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When it comes to parts from a wrecking yard, it's buyer beware

The caller was indignant, even more indignant than he'd been in his earlier letter.

He was getting ripped off by a wrecking yard on a throttle assembly he'd bought, and it could have been incredibly dangerous for his daughter had that shoddy part failed while she was driving. A throttle assembly he'd bought from an auto wrecker. Whether on a modern car or an older one, throttle bodies contain electronic components.

I should do something about this, I was told. Encouraged, nudged, then finally pushed towards something that felt like shame if I didn't saddle my high horse, pick up my media-sharpened sword, and bring down justice on an auto wrecker. Who sold someone a throttle assembly.

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While wrecking yards have come a long way from the days of piles of unsorted auto carcasses patrolled by a Rottweiler with a studded collar, they remain wrecking yards: where cars go to die, to be scrapped or scavenged, a chance to find a cheap or rare fix. For do-it-your-selfers, it's heaven. For McGyvers and magicians, new can come from old, the life-extending possibilities endless to those with a bit of imagination and a lot more expertise.

But the tricky pieces? The important components that can literally be life or death? A wrecking yard? No. Indignant because all they offered to do was replace it? No. Anger that your cheapness put you in danger? No.

"Wreckers take very broken cars and store them in very inhumane conditions," says mechanic Chris Muir. "I've seen inexpensive aftermarket electronic parts new, outside of acceptable ranges for the vehicle so the vehicle leaves with a new part and the same problem. OE or proven top end aftermarket parts are the only reliable choice."

Most enthusiasts and mechanics agree a salvage yard is a gold mine. Most also agree there is a fat line between a serendipitous find and a reckless quest. If you don't know what you're doing, it probably means you're paying prime-time labour to work with a questionable part. And you expect that wrecker to run a background check on buyers? So they don't shoot themselves – figuratively – with their own gun?


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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More


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