Who picks what?
Whose pulling where?


U-Haul, iPay, Buy Here, Pay Here. But also, U-Pick, U-Pull. Maybe you’ve seen the ads on your local TV station late at night that announce, ‘IF YOU CAN PUSH, PULL, OR DRAG YOUR CAR TO US, WE GIVE YOU 300 BUCKS, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.’ Well, some questions. Otherwise we’d have a pretty serious car theft issue in and around the neighborhood.

What is a “Pick and Pull” junk yard?

Generally, a ‘Pic’n’Pull’ or Pick and Pull junkyard sits just outside of city limits on a chunk of land with cars as far as the eye can see. It best resembles 20 dealerships having gone broke, and then abandoned their cars in rows for the next 40 years. But there’s value to be had here, you need a muffler for your car, and, thanks to the internet, you know what one looks like!

Pic n Pull, Upickit Upullit, U-Pick, U-Pull, U pic U pull, every variation thereof is out in these wide and wild United States, and they are truly a treasure trove. Initially, the owners of the yards strip a lot of the value themselves. Some copper here, a functional battery there, a good set of tires here, any good electronics, etc.

Once that’s done, they stack em, and they’re ready and ripe for the pickin.’

Pull in here for savings.

So now you’ve got yourself the right idea. You know what your muffler looks like, and you mention a few things to your buddies who have been watching you Google all your car troubles from a distance. Finally, someone stands up and suggests the ‘Pick n Pull’ yard down on route 1. So, you climb into the muffler-less mobile and start your journey to be an amateur mechanic. As you pull up you notice some great things about the yard.


- The yard is rows and rows of cars organized by make and year

- There are people who look like they REALLY know what they’re doing there.

- They have a pretty simple price list. Tire. Rim. Muffler. (Hey, that’s you!) and boy howdy, are they less than the big guys prices.

How does this all work?

It’s a pretty simple business, really. Cars that are scrapped still have great parts to them! I’ve literally heard someone cheer after finding a headrest for a late 80s Firebird. Generally common cars have common parts, so a Ford sedan from 2004-2009 might share similar manifold components or even brake shoes. All of these are parts that you may end up needing, should you decide to hang on to your car and not want to pay a billion dollars in mechanics fees.

Some Pick and Pull yards charge entrance, others just charge for parts, some do both. It’s always a good idea to call ahead and see what their policy is. Though generally, it’s frowned upon to call and ask if they have an in-tact steering wheel bearing on a 1997 ford escort LX. You pick it, You pull it. Now, many of the parts that you’ll need might have already been picked and pulled from the first few rows of eligible cars. Don’t stress out just yet, remember- you’re there looking for a part, it’s likely others have been down this literal road before.

Before you go hauling your big bag of tools around to where they keep your make of car, scout out the terrain, take a screwdriver and a hammer and start your search. If for some reason the part you are hunting down isn’t in the Mazda section, hold tight and don’t freak out. Check Ford. They’ve been interchangeable for years, Google is your friend.

Same news goes for you Chevy S10 folks. You need a master cylinder, but the Chevy side is all tapped out. Sneak over and find yourself a GMC Sonoma of the same or near similar year and you might strike gold. Errr, cast aluminum.

It’s always a good idea to go with another person, because you never know what might need to be moved. Or in case you drop a car on yourself. Then the Ambulance has to Pick and Pull you, and I doubt the yard has the current blatck-market prices on limbs from an amateur mechanic.

What’s my xyz/pxk going to cost?

Well, imagine you decided to scrap the last car you sold instead of selling it to that nice teen down the block. It has those parts. That’s the great thing about it, if you can find it, you can pull it. Anything from spark plugs, to axles, to tires. Fuel injection systems (completely whole and intact) are not uncommon either. But that doesn’t quite answer your question, you know your whole car can be sold for about 300 bucks.

So then, what is my thing going to cost? That’s a great question, and probably the most important question when it comes down to it. But the plus is that they don’t judge you based on car. The muffler for that sweet Ferrari costs just as much as that Ford Focus. But before you get any grand ideas about rebuilding a Ferrari/Focus hybrid, get your muffler fixed. Generally, the savings are 50% to 80%.

Granted, that’s a wide price swing, but they usually have boards posted for the most common pieces of equipment folks need so you’ll have an idea. Radiator hoses, mufflers, batteries, etc. Though as stated earlier, these are typically 50-80% off the “New” price.

What’s the gimmick? Do I have to pay them something?

There are plenty of free lots and yards out there but come prepared for a two to ten dollar admission range. Usually the amount you spend is directly proportional to how big the lot and therefore your options are.

The fee is VERY affordable, particularly when you take into the account the savings, you’re getting by doing your own work and you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s not uncommon to see a father and young son courting the yard at a leisurely pace while the father gently teaches his son the rudiments of auto mechanics while bonding with his boy.

The boy, the father, and you may need to sign a waiver before entering. This just absolves the lot of liability so if your best friend Stephen decides he thinks he can lift the engine out of a 1967 mustang by himself, the pick and pull can’t be sued. Though I’m fairly sure he will get his photo taken.

Where’s the mechanic?

I’ve been there before, you were thrown off by the mixed use of first and second person in this article. Let me clarify ‘U’ Pick and ‘U’ Pull. When I say “U” we mean you. At the screen right now. Generally if you’re not dropping off a scrap heap or collecting a check for having dropped one off (more on that later!) You may be advised to bring a friend along, Google, and the following items:


A full ratchet set

Tin snips

Screwdriver set


Gloves and safety eye wear

Silicon based lubricant (for checking moving parts)

A flashlight is never a bad idea

Old rags, shirts, or clothes you generally don’t care about any longer

Lug Wrench from your car

Jack and Jack Stands (Some places will send someone out with a forklift, but better to be prepared)

A jug of water


That’s not to say there isn’t someone VERY knowledgeable on site. You can almost count on it. If you are looking for a VERY specific part that may require the use of a lift or welding/etc. You may want to run what you’ve got by the guy in the shack. Look for the grease under his nails and the glint in his eye, and you’ll know he loves his work.

Since you’re the mechanic…

You should be at least basically versed in a few things. Removing tires so you can either take the tires, or take the rim (or both!) is one of those early stepping stones.

Loosen your lug nuts with your lug wrench that you brought from above

If the vehicle is NOT raised off the ground, you’ll need to raise it off the ground at this point.

Remove the lug nuts entirely

Pull the rim/tire assembly off in a smooth motion

At this point if it’s the rim you’re after, and the vehicle was NOT on the ground when you arrived, you may need to ask the employee there what to do, or if he has a chock that he can put under her. Or another rim.

If you’re removing the tire, drain the air and simply use your screwdriver and the chisel end of your lug wrench to work it off like a bicycle tire. Clearly before doing this you should perform an air test to ensure that if it’s the tire you want, you’re getting a decent tire.

Battery Removal

Most everyone has jumped a car or seen it done, but for the purposes of this article, we’re not focused on that. First go to the negative terminal (labeled either with a MINUS sign, or not labeled at all while the other is labeled with a PLUS sign)

Remove the negative terminal’s bolt head, use your pliers to remove the nut and pull the cable out and AWAY from the rest of the battery.

Repeat with positive cable.

If you brought electrical tape or a rag you can cover either the Pos or the Neg to keep them from touching.

Finally, remove the bracket that is holding the battery to the mount.

Lift the battery out.


Cylinder heads

Start with the rocker cover and begin unscrewing anything holding the cover in place.)

Lift off the rocker cover.

Remove the equipment that is keeping the pivot balls and arms locked in tight so you’ll be able to remove the pushrods.

Having done this, you should now easily be able to get to the head by removing whatever nuts or bolts it takes.

This is for a pushrod engine. You’ll know the difference if you also have to remove a timing belt to get to the head of any cylinder.

What if I find a complete engine?

Well, perhaps you have found the gem you were looking for, but weren’t expecting to need help. Get as much of the grunt work done as possible before getting the lot attendant. He may have cables and the forklift at the ready, or he may tag the car and give you a ‘claim’ to the engine to come back another day.

Can I buy a whole car there? complete engine?

It’s possible that you’ll come upon so many things you need for a rebuild that an entire car may have it. The title has a salvage title, so that may or may not be a beneficial thing to you, depending on your state. With that said, generally most yards will allow the purchase of an entire vehicle, particularly if you’ve recently scrapped one with them. Although, you should keep in mind that many of the vehicles purchased here will have issues passing the emissions test.

Safety First

Some of these parts might be a lot harder to pick, pull, or drag than you might have thought. Those boys in Detroit or wherever did a heck of a job putting them together, and now they’ve meshed as one. Above work gloves and eye protection were recommended, you may find yourself using a hammer and a flathead screwdriver as a chisel. So, working boots and comfortable non-snag clothing is also a good call. The yard may have its own precautions as well, for example: No smoking, drinking, or use of an arc welder or plasma cutting torch without express permission.

So, if you know you’re going to have to use some heavy machinery, or anything more than an air compressor, it’s best to talk to the folks in the shack who let you in and see what can be done. In some cases, it’s another waiver, and in others there are indemnity legalese type clauses.

What’s under there? Can I check the lot inventory before I drive all the way out there?

Maybe. It’s going to depend on a lot of factors. Factor number one is going to be who you end up with on the phone. Be prepared for a brash hello and a quick answer about hours. But don’t take offense, it’s hot and he’s had 25 people ask him about parts that don’t exist and won’t ever exist for most of the hour.

Sometimes owners will have top notch inventory management and you can expect them to at least inform you that a ‘whole’ or ‘near whole’ Ford xyz has recently come in. Some keep parts lists as they go in and out, and others sometimes follow that practice until it’s too busy, too hot, too cold, or they’re too bored and don’t want to do it.

An online updated inventory would be a huge plus, but don’t expect it. A phone call will tell you a lot, particularly if you’re looking for a very common or a very uncommon part.

Back to that part about how they’ll give ME money?

Easy. So, as we mentioned in the first paragraph. You may have seen a Crazy Bob or Wacko Will on late night TV letting you know that he’ll take that heap of junk in your driveway away and PAY you, that’s usually a place like this. Most places max out at around $500 bucks or so. Because typically anything more than that could be legitimately sold without issue. Now, again – with anything it’s always best to call and find out what their policy is.

So, if you know you’re going to have to use some heavy machinery, or anything more than an air compressor, it’s best to talk to the folks in the shack who let you in and see what can be done. In some cases, it’s another waiver, and in others there are indemnity legalese type clauses.

If it’s a drive-able car, whether or not the inspection is valid, it’s a different situation than if you have your AAA membership tow your old Geo Metro down there and dump it in front of the cash shack. Besides, you want to make sure you’ve had adequate time to say goodbye, lest the hang around mechanics think less of you as your tears add one more spot of rust to her forest green hood.

So as stated, call ahead. They do this every day and have seen all types come walking in, the types who have read helpful guides like this, types who have never even changed a tire but decided the middle of August in the South was the perfect time to spend an hour trying to figure it out, and everything in between.

So, as far as getting paid for your koosh ball keyed, forest green Geo Metro, call ahead and call around. But if you can make it a two for one trip, I’d recommend it. Search on Google for what car parts you’re most likely to need for you most recent model of car. You know, the one you don’t let your friend Doug into, “sorry Doug...it’s just, it’s new, you know?” So, while you’re there, you can pick those up on the cheap. Or heck, maybe you can weasel in a free admission since you brought them a new toy.


How do I find a pick and pull near me?

Great question. The easiest thing to do is have a quick google “City” + “Pick and pull” and see what rises from the ashes. Then we suggest finding the address and heading over to Google Maps. Punch in the address and then head to the satellite view. Boy howdy, can you get a pretty good idea of what they have this way. Plus, you can see if the five-dollar fee the guy on the phone mentioned is as good as the 10 dollars the other guy at the other pick and pull yard wanted.

Am I the right type for picking and pulling?

Like any place, a pick and pull lot has its regulars. You know the type, always tinkering, even if it’s with a minivan. Just something to keep the mind and hands busy. Some of us ARE those very people right now, pondering how we can best get that snickers bar into our mouth without moving the three feet to get it. But your general auto hobbyists, enthusiasts, and guys who might do small neighborhood repair work are usually out and about.

In short, if you’re even thinking about trying your hand at it, you’re the right person for it. It’s a lot of fun, and don’t let one yard ruin your taste for them if you have a bad experience.

I bought the wrong part

Yes. Yes, you did. It happens. Most pick and pull’s will offer some sort of exchange policy at the very least, allowing you to swap out that 1978 Ford Muffler for a 1976, which for some reason was different, even though the book you thought you read in the 9th grade said they weren’t. But don’t fret it, as long as they have a part in the inventory, they usually don’t mind a part for part swap of the same breed. To them a muffler is a muffler.

As far as guarantees or warranties, it’s not uncommon to be offered a warranty on some parts, particularly larger pieces of clutch assemblies or transmissions.

Anything final I should know?

It’s been repeated, but it bears repeating. Pick and pull lots are a hoot and a holler, as it’s been heard said; but lots vary from state to state, town to town, even in the same city! Some may have a complete list of parts and cars and their lot location. Some may have all the vehicles elevated on old rims or other pieces of finery, some may not, and you’ll have to do all the jack and jack standing yourself. Some lots have a map that is either yours to keep with your entrance fee, or just an old plastic covered loaner map that has been around since the dawn of time.

If you need a whole mess of parts, and you know you’re going to be out there picking and pulling your day away, you may want to call and ask about wheelbarrows. Some provide them free on a first come/first serve basis, other places may ask you to shell out the greenbacks for them.