Here's What Junkyard Shopping Is Like During The Pandemic

I need to follow my own advice about PPE security and get a better mask, the strings on that one kept failing.
I need to follow my own advice about PPE security and get a better mask, the strings on that one kept failing.
Photo: Andrew P Collins

Auto services are generally considered “essential” to the operation of American society, so as of mid-May, many junkyards are still open during the coronavirus pandemic. Used-part yards are essential to those of us maintaining cars on a lean budget, so if you plan to go, here are some things to expect.

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Signs at the entrance were hard to miss.
Signs at the entrance were hard to miss.
Photo: Andrew P Collins

I’m lucky to live near quite a few yonkes where I’m at in Los Angeles. I often hit the LKQ yards in Wilmington, Anaheim, and Sun Valley. Sun Valley is also home to many specialist dismantlers that can be good sources of rare parts. But since LKQ is a national chain, I visited one of its locations in hopes that recon I did would be applicable to more of you.

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This MG doesn’t have anything to do with the story, I just thought it was odd to see. The LKQ yards I usually hit very rarely have cars this old, but the one in Monrovia seemed to have a few ancient artifacts.
This MG doesn’t have anything to do with the story, I just thought it was odd to see. The LKQ yards I usually hit very rarely have cars this old, but the one in Monrovia seemed to have a few ancient artifacts.
Photo: Andrew P Collins

OK, fine, the real reason I went to an LKQ was because I saw an ’86 300ZX on the chain’s Monrovia location website and wanted to see if it had any bits I could use for the restoration of my Z31.

So here’s what I saw:

  • Quiet. SoCal junkyards are usually somewhat busy on a sunny Saturday, this run, the parking lot was nearly empty.
  • No food trucks, vendors, or helpers-for-hire. It’s common to see food trucks, people selling tools, or non-employees hanging out that are willing to help you pull parts for cash. Don’t count on that unofficial infrastructure if you go to the yard right now, I didn’t see them.
  • Safe-distancing practices are officially in place. The LKQ I went to did have quite a few signs about staying six feet apart at the only two bottlenecks for people you ever see in boneyards: The entrance line and the checkout line.
  • Yard staff taking PPE seriously. All the uniformed yard employees I saw were wearing gloves and masks.
  • Other customers mixed on caring about the coronavirus. I barely saw anyone else shopping the yard while I was there, but of the people I did see, masks and gloves were only on about half of them. At least it’s easy to social-distance in a yard, especially when it’s not crowded.
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Illustration for article titled Heres What Junkyard Shopping Is Like During The Pandemic
Photo: Andrew P Collins

If you’ve scrolled this far down, I assume you are working on a car restoration to maintain some semblance of sanity, or you’re just trying to keep something on the road for as little money as possible. That being the case, here are some tips for pandemic safety you might want to think about as you rock up.

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  • Set your PPE before you walk in. If you wear safety glasses and a headband flashlight while you work on cars (you should, they’re helpful!), put them on before you glove-up and enter the yard. That will keep you from touching your face.
  • Make sure your mask is on real good. Extracting yard parts can be laborious; make sure your PPE isn’t going to fall off when you’re heave-ho’ing. If you have to touch it with your dirty gloves, it becomes pointless.
  • Bring a few more gloves than you usually do. You never know who the last person to touch the car you’re harvesting was.
  • Try not to touch your phone in the yard. I changed gloves before handling my camera to take these pictures, and would recommend you do the same.
  • Wipe down your tools and parts before you load them into your car. Running some degreaser wipes over your new/used parts, and any tools you used, should help cleanliness somewhat.
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So in summary: Junkyard protocol is pretty much the same as it is in a grocery store. Stay away from people, be careful about what you touch.

There were still a lot of great parts in this, if you were looking for black Z31 2+2 interior panels.
There were still a lot of great parts in this, if you were looking for black Z31 2+2 interior panels.
Photo: Andrew P Collins
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As for my shopping trip, the Z I went to harvest was missing the stuff I wanted, and it was a 2+2 anyway so many of its parts wouldn’t have fit my two-seater anyway. Hopefully your long weekend was productive in whatever automotive projects are/were on your list.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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DISCUSSION

Dubblewhopper- 666% chance he'll be going to hell

A Z31 or Z32 (that has been unmolested by the F&F crowd) that is my next project. Or a dirt cheap S30. Something bugs me about the S130 though, and I cannot put a finger on what.