WRECKING YARDS

SAVE A PRETTY PENNY BY SCOUTING LOCAL WRECKING YARDS FOR QUALITY KIT.

WORDS SCOTT HEIMAN

WE DON’T often reflect on how much we outlay on 4x4 aftermarket accessories, but a recent review of insurance coverage for the Hilux showed us how much coin we’d spent. Gravitating towards an insurance provider that promised coverage for both the rig things we’ve added to it over the past 10 years, we developed an inventory of exactly how much we’d spent on the bits we’ve bolted, sprayed, clicked and screwed onto it. The sum we ended up with was close to $25,000, and while this expenditure had been spread over 10 years it was still an eyewatering amount.

It made us think, how is a person starting out in the 4x4 world supposed to come up with that sort of coin on top of the original vehicle cost? The answer: slowly but surely. But is there another way? Enter the world of wrecking.

Not all write-offs are “complete” write-offs. After all, flood damage doesn’t affect bullbars, rear bars, side-steps or roof racks; rear-enders won’t damage a set of spotties or LED light bars; and an engine-bay fire won’t affect rear cameras, car seat covers or rear tray tubs and cargo racks.

On our last visit to our favourite wrecking yards we found fully serviceable snorkels displayed for between $110-$375, depending on make and model, which is less than half the price for these pieces of moulded plastic tubing. We also found three models of Warn winches available for $600 or less, which is clearly 50 per cent and better than the RRP Get a bit of kit like this serviced by someone who knows what they’re doing (like Hume Offroad, who previously operated as Hume Winches) and you’d be well on your way.

The availability of serviceable second-hand parts at consistently reduced rates is good news for any 4x4er, not just those doing it tough. After all, it can make a lot of sense to save a few hundred dollars by sourcing second-hand spares for the next trip. And, when we smash a headlight protector during a long weekender, is it really necessary to pay RRP for a replacement pair? Or perhaps the issue is that the part we need is no longer available via retail outlets.

FIRST-TIMER, EDWIN TANG

ON A TRIP to a wrecking yard we met 24-year-old Edwin Tang, who was loading an ARB bullbar into the back of a 2000 V6-powered Holden Frontera. Edwin and his partner had decided a 4x4 was required to support their habits, so they created a wish list to keep them on budget. The rig had to be as cheap as possible; have reasonable mileage; have strong aftermarket support; reliable; only have issues they could fix or were confident in learning how to fix; a manual; and dual range. The Holden Frontera met their criteria. It was less than $5000, had less than 120,000km on the clock, had 4WD and dual range; and it had a manual gearbox. They made an offer of $2000 that was accepted.

With the relatively low mileage and no glaring mechanical faults, the Frontera definitely had potential. The couple took the rig for its maiden voyage to the Blue Mountains to get a feel for whether this new toy deserved the love and attention Edwin planned to lavish on it.

It was clear that some money needed to be spent to replace the balding tires and to deal with weary stock suspension. Via a Facebook forum, Edwin found a Frontera that was being privately wrecked, so the pair secured replacement panels, five 31x10.50 R15L T Dick Cepek tyres with rims, a two-inch lift kit (including the rear springs and shocks), and a snorkel – all for $1000.

When we met the duo at All Model 4x4 Spares, they had taken possession of their ‘new’ ARB bullbar for $600 (less than half the new price). Edwin told us he’d outlaid $3600 on the Frontera and its accessories – plus consumables – which was well under his original $5000 budget. The savings had allowed them to buy a brand new UHF radio, a tyre compressor and lighting upgrades for $600 – with coin to spare.

“For the price of much less than a pair of return overseas flights, it looks like we’ve obtained a capable and reliable vehicle for what we would like to use it for,” Edwin said. “The next thing to do is to take it out for more drives, understand what needs improving and getting to work on that.”

Plus, in an era characterised by rampant consumerism, picking through a wrecking yard is a great way to bolster our commitment to recycling.

There are specialist 4x4 wreckers all over the country, including Glenn’s 4x4 Wreckers in Canberra and All Model 4WD Spares in Revesby, which is Sydney’s largest 4WD wrecking yard. In Victoria, Smart Parts claim the title of Australia’s leading 4WD and light commercial parts dismantler. And there’s Early Land Cruiser Spares in South Australia if great if you have an old Tojo.

Some outlets have parts neatly stacked on shelves and ready for inspection, while others invite you to turn up with a socket set and go treasure hunting. Some wreckers have an inventory of parts available online; some provide a request form; and others have Facebook pages listing the vehicles that are about to be stripped or reworked.

So the next time you get the itch for an auto accessory, perhaps you should let your fingers do the walking and call a couple of local wreckers to see if they can help sort you out.

Start making a habit of this, and you could save yourself a pretty penny.