Today: the many uses of your local auto junkyard.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an old 1995 Toyota Celica with 180,000 miles on it. It's in great shape, but the driver's seat has become worn and broken -- so broken that an upholstery shop cannot repair it. Buying new aftermarket seats is expensive, and probably requires drilling new mounting holes and other work that I'm not mechanically inclined or equipped to perform. So I'm thinking I should try to find an old, used seat to replace mine. My question is, How do I go about finding a used seat? I'm assuming I must go to an auto salvage yard. Is it possible to search online to find a local yard with the part I'm looking for or find a non-local salvage yard that will mail me the part? I have no idea how salvage yards work.

-- Earl

RAY: We happened to cover this very issue in depth, in an article we wrote on our Web site. It's called: "Car Talk's Complete Guide to American Junkyards (Oops, Auto Recycling Facilities)." You can read the whole thing at

TOM: But here's the part you need to know, Earl. Just call a local junkyard. THEY'LL find you the seat you need.

RAY: Right. Most junkyards have an online parts locator system to find parts for their customers. So if they don't have the seat you're looking for, they'll put it on the wire, and some other yard with a pristine '95 Celica driver's seat with only 40,000 butt miles on it, will ship it to them.

TOM: Or, you may get a '94 or '96 seat. The junkyard has access to a database that can tell which seats from other model years will fit your '95 -- without drilling new holes or remodeling the console.

RAY: And this is absolutely the right way to go, Earl. There are some parts we don't recommend buying at a junkyard, either because of safety issues or because of the high ratio of labor-to-parts cost. But a seat is an absolute junkyard winner -- as long as it passes the sniff test.

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