How to scrap out an automobile part 1

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by heather, Sep 22, 2005.

  1. heather

    heather Well-Known Member

    May 13, 2002
    western PA
    I found this after following several links on other pages - I doubt I"ll ever attempt this, but thought someone else might find it useful:

    A grizzled and stooped old man once asked me, "Timothy, my boy... how does one go about scrapping out an automobile ?" He even had the foresight to suggest that I write up a piece on that topic and post it here.

    It is a simple enough task for me, by this time, to piece out a car, but it has taken me some time to consider how best to describe the process for the benefit of others. I suppose the method employed would depend almost entirely on the intended use of the pieces upon disassembly.

    Now, I know for a fact that the old man referenced above intended nothing more than to have a larger junk pile from which to draw an occasional piece to tinker around with in some out-of-this -world contraption he might be assembling. I understand that his family already considers his "resource pile" to be a thing entirely out of hand and bounds. So, I will approach this matter of auto disassembly from the perspective of the serious scrapper/resource assimilator, rather than from the perspective of an old man with too much time on his hands.

    If the sole purpose of dismantling the car is for scrap preparation, for sale to a scrap yard, then it is a relatively simple matter.
  2. heather

    heather Well-Known Member

    May 13, 2002
    western PA
    1. Remove the fuel tank. Save the gasoline for cleaning paint brushes, burning brush piles....I even put it in my own fuel tanks if it smells fresh. If it smells the least like varnish, use it for the former. It also makes good thinner for used oil to burn in a diesel engine. Mix gasoline and oil one part gas to two parts .....but that's another subject. Gasoline can be used fresh or old for oil thinner.
    2. Remove all tires. It is easiest to remove the rims from the auto with the tires intact. There is a market, also a charitable ministry, in making use of used tires on the rim. Many still have alot of life left in them.
    3. Remove the battery. If it is still good, add it to your battery bank in your 12 volt storage facility for your solar, wind or combustion engine electric generation plant. Or, use it in another auto. If it is dead, you can recycle the components yourself, but it is frowned upon.

    So far as the industry standard for prepping an auto for scrap, the above is all that is required.

    However, there are still many pieces that have considerable value to you, whether your intent is used parts or base metals.

    I remove the starter and alternator from most autos. Both have a core value to businesses that rebuild them for sale. An older set may bring you 5-10 bucks, a later model set as much as 40.

    Both are also a source of copper. You will net about 4 pounds copper between the two. Use this option when they are obviously too far gone for reuse. The alternator will provide about a pound of aluminum.

    Another option on the alternator is to spin it with a power source, your choice, and charge your battery bank. This is how we are currently making our own power. We have a 165 ampere alternator that came from a scrapped ambulance. We power it with an old 12.5 horse Wisconsin dinosaur that seems to want to run forever... It charges quick.

    I remove the catalytic converter. There are two basic types. One is filled with beads about the size of B-Bs. The other contains a molded medium in the shape of honeycomb. Both contain platinum. There are men who are seeking both on a regular basis. The honeycomb type is the more valuable. I get from 5-25 bucks each. I need to look into the refining process for extracting the platinum.

    I remove the radiator(s). There are from one to many in each auto. The main engine coolant radiator is usually made of a copper/brass combination, though many are now being made of aluminum, a lighter, cheaper metal. The transmission cooling radiator is almost always aluminum, as is the air conditioning condenser. All of these contain materials which need to be handled carefully and disposed of properly. Used transmission oil makes great diesel fuel, with a few precautions. Antifreeze can be stored and, upon settling, reused. We have a local mechanic who recycles air conditioning coolant. He has the equipment to remove it as well as install it. The heater core radiator is small, but worth a buck or two. It is mostly yellow brass. The heater blower makes a fine blower to power the fan for your coal burning forge. You can hook up the battery you just removed, run for an hour or two, then recharge your battery with a couple heavy copper lines run from the charging system in your car the next time you go for groceries.

    I generally remove the engine and transmission. Both contain oil which is of use to us. Automatic transmissions are made of a high grade aluminum.

    Standard transmissions often have a market of their own. The engine has aluminum pistons. The carburator will be aluminum or zinc. I've even found brass carbs. Many engines now have heavy aluminum intake manifolds and heads.

    A word on aluminum. Scrap yards want it clean, meaning free of all iron or plastic. Most items can be stripped with some effort and hand tools. We prefer to melt our more difficult pieces and pour the liquid aluminum into 40 pound bricks. This can also be done, and easier to boot, with lead and zinc.

    Aluminum melts at about 1300 degrees F. Lead at 600, zinc at 800, roughly.

    They all make a pretty ingot. Your local scrap man will be impressed.

    Cast iron engine parts and brake drums have value over and above that of straight steel, but don't expect to get that unless you have a quantity (several tons) and a real good repertoire with your scrap man.

    Power steering pumps make great transfer pumps for viscous liquids and can even build the required pressure for light hydraulic applications, such as a dump bed for your pickup truck.

    Car and truck springs come in two basic configurations, coil and leaf. Both are made of high quality, high carbon steel. I have used the coil spring stock to manufacture striking tools such as chisels and punches, as well as knife blades and other various tools. The leaf springs could be shaped and tempered to form springs or blades for manufacturing implements for tilling the soil, among a host of other things.

    The front axle on some late model cars might be valuable to a parts house as many are drive axles and quite expensive. I have no experience in marketing them, myself.

    The rear axles of cars and trucks alike can be most useful in the construction of a trailer. In the matter of a truck, most have likely seen the little pickup bed trailers being pulled around the country behind pickups that still have all four legs. One could also weld up a lower trailer of the flatbed design.p> The bed on a pickup, especially if it has a plastic liner, makes a fine compost bin for smaller operations.

    Hubcaps have a ready market, as well as a valuable metal content. Most are nonmagnetic stainless steel. Some are magnetic stainless. Some have a zinc casting insert. I've even come across brass hubcaps from older autos.

    The hoods from cars and trucks used to serve as sleds for wintertime downhill speed racing among the youth, but that was before OSHA came on the scene.

    Many cars and trucks have very comfortable tilting seats. Most can be removed with little effort and make a nice recliner for Dad after hours. The old man might take notice of this detail...

    Older engines, still in serviceable condition, make great power plants.

    Leave them in the chassis. Remove all the body sheet metal and you have a complete and towable genset. With a little more ingenuity, you could have a self-propelled. Or, remove the engine and mount it on the frame of your choice. Gasoline engines, with some modification, can run even better on alcohol, which can be made from anything with a starch or sugar content. This matter, in itself, deserves a closer look.

    Those same engines, with a lot less modification, will run on methane. I won't go into detail here concerning the matter of methane production and use. The old man had reservations about that, and I'm afraid that, with just a little information, he might blow something up. We'll save that for a later discussion.

    A word on metals:

    An auto or truck body, complete with the exception of the parts removal required for scrapping, is currently worth from 60-120 bucks a ton, depending on what part of the country you are in, as well the level of your relationship to your scrap man. Go to the bigger yards and develop a good repertoire with the buyer. Be forthright and always deliver him a quality product. It takes time, but it pays dividends.

    Steel, cut to 4 foot by 18 inch sections, free of plastic, wood, glass, rubber, etc. is currently worth 100-175 bucks a ton, again, depending on given factors.

    Copper is worth about a dollar a pound right now, to the average seller. Up to 35 cents more for volume suppliers, less for the unmotivated.

    Brass comes in several grades, average current market being roughly 60-80 cents a pound. It needs to be free of steel screws, bolts, fittings, etc, as well as plastic, rubber, etc.

    Aluminum is at an average price of 45-55 cents. There are over twenty grades of aluminum.

    Stainless steel, the value of which is based on the nickel market, is high right now.

    Average price should be at least 50 cents a pound. That is for nonmagnetic stainless. If a magnet sticks to it, it is considered steel.

    Zinc, commonly and errantly referred to as "diecast" (a process, not a metal) or "potmetal" (an insult if ever there was) is the metal that car door handles, hood ornaments, most carburators and many small, chromed gizmos in the auto industry are made of.

    It has taken a 15-20 cent jump in recent months, and should be worth about 40 cents a pound. You'll be doing well to get 30 cents. Zinc is heavy, so it adds up quick.

    Lead is worth from 15 to 30 cents, depending on the honesty and marketing skills your metals man possesses.

    Copper/brass radiators follow the copper market. Currently they should be worth 65-75 cents a pound.

    If you're really interested in metals markets, here's the links.....

  3. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    many recyclers wont take home made ingots, and will only take the scarp in its raw form [cans, engines ect].
    check before you waste energy smelting aluminum. also, when smelting aluminum cans youll loose about half the weight from the scummy crud that cooks off it.
    brake rotors and drums can be either cast iron or composit steel. if you scrap metal, your best bet is to take less cash for less work. IE, sorted metal my bring [for example] $5 per pound but if you look around, some scrap yard will pay $4 [per pound for a mixed load of various types of the same metal, or mixed metals.

    for instance, I took not long ago a truckload of @ 1000 pounds of "sheet tin" steel, cast iron and mild steel scrap. I got [i think]about 4.50 per 100 pounds. if I had taken several hours and sorted it into two loads of sheet tin and mild steel, for anextra 50 cents a hiundered this would have cost me time. So I took the 45 $ and it was loaded and dumped all in a few hours, instead of all day.

    ferrus metal (iorn and steel) is to much hassel to sort. aluminum, copper and brass is worth sorting, unless you know where they take, for instance whole air conditioners for a compreable price, lower but worth it to save your time.

    it pays to visit and ask a lot of questions to all the scrap yards and recyclers in your area. when i have metal to sell, I have 3 yards I go to, any of them will take all types but all wont pay the same price. one pays top buck for iorn but far less for aluminum than the iorn scrap yard does. one place might be anally picky about the metal being "mixed" with a few bolts and screws, one may not care so much. It depends on who they deal with and their on site machines they have. theu may bale it or shred it, or sell it to someone else who does.
    a yard that shreds aluminum and bales it will not be so picky about some iron in it, as it is magneted out, and they give a slightly better price because they then scrap the piked out iorn bits...

    shop around.

    it is WISE, very wise to take a first drop in buckets you have weighed on a good feed scale. for example, a bucket of brass and a bucket of aluminum chunk.

    you know the exact weight, if they weigh it and its SHORT, insist they use another scale. if the huff, leave. scale cheating is very common so watch out. once you find an honest yard, and you come bac a lot, they tend to give you better prices sometimes, as they usually check your load first to make sure the hot water tank isnt full of sand... ect. An honest yard is your goal, more than a few pennies more a pound; they might match another yards price if your there every week with a ton.

    I USED to keep drywall buckets around, to toss pieces in as I found em... a brass a zinc a potmetal a tin can.... they add a few bucks to a partial load when your short and have room to take them.

    the price of gas now has as good as cut the metal scrap price in half. what took 5 bucks in gas to haul now costs 10, and if your truck is small and can only haul 1000-1400 lbs a load, this is a bite. always take GAS and LABOR into account.

    a bud of mine had huge outboard motors, 4 of them, all aluminum and stainless. I told him take them in as is and get the mixed price. now the pure price was a lot more BUT it took us 3 days [8 hr days] with an air chisle and air rachets [electricity] to dissaemble them. the upide is the shafts inside were stainless and worth a mint, and the pure chunk aluiminum was worth top dollar; all fine and good BUT.
    he was paying me 5 bucks an hour to chop engines and the electric to run the comprressor and he bought my lunch. 3 days, thats 120 bucks plus 3 5 buck meals is 135 bucks in COST. he argued with me that the mixed price was to low he wouldnt make anything. I forget the price we got but you see what I mean; if he got 300 for the sorted, he paid me 135 of that. I added it up, the mixed price was almost the same as he got anyway. taking the mixed price would have saved him 3 days of paid labor, power and food. plus he would have gained that most valuable commodity; TIME. he could have forklifted those in the dump truck and been back in 2 hours with a check, and paid me to do something else, farmore constructive... like loading the other truck with iorn to take the next morning!

    so, if you can take less for the laod but haul 2 loads in because you had time you saved not sorting the iron, you gain free time.
    I would rather take a few bucks less and have half the day free than to get what would amount to paying myself 2 bucks an hour for the sorted load.
    I'll pay you 2 bucks an hour to sort it out and I will go fishing till your done, sound good?

    before you try makig a mint in metals, check and see if youll make more per hour working at long john silvers, timewise.

    if scrapping makes you 5 an hour NET, and the same 8 hours working in wal mart will make you 6 per hour net, your ahead of the game to work for wally world for 2 reasons;
    more money for less work, and the income is predictably steady.
    you cant count on finding 40 bucks in scrap every day 5 days a week.

    of couse... I'd still rather be picking in the trash all day than stocking wal mart shelves. the choice depends on how much I depend on that consistant level of income.
  4. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    a note on cars;
    if you cant take them in whole, take them in in chunks.
    having an air rachet/impact gun, and an air hammer with a "can opener" chisel [I love those things..] you can in an hour strip a car/truck of a good bit of steel. they will recognize it as car steel and give you the car steel price... if your friendly with the yard.
    doors trunk lids hoods fenders and rims all can be stripped and piled in a PU, often if like me you have a SMALL truck.... and ayard within 2 gal of gas near, you can take a whole car in pieces in 2 loads.
    which sometimes is better, becauuse you can take the cast iron/aluminum/ steel in sorted, and get a few pennies more than dropping a whole car on them.

    of course this takess more time and power, but if you only have one or 2 cars to scrap... no big deal.
    if your collecting cars to scrap, your better off buyinga cheap low boy with a winch and removing the tank and wheels and draining the oil (with the right tools a half hour) and just carting them in whole.

    be warned, some states now require a CDL for compbinations that are about.... towing one flatbed and one car on it.