Have A Junker? Tips For Finding Metals In Your Vehicle For Recycling

If you have a vehicle that has reached the end of the road, you may want to consider dismantling the vehicle for the metals in it. Then you can take the precious metals to a recycling center or a smelter and possibly get more compensation than if you simply junk it. A smelter is a professional who separates metals by using an enclosed furnace to reach extremely high temperatures, essentially burning off impurities.  

Your vehicle also contains some non-precious metals that can be sold to a recycler for profit. Here are a few precious and non-precious metals you may find in your junker, and a few helpful tips for recycling them.

Where to find precious metals

Gold is a precious metal that is highly-non-corrosive and a conductor of electricity, which is why it is used in some vehicle parts. You can find gold in your vehicle's electronic circuitry and computers, including in the power-train control module, the engine control unit, and printed circuit boards.

Typically, you can find these computers underneath the passenger's side dashboard, but the location may vary depending on the make and model of your particular vehicle. Some circuit boards are typically located in the same immediate area of the computers, and in other places like your audio system, navigation system and the electronic displays of your dashboard.

Gold can also be found inside airbags. However, due to the volatile nature of these important life-saving devices, dismantling air bags is not recommended. Contact your recycling center first to see if they deal with air bags and how to go about recycling yours for the gold inside.

Platinum is another precious metal that is non-corrosive and used in catalytic converters. Platinum is one of three metals in platinum group metals. Palladium and rhodium are the other two, which are also found in catalytic converters, but platinum is the most valuable.

In fact, thieves steal catalytic converters to sell them to recyclers due to their value. Recycling companies pay an average of $50 for a catalytic converter, but some of the converters can be worth as much as $250. The location of catalytic converters is what makes them prime targets for thieves. You can find your vehicle's catalytic converter in between the exhaust pipe and muffler.

Where to find non-precious metals

Non-precious metals are not as valuable as precious metals, but there may be enough value in them to make disassembling the parts worthwhile.

  • Copper – It's typically found in wiring, wiring harnesses, batteries, starters and alternators.
  • Aluminum – This metal can be found in the engine block, doors, hoods, and rims.
  • Stainless steel – Some vehicles have stainless steel bumpers and exhausts.
  • Steel – You'll find a lot of steel in your vehicle. The doors, trunk, hood, body and frame are all made of steel.
  • Lead – Wheel weights are made of lead. Batteries that are lead-based contain lead, of course. However, don't disassemble batteries for the lead. Recycle them in one piece.

A few helpful tips

First and foremost, disconnect the battery before you start tearing your vehicle apart for the metals. Separate the different types of metals before going to the recycler and/or smelter. At the very least, separate the precious and non-precious metals.

If your recycling center does not have a smelter on staff, find one. You may get more bang for your buck by taking the parts that contain precious metals directly to a smelter instead of to a basic recycling center. That way, you can effectively cut out the middle man (the recycling center). This includes your catalytic converter, computer modules and circuit boards.