Thu. Jul 18th, 2024
buying a car from a salvage yard

Buying a car from a salvage yard can sometimes present a good deal for budget-conscious buyers. You can find great bargains, mostly from what insurance companies deem too expensive to fix. If you can shoulder the repairs, this is the best way to have your hands on a vehicle that is typically out of your price range.

However, before hitting the road with your new purchase, you should do some checks and repairs. This guide will discuss eleven essential repairs you should make after buying a car from a salvage yard. Let’s jump right in.

1. Collision Repairs

Cars in salvage yards have primarily been in road accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. had over 6 million car accidents in 2021. A good number of those cars end up in salvage yards.

While buying a car from a salvage yard can save you money, you must take care of those collision repairs. Usually, the damage can be extensive or minimal, depending on the nature of the accident. It can range from simple windshield replacements to more complicated ones like realigning the frame and fixing bent body parts.

Some essential collision repairs include fixing damaged body panels and replacing broken or cracked windshields and windows. If the car has blown off the airbags (which most do), you must have new ones. For this one, your average mechanic might help you. You will look for a specialist or take them to the dealership.

For instance, if you have salvaged a Ford 150 and need to replace the airbags, you must seek Ford services. Most US-made cars have designated dealerships for spare parts. With every collision repair complete, you can now give your car a fresh coat of paint.

2. Crankshaft and Piston Repairs

While buying a car from a salvage yard is completely fine, it is essential to thoroughly inspect and make the necessary repairs before hitting the road. While it might add to your costs, it’s vital for your safety and others on the road. The crankshaft and the pistons should be on your list of top priorities.

It might sound strange, but you can repair a damaged crankshaft. Yes, it’s possible, and you don’t have to replace it with a new one. However, your mechanic has to inspect it thoroughly and see the possible solution.

Machine shops can weld and grind your out-of-round or badly scored crankshaft back to specs. Of course, that depends on the extent of the damage. They can also strengthen it by welding a repair sleeve on each journal end. That way, it can withstand high loads.

Apart from crankshaft repair, you must check the piston assembly. Usually, mechanics can recondition worm pistons to a minor degree. But the repairs extend to other parts like the valves and rubber sealings. You also need to change the gasket and engine oil. However, if the wear is too extensive, the only solution is to replace them.

3. Brake Repairs

That car you bought from the salvage yard will likely have brake issues. Besides, that could be the reason the vehicle had an accident in the first place. According to the NHTSA estimates, 22% of car accidents are directly related to brake failure. Even if an accident didn’t happen, good brakes could get damaged if the car has been in the yard for too long. The parts could have rusted, and the rubber sealings deteriorated.

Buying a car from a salvage yard means you’re ready to bear the cost of brake repairs. First, drain all the old remaining brake fluid and flush out debris. Your mechanic can also check for punctures and cracks on the brake lines. If the car has had an accident, the lines are likely damaged, and you need to replace them.

After that, check the pads, calipers, rotors, drums, and discs depending on the type of brakes the car uses. Ensure that all the calipers are in good condition and functioning correctly. Brake systems are critical components, and you can’t afford to ignore them.

4. Head and Cylinder Repairs

The head and cylinder often experience various problems that affect the engine’s operation. Even if the car wasn’t involved in a major collision, you must check and repair it. Just by constant exposure to thermal cycles of heating and cooling, gaskets and sealants can wear out. That causes the engine to overheat and lose power.

Inspect and fix any cracks or warping on the cylinder heads. If you have aluminum or iron cylinder heads with small cracks, you can repair them by pinning them. You could use steel castings for larger cracks, but only on steel and iron heads.

After that, thoroughly check for a damaged head gasket. It’s best to replace it with a new one, as repair won’t guarantee a complete fix and could lead to more issues. Moreover, inspect the cylinders for any scratches or scoring hindering their smooth operation.

After buying the car from a salvage yard, you have to be thorough with repairs and checkups. You often don’t know the car’s condition, and the seller can’t guarantee anything. A simple thing like a head gasket and a cylinder can cause endless problems if not repaired.

buying a car from a salvage yard

5. Engine Replacement or Repairs

Buying a car from a salvage yard is risky primarily because it may require a whole new engine that would inflate your cost. But you may be lucky and find one that only needs repairs. According to Forbes, there are about 1,283 possible engine fixes you will have to deal with. If yours is still salvageable, here are a few things you can check.

First, check the engine block for cracks or warping. If you find some on your aluminum engine block, you could repair them using welding or replace them with a new one. For steel blocks, repairing won’t do much if there are large cracks, so go ahead and get a new one.

Apart from that, look out for bad bearings. If the car you bought was involved in a collision, these bearings will likely produce excessive noise and vibrations. Replacing them earlier helps you avoid further damage to your engine and possible failure in the future. Additionally, you will have to deal with diesel repairs such as diesel injectors, ignition coils, glow plugs, air filters, and thermostats.

6. Rust Remediation

When buying a car from a salvage yard, it’s essential to be aware of rust and how to deal with it. Rust is a significant issue, especially for vehicles that have been in parking for a long time. The car may look okay from the exterior, but as soon as you open the hood, you’ll be greeted with a rust-covered engine.

Rust is a common issue, especially in places that experience high humidity levels. But before you dive into painting, you first need to identify the extent of the damage. Has it affected the entire bottom of the car or just a small section? What about the exhaust pipe? That will determine how much you spend on repairs.

Some common ways to get rid of rust include sanding it off, using automotive rust converters, and using rust removers. Most industrial coating service providers will help you with this and even paint it. For parts beyond repair, the only solution is to replace them. You may also weld some parts if they’re still salvageable, but that will only work for minor damage. Overall, rust remediation can be costly, so scrutinizing the car before purchasing is essential.

7. Fuel System Repairs

The fuel system is another vital element to check when buying a car from a salvage yard. If the vehicle was involved in an accident, it most likely damaged the tank, lines, and pumps. Other times, you’ll find debris and other forms of dirt in the fuel system, which may require thorough cleaning.

The reason for fuel system repairs is that faulty systems pose many safety concerns. Even a minor leak can quickly cause a fire. You don’t want to be in a burning car. It can also cause hydro-locked engine cavitation and pre-ignition.

To avoid all these issues, inspect the fuel system for any signs of corrosion or cracks. Check for clogs on the lines or any bends that may restrict flow. Additionally, if the car has been in the salvage yard for too long, you may need a fuel injector replacement.

8. Catalytic Converter Replacement

When buying a car from a salvage yard, you rarely find it with a catalytic converter. Usually, it gets removed and sold separately due to its high value. It’s a hot item that even gets stolen, as reported by CBC News.

But why is it this essential, and do you need one? A catalytic converter’s role is to reduce engine exhaust emissions. It converts harmful gases such as hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide into less toxic substances before releasing them into the atmosphere.

As everyone tries to be more responsible with emissions, catalytic converters are crucial in ensuring less carbon footprint. You need one to ensure your car passes the emissions test. And since you opted for a salvage car, you must replace it.

According to Forbes, a new catalytic converter will cost you an average of $1,313. If you can’t afford a new one, there is always the option of an aftermarket. Talk to your mechanic and see if they can help you find one.

buying a car from a salvage yard

9. Fuel Tank Replacement

Buying a car from a salvage yard may also mean dealing with a damaged fuel tank. In most cases, you’ll find that they’re dented or leaking due to the accident’s impact. If this is the case, then you will replace it.

A damaged fuel tank can cause leakage, which leads to fire hazards. It’s not worth risking your life over a simple replacement that can cost you $1,900 on average, according to Forbes. If your budget allows, having the fuel pump and filter replaced simultaneously is also a good idea.

These replacements will save you from future repairs and ensure your car runs smoothly. Additionally, fuel tanks from salvage yards may be cheaper than buying a new one as long as it’s compatible with yours. Just ensure your mechanic inspects it thoroughly before installing it.

10. Transmission Replacement or Repairs

Another component you must take care of when buying a car from a salvage yard is the transmission. This delicate part quickly gets damaged whenever a collision happens. Not only that, it may also wear out due to the car’s age and mileage.

The first step in transmission repairs is to check the transmission fluid level and quality. If it’s low or looks dirty, it may indicate an issue with the transmission system. You can repair it by cleaning out the transmission and adding new fluid. However, if you notice slipping gears or strange noises, it’s a sign that you’ll need a replacement.

Replacing a transmission is a significant undertaking. It will be costly, depending on your car model. Consumer Affairs reports that parts and labor may cost between $3,000 to $9,000 on average. It’s vital to consult with your mechanic and have them inspect the car for any transmission issues before purchasing.

11. Auto Body Repairs

Auto body repairs are another crucial aspect when buying a car from a salvage yard. After all, the car was in an accident, and it likely had damage to its exterior. Some common issues to look out for include dents, scratches, and scrapes.

These may seem minor, but if not repaired correctly, they can lead to other expensive issues, such as rusting and structural damage. It’s essential to have your mechanic thoroughly inspect the auto body before making any repairs. Also, consider getting an estimate from a professional auto body technician for an idea of how much you will spend.

In some cases, if the damage is severe, you might consider custom metal work or panel replacement. It can be costly, but it’s a good option if you want to restore the car’s original look. Your mechanic should also advise you on whether the repairs are worth making or if they will cost more than the value of the vehicle.

While salvaging a car is a moot point, sometimes it presents an excellent opportunity to own a car at an affordable price. However, you will need to carry the burden of repair costs. If you decide to go down this road, carefully inspect all the components mentioned in this guide before purchasing.

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