How to Find the Parts You Need at a Junkyard

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 08, 2018

Dear Car Talk:

What was the Chevy equivalent of the 2002 Buick Century? A dashboard part has broken on my Buick, and if I need to go on a junkyard search, it would help to broaden the range of possible donor cars. Thanks for any info. -- Emma

It depends on exactly which dashboard part you need, Emma. In addition to your Buick Century, GM made a number of cars on what they called the "W-Body chassis," including the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Intrigue, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo. But not all of them used all of the same parts.

The good news is that any decent junkyard will have a computerized database that will tell you exactly which other cars have a part that will work on your car.

Here's how it works. Let's say you have an '08 Toyota Camry with a set of fuzzy dice that have lost their fuzz. Your local automotive recycler (aka junk man) would type in the part number, and the database would tell him that, for instance, the fuzzy dice in any Camry from 2006-2011 would fit your car -- as would the dice from the same year Toyota Avalons.

And he can do that same kind of search for whatever dashboard part you need for your 2002 Buick Century. Then, of course, he can look up whether he has any of those cars, with those parts, on his lot. Or, if he's tied into a larger database, he may even be able to locate a part for you at another yard anywhere in the country and have it sent to you.

Just don't leave your old Buick unattended for too long when you visit the junkyard, Emma. Some other hungry customer might assume it's inventory and start plucking off parts. Good luck.

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