Across the US there are many pick your own part junk yards. These are car, truck, boat and RV salvage yards that allow you to scavenge the lot for the part you need and remove it from the vehicle for a fee. Some yard charge a few bucks for entry, but rest assured you can an abundance of used car parts for SUPER CHEAP. Many of these parts you will not find on Ebay.
To pull out parts from a car there are two things you need:
- The technical know-how for removing the part.
- The necessary tools for removing the part.
Today I am going to help you with the later. It’s impossible to carry every tool you own out on the yard so I will show you the most important tools you need to carry so you can work quickly and efficiently at removing used auto parts. Before we get into the tools, its important to have a good tool bag to carry all of your tools in.
What makes a Good Junk Yard Tool Bag?
Lite weight is the key thing you want in a tool bag. Tool boxes are cumbersome and heavy and mostly made of metal. Junkyards are huge lots and it can get very hot out, you don’t want to be carrying heavy duty tools or a heavy duty box as you scavenge a yard.
I carry an inexpensive soft sided tool bag. It’s nice that is has both handles and an adjustable strap. This comes in handy if you need to throw it around your shoulders while you are carrying a heavy car part. You don’t need a high end fancy tool bag or contractors box. Just something enough to carry the essential equipment.
Obviously the bag is only as heavy as what you put in it, so now let’s get into the most efficient tools to carry in your junk yard tool bag.
Top 17 Tools for Your Junk Yard Tool Bag
Pro Tip: All your tool choices are dependent on what type of car you are looking for. You should customize your tool bag for ONLY what you need. For example, if you are working on an Asian or European car you only need metric sets for sockets and wrenches. If you are only looking for American cars you need SAE sets of sockets and wrenches.
Pro Tip: If you remove the part from your car before you go to the junk yard you will know EXACTLY what tools to bring. As you remove the part, set the tools aside and then that is what you will need for the removal. Also if you brake something else while you are removing it then you can also look for the additional piece on your trip.
1. Impact Driver
An impact driver helps you remove bolts and screws and screws really fast. It should be cordless, have variable speeds, and have a rechargeable battery. This will be the heaviest item in your bag and likely the most used. I consider this to be the heart of my tool bag.
Used with a set of adapters and socket set you can use a tool like this and remove the entire front end of a car in under 30 minutes. I use the Makita XDT04 18V LXT Li-Ion Cordless Impact Driver. It weighs only 3.3 pounds and delivers up to 2,300 RPM. For my Makita, I had to purchase the 18 volt battery separate, but you can find plenty of brands with the battery included in the sale.
2. Various Bit Sets
Most important. Bit sets for your impact driver. Various Phillips and square head sizes. I also use a set of torx (Allen keys) 6, 7, 8, 1/2 in, 3/8, 1/4 inch bits.
The more bits you have the more tools you can eliminate and lighten up your bags weight. I don’t actual even carry my bits in a box. I have made a customized bit holder for the sake of keeping my bag lite weight and uncluttered. The more tools you can replace with a bit the better…I use to carry various screwdrivers and Allen Key sets, but not anymore.
3. Work Gloves
For work gloves you don’t need anything fancy. Just a standard pair of work gloves will do. This will help you keep your hands cleaner, avoid cuts, and grip onto tools and parts better. While these arn’t tools they are imperative to bring to the junk yard with you. There is lots of rusty parts to cut yourself on and if you do get a cut, gloves will keep your wound clean. The junk yard is a nasty place.
I use a standard pair of Mechanix Wear – FastFit Gloves. I will mention more safety equipment to consider at the end of the post.
4. Socket Set with Adapters and Extensions
I predominantly pull from Volkswagens and Nissans so I carry metric sizes 9 to 20 and an additional 24 for a bigger bolt. I also have adapters for 3/8 sockets. I use various Craftsmen sockets. You will also want a set of adapters and extensions. The extenders will help you get your socket wrench into some hard to reach places.
This you will need to work your sockets. Its nice to have one with a quick release, but it isn’t required. I use a Craftsman 1/2-Inch Drive Quick Release Teardrop Ratchet. It doesn’t necessarily need to match in brand to your sockets and extensions. As long as they all can connect together you are good to go.
The key to having a good ratchet for the junk yard is shape. You want one that you can squeeze into tight places. This is a critical tool to have, you don’t need anything fancy, just a good solid ratchet is fine.
6. Mini Flashlight
Normally you are scavenging an auto salvage yard during day but its helpful to have a flashlight for under the car, the dash, or the hood. Sometimes the sun can cast dark shadows into the car and the flashlight is helpful to see in dark places.
Any mini flashlight will work. I don’t know the make or model that I have, but it is similar to this one here at Amazon. Just get something cheap and keep it in your bag….you’be glad to have it for the right situation. If it has a belt clip even better so you don’t have to reach for your bag when you need it.
7. Basic Screw Drivers
You should carry two screw drivers in your bag. 1 standard Phillips head, 1 standard flat head. Its good to have a regular screw driver with a handle in your bag aside from your bits. I used to carry a smaller screwdriver with a thin square head to pry off dashboards, but I know use a trim kit (mentioned below) for those situations.
You shouldn’t carry too many sizes of screwdrivers as most of what you need should be included in the bit set of your impact Driver…remember its all about a lite weight tool bag. Rely on your bits as they take up less room in your bag.
8. Reversible Ratcheting Wrenches
What you need here will depend on what type of cars you are pulling from. If Asian or European you need metric and if American SAE. You don’t have to use reversible ratchets, but they help you work more efficiently without having to remove the tool. I use the GearWrench Reversible Combination Ratcheting Wrench Metric Set and I normally only carry sizes 8 to 14. If you need an SAE set this is a good one: GearWrench SAE Reversible Combination Ratcheting Wrench Set.
I do also carry two small non ratcheting wrenches sizes 6 and 7, but they rarely come out of my bag. It all depends on what kind of cars you normally look for parts for.
9. Adjustable Wrench
An adjustable wrench is key for situations when you find a larger bolt that your other tools can’t handle. I carry a heavy duty adjustable wrench that opens to about 1.5 inches on the jaw, this helps you out in most situations. Any adjustable wrench is probably fine as long as its heavy duty and can open wide enough.
I like a short handled adjustable wrench, but it’s fine of you want to go longer. The trade off is always tool bag weight. The nice part about a longer handle is that you can also use it like a hammer if you need to.
10. Pair of Dikes (Wire Cutting Pliers)
Useful for cutting wires or using like scissors if you have to. In the junk yard don’t waste your time disconnecting wires, just cut them to get your part. This is common in an auto junk yard, anyone coming behind you can just go find a different circuit panel.
No only are dikes these good for wires, but they are also useful for cutting through hoses. I use a Channellock Cutter, but any good pair of dikes will be fine. An angled head makes snipping a little easier and if you can get a pair that’s laser treated they will hold up a little better. Really though any pair of dikes will suit you well.
11. Long Bent Needle Nose Pliers
These are good for grabbing clips on radiator hoses and for slipping hoses off. I used to carry a pair of needle nose pliers and an adjustable pair of pliers, but I feel this one tool replaces both and lightens my bag up a bit. They make these in short lengths and long lengths…the longer ones are better for hard to reach places, but the short ones can give you a tighter grip and better leverage.
You don’t need a name brand pair, any bent needle nose pliers will do the trick.
12. Flexible Magnet
This is a good tool to have for picking up things that drop. You don’t have to get a flexible magnet tool, but it comes on handy for the right situations like accidentally dropping a hose clip or bolt when you are under the hood and you cant reach straight down to pick it up.
One thing I like about a flexible magnet is that I can put it through my belt loop. This way when I need it I don’t have to go to my bag to get it. Often comes in handy when used with my mini flashlight.
13. Penetrating Oil
Things in junk yard are rusty and this stuff will help you loosen it up. Penetrating oil saves time and money by because you won’t have to burn off or drill out nuts, bolts, pipe threads. The stuff I like is B’laster – 8-PB – Penetrating Catalyst. It works really quickly and breaks the surface tension from rust and corrosion. You can simply spray it in some hard to reach places.
One of my tricks is to take a long hose off a WD-40 can and attach it to this. This will allow you to aim the penetrating oil into a small hole. I usually only carry one can with me to the auto salvage yard, but I buy it by the case.
14. Compact Hacksaw
Easy and lite weight, better than lugging around your heavy sawsall. Its nice to have when you need it, but you probably won’t use it very often. I look at a compact hacksaw as a bang for your buck tool. They are extremely lite and they are effective when you need it. Obviously it’s not the most efficient tool, but its negated by the fact that you probably won’t need it very often.
I carry mine every to the junk yard, except for special circumstances where I know I will need a sawsall. If you decide to carry a hacksaw, put an extra blade in your bag.
15. Multi Tool
This a tool for your belt or your pocket and not for the tool bag. This can come in handy when you are already under a car and need something that is in your tool bag. The Leatherman Multi-tool is awesome, but if you don’t have a Leatherman, carry something with a knife that has a locking blade at a minimum.
These “Swiss Army Knife” type of tools comes in handy not only at the junk yard, but around the house and in the garage. They are inexpensive and offer alot of value for the amount of functions they provide. This is one of my favorite and most used all time tools.
Specialty Tools – For Special Circumstances
The top 15 tools on this list make up the core of my tool bag. Everything that I have listed above fits inside of my bag perfectly. Below are tools that I don’t keep in my bag or even bring with me on every junk yard trip, but if their is a specific part I am looking for then I may bring these….
16. Cordless Sawsall
While I I don’t recommend the sawsall for a standard pick and pull visit, you may need one for special circumstances like a car with severe exterior damage. This is a tool that is good to leave in your car, but not carry around because it is too cumbersome for walking around with.
Ideally if your sawsall is the same brand as your impact driver you could swap the batteries if you need extra juice. I use the Makita XRJ05Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Recipro Saw. This is one of the smaller one you can get (weighs just over 8 pounds with the battery attached) and it has a quick blade change system for fast blade installation and removal.
17. Trim and Upholstery Tools
If you are pulling apart interior door panel its better to use the right tools for the right job. If I know this is what I am going to the Junk Yard for then I carry a car door trim clip pliers and upholstery panel removing tools. These are Ideal for removing automotive trim, door panel clips, and auto body mouldings, etc…
I’ve actually only had to carry these with me once for a special project, otherwise I just keep them in the car and don’t keep them inside my tool bag. It all boils down to what you need and what kind of project you are working on.
Other Items I carry
- Water to stay hydrated
- Shop Rags
- Safety glasses
- Sun screen
- Something soft to kneel on (you can use cardboard if you don’t have anything)
Essential Junk Yard Tool Bag Wrap Up
You can customize your bag to suit your scavenging needs. I like to pack my back for what I generally might need for the specific used parts I am looking for. If I know that I am going in for something specific, then I leave some tools from my bag in the car. The key is to always keep your bag as light as possible. If you don’t have any specific parts you are going for then take a generic tool bag like the first 15 junk yard tools I put on the list above.
Now that your tool bag is ready, you can go find a junkyard near you.