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Shopping for Used Parts

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John Cappa | Writer
Posted September 1, 1999

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s...

Step By Step

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  • If you’re shopping for a transmission, it’s a good idea to pull the cover and look inside. This T98 with a granny low is a great swap in older four-cylinder Jeeps. Since it was available as a factory option, the original adapters can be used instead of purchasing additional parts. With a direct bolt-in transmission, be sure to get all the necessary parts.

  • Pulling the cover off this T98 revealed that the gears were in good shape. However, we spotted a few roller bearings in the bottom of the case that may have fallen out when someone began the unfinished teardown of the unit. This wasn’t a big deal, since it will be rebuilt before it is installed.

  • The shift forks in the cover plate of the T98 were straight and had no signs of excessive wear. Grooved, burnt, or bent forks will need to be replaced.

  • The Birfield joints in the front axleshafts of Land Cruisers are notoriously weak and often break under heavy use. If you’re looking for replacements or spares, avoid these early ball-type shafts--they’re even weaker than Birfields.

  • We found this winch at a heavy-equipment yard. Not only does it look cool, it can also pull down a house. The fact that it’s PTO-driven and excessively large makes it difficult to install and less desirable for trail use. This winch is better left to the logging industry. Just because something is a good deal doesn’t mean it should be bought. This holds true with free items as well.

  • The correct driveshaft can be difficult to find in a wrecking yard. You may find a slightly longer one with the correct yokes, and have it cut down. If you are able to find the one you need, check it for straightness and dents. Also see if the slip-joint is overly loose. Expect to change the U-joints; they will probably be worn-out or missing caps.

  • Rusty internal engine parts such as this Toyota camshaft should be left behind. Cams shouldn’t be machined. It’s also difficult to determine the origin of the parts if they are loose like this. If the part is a rare find, then you’ll have to decide if it’s worth saving.

  • Exhaust manifolds are relatively easy to identify. This small-block Chevy piece looks OK, but further inspection revealed a crack. If you find one you like, it’s a good idea to have the flanges machined before installation to avoid any leaks.

  • This Daytona pinion support for a Ford 9-inch would be a great find if the mounting ear weren’t broken off. Check used parts carefully for broken studs, stripped threads, and cracks.

  • This Powr-Lok for a Dana 25 is no longer manufactured. It is an excellent upgrade from the stock open carrier. Used ring-and-pinion gears should be avoided but new gears for a 25 may prove to be difficult to find. This 5.38 set seemed to be in good shape and could be put to use.

  • The Saginaw steering box pictured has a 76 cast into it. The 76 boxes have larger bearings and extra ribs in the casting. This type of unit is stronger than other boxes, which makes it a good choice for power-steering conversions on Jeeps and Land Cruisers. The threaded inlets and outlets on steering boxes should be inspected for damage and debris. If it looks to be contaminated with dirt or water, find a different box.

  • This non-directional military tire has plenty of tread left, but the cracks in the rubber are bad news. Forget about tires in this condition. The only thing this one might be good for is a swing.

  • If you’re looking for a used axle, be wary of modified parts. This Toyota axle has a super-trick gusset to keep it from bending, and the steering arms have been modified to accept rod ends. Unless you planned to do similar modifications, buying a stock axle is a better idea. Also consider the kind of abuse an axle like this has probably seen.

  • The tags bolted to axle-diff covers can be helpful in finding the ratio you are looking for. This tag reads 41-11. What it means is 41 teeth on the ring gear and 11 on the pinion. When you divide them you get the axle ratio: 3.73:1. The ratio is also stamped on this tag, but some only have the tooth count. Do not trust the tags. Use them only as an indicator of what might be inside. Always remove the diff cover to find out for sure.

  • This engine is ready for swappin’. It even comes with a stand. Chances are something is seriously wrong with the internals of this engine. The aluminum valve covers and intake were very corroded, suggesting that this engine may have been underwater for a time or used in a boat. Unless a rebuild is planned, this thing is a boat anchor. The stand is a good find though.

  • Quality body parts can be purchased used. Swiping a magnet over the panel in question can identify if it has an abundance of Bondo caked on. Since some body parts are no longer manufactured, used pieces may be the only choice. One of these M38A1 grilles could convert that ugly CJ to something a little more tolerable.

  • Talk about hard to find. This PTO made by Ramsey for an early-Jeep transfer case hasn’t been built in 30-plus years. If you need to repair something like this, your only choice may be used parts.

Shopping for used parts can save quite a bit of money over buying new ones. Quite often the part you’re looking for can’t be purchased new because it is no longer manufactured. Used may be the only choice. The problem with buying used is identifying the parts and determining if they’re any good.

We traveled to a few junkyards and even our own backyards to help identify good used parts. It can be interesting to go to salvage yards just to look around. Sometimes the sight of an individual piece can provide enough inspiration to find a use for it. Don't let your imagination go too wild: Car bodies do not go on 4x4 drivetrains, and some parts may be better left for the melting kiln. Spare parts such as axleshafts and starters are easy finds as long as you know what to look for. Engines and complete axles will need a little more research.

Don't forget to look in places that don't advertise used parts. We found all kinds of good junk at a local recycling center. Many times these parts are damaged, but careful inspection could turn up some good cheap components. Most recycling centers will sell the stuff by weight. Also, keep your eyes peeled when driving through rural areas. Vehicles that have been left for dead in front yards could be potential purchases. Buying a whole vehicle to get a few parts is sometimes cheaper than buying the individual components. The remains can then be sold for scrap if need be. Most farms have their own wrecking yard. A farmer may be willing to part with a complete vehicle for less than you think. Don't be too hasty, though, or you may end up at the wrong end of a shotgun.