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Recycled Car Parts: Why, What, and How

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

There’s no real way to sugarcoat this. Driving and manufacturing cars produce pollution and damages the environment. Every time we buy a new car built with new parts, it costs us money, natural resources, and our planet’s health.

One of the best ways to address this is with recycled car parts. By recycling our old cars and parts, we can make them useful even as they age. Both in other cars and different applications, we can stretch our resources.

Recycling will save us in costs and maintenance. At the same time, it’s better for the environment. You can even get compensated with cash for bringing your car in to get recycled.

Our guide below tells you everything you need to know about the most often recycled car parts.

Why Recycled Auto Parts?

Those of us who love our vehicles will drive them into the ground. The allure of a new model every year doesn’t call to us the way it does for others. We try to repair and maintain our cars as well as we can to keep them running.

Sometimes, this means replacing parts or having major work and service done. The costs of all that can start to add up. Even with all the love and care we give our vehicles, we have to put our old cars to rest sooner or later.

The way we do this, though, makes all the difference. The traditional way would be to drag your vehicle to a junkyard and watch it get crushed into a cube. Many people enjoy the spectacle.

However, it’s not that efficient in reality. The fact of the matter is almost every part of your car can get dismantled, reused, and recycled. Some of the parts can go towards other cars, lowering the cost of repairs and maintenance.

Other auto parts can get repurposed into newer cars or used in different ways. You save money, prolong the lifespan of resource-intensive parts, and help the environment.

There is always a demand for auto parts of all kinds. The more of them we can keep in circulation without building more, the better. It will lead to less waste and ecological damage this way.


Batteries are some of the most recycled auto parts in the US. They also aren’t usually that hard to recycle. Standard car batteries can get repurposed in other cars or dismantled.

There is no real reason not to opt for car battery recycling. Many car batteries are of the lead-acid variety. Lithium alternatives are newer and usually found in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Lithium tends to last longer, so you won’t be replacing them as often. That said, recycling EV and hybrid car batteries are difficult. Recycling lithium car batteries is resource-heavy and even dangerous.

The vast majority of older cars that need to get recycled will have a lead-acid battery. This is handy as you can recycle or reuse around 90-95% of a lead-acid battery. Lithium-ion batteries are harder to recycle safely with current methods.

There are also fewer lithium-ion recycling centers compared to lead-acid. Companies in Europe are stepping up to address this issue, with the US not too far behind. Recycling lead-acid batteries in the US is pretty straightforward, though.

There are plenty of recycling centers that can take your old lead-acid batteries. Some states give you cash for bringing your old lead battery to a recycling center. This makes it super easy and beneficial to exchange your old lead-acid battery for a newer one.

You get rewarded for doing the right thing. Keeping batteries out of landfills and extending their usefulness is beneficial for everyone.

Motor Oil

You might not realize this, but it is possible to clean and reuse motor oil. All you need is the right equipment and know-how. Any auto service center can take your used oil and recycle it.

Every time you take your vehicle into the shop, the company should be recycling your used oil. This is because improperly disposing of the oil is an environmental hazard. Moreso, it’s an ethical dilemma.

Service centers know that they can clean, reuse, and repurpose old motor oil. It costs them time and resources, so you aren’t likely to get paid for your old oil. That said, having it recycled reduces waste and the environmental impact.

Cleaning and reselling used oil save companies more than money. It helps them be more environmentally conscious and sustainable. Even if they can’t recycle all of it, they still dispose of it in a responsible manner.

If you change your oil at home, you should take the old oil to a recycling center. Dumping motor oil down the drain can lead to clogs and affect the sewer system. This doesn’t even account for the impact on pollution it could cause, especially with the chemicals in synthetic ones.

According to the EPA, a single oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of water. This is why recycling or disposing of motor oil the right way is so important.

Throwing it into our oceans or leaving it to leak out of containers in landfills has horrific environmental consequences.

Tires and Rubber

This might surprise you, but tires can find new life if you recycle them. Car tire recycling is the 2nd most common type of auto recycling after car batteries. Other than getting retreaded and used in other vehicles, there are scores of other uses.

By recycling them, you can turn tires into artificial turf for playgrounds. The materials also get used in civil engineering and infrastructure projects as well. A good example of this includes road surfacing.

It’s also possible to use recycled tire material on track fields or even to make fuel from them. Tires last forever and are not very biodegradable, so it’s important to recycle them. Keeping them useful helps combat excessive environmental waste and can save money too.

Don’t forget about the rubber in your hoses or the ones that are lining your vehicle. Rubberized components inside your cabin are repurposable, including floor mats. Mudflaps or the rubber protectors on your wheel-wells are also fair game.

A lot of the rubber in your car already comes from previously recycled materials. This is often especially true for rubber floormats. By recycling these, you continue their more ecological lifecycles.

Auto Glass

The glass that makes up the windshields of vehicles is quite special. It’s coated with a type of plastic coating and is far stronger than ordinary glass. The way it’s made makes it safe in case of cracking or an impact accident, but it comes with a cost.

Auto glass can be quite the hassle to recycle but is still worth it. This special safety glass is often turned into bottles, glasses, tiles, jewelry, and even counter-tops. It often finds a second life in a variety of fiberglass products as well.

The difficulties associated with auto glass also make things difficult, though. Not many recycling centers are set up to handle auto glass. Ones that do have this ability aren’t very common in some states.

That said, the number of centers is always growing. You can even find groups willing to organize and collect auto glass to send to existing centers. Buying goods made from recycled auto glass is a good way to support the practice and expand it to every region.

Look into what’s near you when thinking about recycling your car. Chances are you’ll find a way to donate your glass or even make some money off of it.

Engine, Transmission, Converters

When it comes to auto parts and recycling, it’s surprising what you can repair or repurpose. It’s well known that cars rebuilt with old engines are cheaper.

Well, the same is true for engines that have had tons of work done on them or have been completely rebuilt. Transmissions and engine blocks can get dismantled, recycled, and remanufactured. With a bit of elbow grease, you can get them to work again in other cars or salvage the materials for other projects.

Catalytic converters are another thing worth recycling. These help your exhaust system turn pollutants into less dangerous exhaust. While these could get repurposed for other vehicles, the real value is in their make-up.

Catalytic converters actually have precious metals in them. These are useful in electronics and even jewelry. Palladium and platinum are the most often used ones.

They aren’t used in large amounts, but you can still salvage about $100 worth of platinum alone from a single converter. Finding a recycling center willing to do this for you isn’t as hard as you’d think either.

While you could make money recycling these parts, helping the environment is a nice bonus. If the alternative is squishing your car at the junkyard, then you should see what you can salvage and recycle first.

The Metal Itself

People don’t think about this when they take their cars to the scrapyard. As far as recycled car parts go, the metal in your car counts and has value. You know this to some degree since the junkyard owner pays you for your “scrap metal”.

The thing is, your metal is worth more than only scrap. Everything from the body, the handles, and even the underside can get recycled. This metal can go towards building new cars, building construction, or any number of other uses.

Modern cars also contain plenty of metal mixes, from aluminum to more precious metals. If extracted and separated, these can go into electronics, jewelry, or city infrastructure. Depending on local regulations, some of the metal can go with your curbside recycling.

As long as it can fit inside the bin and doesn’t contain any non-recyclable parts, you can recycle plenty this way. The bezels from your headlights are fair game, as are your mirrors. Make sure to separate the metals from any rubber, plastic, or glass if your bylaws require it.

Often local regulations won’t let you recycle certain parts this way. These include the likes of mufflers, spark plugs, and brake shoes. If you have larger or more complicated parts take them to a recycling center or a scrapyard yourself.

Oftentimes, there will be a monetary incentive waiting for you if you make an effort. Researching the value of your car’s parts before selling gives you an advantage.

Plastics and Textiles

These days there is a lot of plastic that goes into car manufacturing. The sad thing is that most plastics are not biodegradable, meaning this only adds to our pollution. The bumpers, dash, and interior, in general, can be full of plastics that need recycling.

The good thing is you can separate the plastics from the rest of the materials and recycle them. Some of it might go towards other vehicles, but a lot of it can find use in other everyday products. Even the cloth or leather of your seats, interior trim, or carpets can find new life.

Belts and Timing Chains

These are necessary for the operation of things like your AC and alternator and see plenty of use. You need to check and replace your belts regularly, but it’s surprising how durable they can be. A fair number of belts in older cars are still good enough to see use in another vehicle.

Timing chains, in particular, are even more durable. It’s rare for them not to be salvageable for reuse. By reusing as much as possible, we minimize our impact on the environment and reduce costs.

Recycled Car Parts Are the Future

It’s imperative that everyone looks into recycled car parts. Recycling, in general, will help us lower both costs and our impact on the environment. Dismantling and salvaging our cars instead of watching them fall apart at the dump is vital.

Recycling car parts can often come with a financial incentive. The pride of doing what’s right for the environment helps too. At Cash Auto Salvage, we know how to help you get the most out of your old car, so get an offer today.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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