Junk gets a second chance

Salvage yards are treasure troves for do-it-yourselfers

Salvage yards are treasure troves for do-it-yourselfers

October 05, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

Carrying a covered beverage cup, Jay Francisco walks down the dirt aisle stopping at a white Ford Mustang as if he knew that's where it would be.

Squatting down, he looks under the rear of the used car and walks around it, noting the items on his mental checklist - a rear end and sway bars.

Satisfied he has at least found the sway bars he needs to upgrade his 1988 Ford Thunderbird, Francisco says he'll flag the car at Ernie's Salvage Yard on this recent Saturday and return later with tools to remove what he needs.


"A lot of the parts for that car are discontinued so you have to come to a junkyard," says Francisco, who says he's "a young 42" and lives in the Martinsburg, W.Va., area.

Francisco says he considered buying a junk car for the parts, but didn't think his landlord would appreciate the car's presence, even for a week.

Some people have no use for junkyards other than discarding, well, junk.

Others find them a treasure trove of cheap, workable parts or a good place to pick up a used item such as a lawn mower.

At Forty West Landfill off U.S. 40 west of Hagerstown, some people don't just drop off items at the scrap metal pile; they pick them up.

A Keedysville area man recently picked up a weed trimmer for his older brother (the trimmer probably just needs spark plugs), and a small child's bicycle (missing a training wheel, but he has those at home) for one of his grandchildren.

He knows he's not legally permitted to pick up scrap at the pile up on the hill, but there's a lot of stuff on the heap that shouldn't have been thrown away, he says.

At Ernie's Salvage Yard off U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg, people can roam the salvage yard full of battered and bruised vehicles for what they need and pay on the way out.

The ground is covered in places with broken glass and car parts, some imbedded in the dirt. Windows are broken, wheel hubs are bare, hoods are up or off, air bags are deployed and parts that should be under the hood are in the front seat.

Salvage or junkyards are good places to go for car parts if you know what you're looking for and know how to make the repair yourself.

Often those at Ernie's are seen carrying their own tools.

Roy Houle brought a handful of tools in a sandwich bag.

"I already knew what tools I needed," says Houle, who found the rear differential cover he was looking for on a Chevy Blazer.

He uses a bucket he found at the salvage yard to leak the oil into and a jacket he found to lie on under the sport utility vehicle as he works.

The Falling Waters, W.Va., resident had to look for a differential cover the previous summer too, for a Chevy pickup at home. This time he needs the part for a GMC Jimmy. Both vehicles were from New York where the salt spread on roads in the winter kicks up and rusts out the differential cover, he says.

Houle also brought his son, Mike, 16, to whom he hopes to pass along his vehicular repair knowledge.

"I can do anything from changing a transmission and engines to rear ends, whatever I have to do," says Roy Houle about his hobby.

That saves him money.

Rather than pay $30 to $50 for the part at a dealership and another $50 to $75 for the labor, Houle expects to buy the cover for about $15 and install it himself.

Shawn Minko squeezes as much as he can between a discarded Flowers Unlimited minivan and a burgundy F-150 pickup truck, standing on a tire and leaning under the pickup's hood to remove the distributor parts he needs for a similar truck he recently bought.

"The parts cost too much in the parts store," says Minko, 39, of Falling Waters. He also likes Ernie Davis' 30-day guarantee on parts at the salvage yard.

"(It's) pretty rare I'll come out here and not find what I need," says Minko, his right hand covered in black grease. Minko comes to the salvage yard about 30 days a year.

That's probably more often than he goes to a mall, says his wife, Terri Minko, on the phone a week later.

Rick McGown, 50, of Inwood, W.Va., came to Ernie's with a bucket of tools and a buddy to help with his search.

"My wife hit a deer and (I'm) just trying to find a light," says McGown, whose brother-in-law hit a deer two weeks earlier and found the part he needed at Ernie's.

Charlie Baker, 25, of Martinsburg, is looking for a left rear turn light for his Plymouth Neon after his got busted by a friend's boyfriend.

He's been to the salvage yard before to get a whole front end for a wrecked 1994 Ford Escort.

He says he found the light in about five minutes on a Plymouth Neon and had it freed in about another 15 minutes.

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