Where Are Precious Metals Hiding in Junked Cars?

While I was riding a commuter train into New York City the other day, I looked out the window and saw a junkyard that was full of dozens of cars. They were stacked high, one on top of another. I am sure that the owner of that junkyard had pulled the catalytic convertors from them. After all, removing a catalytic converter is a simple job that can be done in just a few minutes, using a small cutoff saw or chain cutter.

Junked cars contain more precious metals than just platinum in catalytic converters, including gold in circuit boards that Specialty Metals can recycle.

Junked cars contain more precious metals than just platinum in catalytic converters, including gold in circuit boards that Specialty Metals can recycle.

But what about other precious metals in those junkers? Had the owner of that yard done the tougher job of removing other components that could contain valuable quantities of recyclable gold and other precious metals? It’s not easy to remove some of those components. It means crawling around with a crowbar and other tools, which is not pleasant. But if you own a number of older junked cars, it’s a task that can reward you with significant quantities of precious metals – gold especially – that can be worth a lot of money.

Where Can You Find those Precious Metals You Can Recycle?

Precious metals are found in any car components that include circuit boards, which typically have gold-plated contact “fingers” at their edges where connectors slide on.

The car’s computers. The mother lode of automotive eScrap - printed circuits in cars - can be found in the computers that control engine and other functions. These computers are called by different names, such as the powertrain control module (PCM) and the engine control unit (ECU). These onboard computers monitor emission controls, antilock brakes (ABS), fuel injection, ignition timing, turbocharger boost, transmission shifting, and other engine functions. These units are not difficult to remove. Locations vary, but they are usually housed under the dashboard on the passenger’s side of the vehicle.

Other electronic devices. Printed circuit boards are found in many places in modern cars – in audio systems, CD changers, electronic displays and navigation systems, for example. The circuit boards they contain are usually found right where those devices are located, and can be removed with hand or light power tools. If the cars you’re recycling have CD changers that are located in their trunks, you may find circuit boards there too.

And What about Recycling Airbags?

There has been a lot of buzz about the gold that is contained in automotive airbags. The largest of these passive restraints are typically installed in steering wheels, but they are now found in the passenger’s side of the dashboard, in the sides of seats, and around windows if “curtain style” restraints have been built into the car. Yes, these devices typically contain small quantities of gold. But removing and recycling airbags is dangerous. If a battery is still connected to a car’s electrical system – and even if it is not - the bag could inflate violently and cause serious injury if you start to tamper with it. There’s also the fact that airbags contain sodium azide, a volatile powder that detonates and causes airbags to inflate. So the best plan is to stay away from airbags and passive restraints and to concentrate on removing the printed circuits from the places described above.

Do You Have a Quantity of Automotive Circuit Boards to Recycle?

After you extract and set aside a quantity of several hundred circuit boards from older cars, call Specialty Metals Smelters & Refiners at 800-426-2344 and tell us what you have. We’ll be happy to help you get top dollar from them.

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