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Junkyard Dawg

A dozen bits to look for at the truck wreckers.

by Julian Edgar

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While people often head off to the wreckers to get some cheap, OEM quality bits for their car, not too many that we know make the journey to yards wrecking trucks! However, truck wreckers can provide a host of components that can be adapted to high performance automotive use.

So let's take a quick look around at a truck wrecker.

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Yep, first and foremost a truck wrecker is the place to find monsta intercoolers. Lots of mid-sized trucks (and all large trucks) are diesel turbo - and the truck guys discovered intercooling long before the automotive aftermarket! The intercoolers that you can find are truly massive - a metre square isn't uncommon. But in good condition they'll set you back a wallet-full of dollars - the better approach is to find one that's damaged. It will still be useful in a car application, cos all truck intercoolers will need to be modified in size to fit in the svelte nose of a car. Damaged, twisted, burned, scarred and discarded truck 'coolers can set you back as little as a carton of beer - although $100 is more common. But always budget lots of time and/or expense to adapt the cooler to its new home.

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A part of the intake system that's cheaper and can also often be made use of can be found attached to the intercooler - the plumbing. Depending on the size of the truck, plumbing from 2½ right up to 4-inch can be found - that'll include cast alloy bends, rubber pressure hose, flanges and fittings. As everywhere, wreckers are unlikely to sell just these bits off a complete intercooler - so head out into the yard, looking for a truck with an intercooler so badly damaged that the assembly is unlikely to be in demand from people wanting to repair their truck. Bits of this sort start at $25 for hose, up to about $100 for alloy piping.

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On the intake side of the engine you'll also find pretty heavy-duty aircleaners and their associated plumbing. Obviously these aren't designed to withstand turbo boost pressures, but used in front of turbo (or in front of the throttle butterfly in a NA engine) they can still be damn' useful. These intake hoses are b-i-g - the smallest that you'll find is 3-inch and it's pretty easy to locate some 6-inchers! The pictured hose sections are just the thing to form a cold air intake to an airbox - the corrugations make bending the duct easy and the pipe's just so damn' big that the pressure drop across the bends will be very low. Cost? Depends on the truck but from $20 - $50 should cover it. (Sometimes saying, "I'll give you twenty bucks for it," and taking the dented aircleaner canister as well will give you a lower price than asking for the hoses separately!)

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On the other side of the engine you'll find exhausts - and along with the pipes, mufflers and flexi-joints. You'll be pushing to find any truck exhaust less than 2½ inches in diameter - and many are a lot bigger than that! Since big diameter car flex joints cost a mint, you may well find that visiting a truck wrecker and grabbing one like this is a lot more cost effective. (Note also the nice 4-bolt flange!) And the mufflers? Most are too big for car use, but there are some trucks that use smallish barrel-shaped mufflers - in pipe sizes up to 4-inch. Again, it's a case of going and seeing what's available. Costs for exhaust bits? - upwards from about $10 for some big diameter bends and flanges.

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Here's where you start getting real tricky. What's this thing? Well, the label suggest it's some kind of oil reservoir - but it's easy to imagine it being turned into a air/oil separator, vacuum reservoir - even a small methanol or toluene (ie octane booster) tank! These sorts of tanks and reservoirs can be found all over trucks - compressed air cylinders, power steering reservoirs, hydraulic oil tanks, and so on. Construction materials commonly include mild steel and aluminium. Cost? W-e-l-l, that's all over the place - it depends on the part and its demand. If it's on a truck whose chassis is about to head to the metal recyclers it might cost you $5. But if it's a gen-u-ine factory mega-dollar part - well, it might costs $300. It's always a case of asking and seeing what the man says...

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Another reservoir - kinda like an overgrown car power steering tank. But this one's about double the normal 'car-sized' volume. Uses? Well, you might want to install a larger power steer reservoir - or maybe clean it thoroughly and use it as a header tank in a water/air intercooler system. Note that this particular one's been out in the sun for long enough that the plastic's started to degrade - to go chalky. Always inspect stuff that you are going to buy very closely - you don't want the hassle of trying out a wrecker warranty, especially when your application is probably going to be pretty weird (from the wrecker's point of view, anyway!). In excellent condition expect to pay about $100 - in this condition, maybe one-fifth of that.

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So what's this little thing, then? Yup, we're back on the intake side of the engine - just after the airfilter, actually. What this little device does is register the pressure drop across the airfilter. If the pressure drop becomes too great (ie the filter is getting overly blocked) the nipple on the end pops out. When you change or clean the filter, you simply push it back in. So is this good for cars, or what? Well, most commercial vehicle sensors like this are set to trip at what we'd call an unacceptably high pressure drop - but you may be able to put a lighter spring inside the thing and so make it more sensitive. Price? $10 - $50.

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Now we get to electrics. A key - but often-overlooked point - is to check the voltage of all electrical items that you source from a truck. Many (but not all) are 24-volt - double car system voltages. That means that in nearly all cases the item won't work properly on 12V. (Exceptions are electric motors, where they'll just turn more slowly and with less torque. Sometimes that's wanted - but not often.) However, bits and pieces like this neat foglight may be able to be re-bulbed with the 12V item - and if it's cheap enough and fits the space that you've got planned for it, buying another bulb is no big deal. On import trucks such as this one, it's quite likely that none of the locally-delivered trucks have foglights - an orphan light is always cheaper to grab. Cost? $25 - $75.

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If they're from a 12V system, washer bottles and pumps are a potentially really good item. Why? Firstly, because the containers are often much bigger in capacity than you'll find in cars; and secondly, because the pumps are also often more powerful. Add those two things together and you have the beginnings of a very effective intercooler water spray, or even a water injection system. In both cases you'll need to source good quality (Spraying Systems are best) industrial small-droplet nozzles, but even with just these wrecker bits you're well on the way. Places where something like this could be mounted include in the boot (put a check valve on the water line and there won't be any spray delay) on within the inner guard.

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Add a few electrical accessories to your car and you know the story - bunches of in-line fuses strung around the place, relays screwed to sheet metal in the engine bay, and metres of wires spaghetti'ing everywhere. One way to overcome this approach is to install a new fuse and relay block. And what better place to find heavy-duty relays, looms and fuses than at a truck wrecker? Again make sure that they're 12V but after that, anything which has the right number of bits and pieces and looks the correct shape to fit in the spot you've picked out is up for grabs. Prices will vary wildly - if you're thinking that they'll be happy to have you chop up a complete loom, forget it! But orphan stuff - this one was in a crate of discarded electrical wiring - should be very price negotiable.

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This truck gets its 24V by simply using two 12V batteries wired in series. Take only one battery and straightaway you've got 12V. And truck batteries tend to be heavy-duty things, with lots of plates and lots of cranking amps. Obviously it makes sense to get a battery only from a very recent arrival to the yard - and it's one item to get a warranty on - but a truck wrecker is a place to find a really heavy-duty battery to run that sound system. Note also the thick cables and connectors - those long cable runs are just the thing if you want to move your car's battery from the front to the back, or need a new earthing strap. Finally, some trucks have nice battery boxes, complete with internal tie-downs and steel covers.

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While people seldom use them, air con condensers make ideal mega heavy-duty transmission coolers. They can easily handle the pressure and they're generally highly efficient in their construction. Throw in a dedicated (and nicely mounted - note the full shroud) electric fan (remember to check it's 12V) and you have a unit capable of really dissipating some heat. An alternative use is as a radiator for a water/air intercooler - or even in some applications as a power steering oil cooler. However, prices for this sort of assembly can climb sky high - it's just the sort of thing easily damaged at the front of a truck in an accident and so it'll be in plenty of demand.

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