaking of baggage, toolboxes are nice, but the new canvas tool bags are pretty comfortable too, and make a lot less noise. They’re also available used, all over the place, including at swap meets, pawnshops and on the Web.

Combination wrenches are essential, especially the ratcheting box-style that allow you to work a bolt or nut with limited access. Bring a few adjustable spanners. Flare wrenches are good if brake or fuel lines are involved. Bring a variety of screwdrivers (including the beat up one that you use for prying things apart), but a modular screwdriver would reduce baggage. Channel-lock pliers should be complimented by a set of dikes and needles, plus some Vise-Grips for their universal clamp-crush capacity.

Pliers and screwdrivers require every iteration so you’re not short-tooled.

Flipside (that’s a verb, folks) your correct mechanical process tools list and you have the hard way, the stuff you’ll want to have with you when the process turns into a big steamer. Your cordless reciprocating saw, for instance, with a few good demo and metal blades make short work of evil bolts and stubborn brackets (with eye protection), and a crowbar means good leverage. Bring at least one BFH (… big hammer), a punch of some sort, some sort of leveraged sharp for cutting big pieces of rubber or plastic, plus gloves, a hose cutter and snips.

Remember the leverage and oomph tools – don’t skimp on force.

Special treats that spark up junkyard success include a 12V tester – two deep-cycle 6-volt batteries wired in parallel with a set of leads. A flashlight and mirror help you figure out what’s hidden in funny, dark corners. A few metal hangers can support thing while you work. A pipe wrench peels back exhaust and large tubing (we’ve had luck with a strap wrench for that), and bring a can or plastic container for the nuts and bolts that come from the job (you can bring home a fine selection of spare bolts following work like this). Oh yeah, don’t forget a spray penetrant like Liquid Wrench.

Cutting and chopping when wrenches fail. Best tool ever.

Final Junkyarding Thoughts
Junkyards that will hunt down and remove a part for you (or communicate with other junkyards for the same purpose) are not a bad thing, but not only are you removing yourself from the learning and research process, you’re isolating yourself from the half of the wrenching. That might not matter to you, but you then have a part you’re not completely familiar with, and you can’t discover any details of the part’s history to be gleaned from the donor vehicle.

Bring the power to test electrical parts – two 6-volt batteries in parallel. Trans-Data makes these for themselves.

Another reason for having the right tools is that you don’t want to kill the donor. You’re not the only person hoping to put their bucket back together with those parts, so bring the right tools.

Be ready to see what you’re working upon, and have your sharps along.

Metal hangars or lengths of copper wire work equally well to hold stuff.

Strap wrenches and a good place to stash takeoff bolts and leftovers complete the junkyard ensemble, and all of it fits in the bag – honest. Newsletter
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