Junkyard Dog Homework

The great thing about pulling a motor from the wrecking yard is that you buy everything attached to it, including the accessories, valve covers and all the associated electronics. The cost of purchasing these individual items alone can be worth more than you paid for the motor.

By Richard Holdener

Believe it when I say no one loves a trip to the junkyard more than me. We recently pulled no less than six complete engines in one weekend — that’s how we junkyard dogs roll! While the yard has many treasures, there’s a reason they don’t call it the treasure yard. The key to a successful trip is knowing how to spot the difference between the junk and the jewels. Here are a few suggestions that might help make your next junkyard trip less stressful and more successful.

Before heading out to the yard, do your homework. You should know that the Gen V and VI 454 Chevys all came with desirable four-bolt mains.

Do Your Homework

Before heading out to pick up a motor, make sure to do your homework (on your engine combination). If you are looking for a 5.8L EFI 351W Ford, you should know that the fuel-injected 5.8L motors came with both flat-tappet and hydraulic-roller cams. You need to be able to tell the difference between the two without having to pull the intake to check the lifters. Hint: look at the gear on the distributor. Looking for a big-block Chevy? You need to know the difference between the Mark IV, Gen V and Gen VI motors, and that all of the Gen V and Gen VI motors came with desirable four-bolt mains but require a different (one-piece) crankshaft and rear-main seal.

The late-model big-block Chevys also featured a non-adjustable valvetrain with guide plates and the smaller 5/16ths pushrods.
Before heading out to secure your motor, check the internet for information on changes made to things like combustion chambers, compression ratio and cylinder head design. Higher compression is always desirable, unless it is excessive and will not run on available pump gas (though muscle car era motors are difficult to come by).

You should also know that the later Gen VI motors offered larger, oval-port heads equipped with small combustion chambers, while the Gen V 454s came with smaller peanut-port heads (with large combustion chambers) and lower compression. Small-block guys should know that late-model, Vortec small blocks featured one-piece rear main seals and different intake bolt patterns. Whatever your engine, know the specifics before heading to the yard. It will save you both time and money.

The wrecking yards are full of the popular engines, but you might also find the occasional gem like a 351 Cleveland, 400M or even 440 Chrysler. Even if you are just looking to rebuild a stock motor, the wrecking yard is a good place to find an affordable, rebuildable core.

Open For Business

The first step in securing a good motor requires only your eyes. Look for cars or trucks that have been crashed. If the vehicle has been removed from service due to exterior damage, chances are greater that it was running when removed, but make sure the crash damage does not carry over to the engine or accessories (if you need those). Check for missing carburetors, distributors, EFI manifolds, or other components that might allow rain to enter the motor. These will also need to be replaced (see mix and match) if you plan to purchase the complete engine. There is nothing that ruins a machined surface, like a cylinder wall, quicker than moisture, and since the vehicles sit out in the elements, rain is the natural enemy. A complete motor with carb or EFI intact is always preferred over one with an open hole.

Late model EFI motors can be had in the junkyard. This 1995 5.0L Ford was used as the starting point for a healthy 347 stroker.

Don’t Be A Tool

For some, junkyard etiquette follows the famous saying “neither a borrower nor a lender be,” though in the end, loaning or borrowing tools is an individual choice. It is not out of the question to ask to borrow a specific tool you might have forgotten, but constantly begging for tools is just bad form. Make sure you have a tool bag, and that said bag is full of all the tools necessary to do the job at hand. If you plan on pulling a motor, you are going to need more than a screw driver and Vice Grips!

The real junkyard dogs bring serious power tools like ½-inch drive and electric impacts, for example. It is likely the nuts and bolts have been on that motor you plan to pull for 10-15 years and might have never been removed. Make sure to have a breaker bar and extensions for your sockets, as well as little things like Torx and Allen wrenches. There is nothing worse than having to run back home or to the shop to pick up a tool. An abandoned motor (half way out no less) is easy pickings for another yard lizard. You would hate to lose that motor because you forgot to bring that 15/16ths deep socket. Experience pays big dividends, so learn from your mistakes. A list of tools is always good.

As evidenced by this 5.8L Ford, some junkyard motors need a good cleaning, but we often install them on the dyno fresh from the yard.
A little cleaning goes a long way, and makes installation in the vehicle much nicer.

Spin To Win

When choosing a motor to pull, there are a couple precautions we like to take. Don’t be afraid to pull and check the spark plugs. A rusted, damaged or fouled plug is a bad sign, while clean (even high mileage) plugs are a good sign — new plugs are even better. A motor that has been given attention means someone cared about it. Check under the valve covers for the condition of the oil. Does it look like it has been changed regularly, or does it have the dreaded junkyard death smell? Is there any rust present (has the motor been sitting open)?

Does everything look present and accounted for — make sure there are no broken rockers, springs or missing components. We’ve heard of hard-core yarders dragging in batteries to crank over the motors for a compression test, but we go by one simple rule: spin to win. If the motor spins over with a racket and socket on the damper bolt (easier with plugs out), it usually is a winner. If you feel resistance, hear noise or run through a fast or slow spot while spinning it over, it might be best to look elsewhere.

Desirable engines like this late-model Hemi are often more expensive and difficult to find, but that will change as the years go by.
One of the most popular engines is the Chevy LS family. Used in millions of truck applications, the 4.8L/5.3L is inexpensive, readily available and can produce exceptional power (especially under boost).

Easy Pickins

Most wrecking yards will have plenty of engines to choose from, so don’t be afraid to take some time to look them over. We often find engines with the transmission already removed, making engine removal that much easier. The same goes for missing accessories (if you don’t need them), hood or radiator supports (makes it easier to pull the motor). Look closely at the engine and see if excessive rust is present, especially on the exhaust manifold bolts. The combination of heat and rust almost ensure that exhaust manifold bolts will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Your great deal on that junkyard jewel becomes decidedly less so if you have to spend extra time and money removing rusted exhaust manifold bolts. Heck, we’ve even found complete motors out of the car, sitting on the ground, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Things like accessory drives can be expensive to buy individually, so make sure to get every component you plan to use. Even if you don’t use them, they can always be sold to help offset the cost of the rest of the engine.

Set Sale

Though engine pricing from the wrecking yard is already affordable, the LKQ wrecking yards in our area (self-serve Pic-a-Parts) often have sale weekends where everything in the yard (including complete engines) is 40 percent off. Naturally, everyone wants a discount, and that is part of the problem with sale weekends. Get there early, as parking in the lot is difficult on sale weekends, to say nothing of the lines to get in, out, or even pay for your parts.

Don’t get me started on finding an available cherry picker (engine hoist), but still, it is hard to pass up the 40 percent savings, so be prepared. Also know that real yard warriors have come days before, secured their parts (though not complete engines) and stashed them out of sight in other (unrelated) vehicles. You need an alternator for that 1999 big-block Chevy? Better check in the trunk of that Geo Metro over in the import section. Hot items hidden on sale weekends include carburetors (especially anything Holley), injectors, and mass air flow sensors.

Distributors are an important part of any performance motors, so know which one you need for your build up. Distributors were available with points, dual point, and electronic triggering, so know your application. Make sure the one you choose is not damaged, and don’t be afraid to mix and match a distributor from another year.

Mix And Match

Wrecking yards offer engines as short blocks, long blocks and complete engines. If you are looking to secure a complete engine, make sure you are getting everything you pay for. Our complete engines included all of the accessories back to the flex plate or flywheel and from the air cleaner to oil pan. If any of those parts are missing from your chosen combination, make sure to secure them from another vehicle. Some pickers are less careful than others and show little regard to damaging a component in the way of them getting theirs.

Look over your components (distributors, carburetors, and anything electronic) to make sure they appear to be in good working order. If not, replace them with items that are. Of course, some junkers even go so far as to swap on a performance carb, larger injectors, or aluminum intake manifold. On a recent trip, we secured a Gen VI big-block Chevy after replacing the factory EFI intake and distributor with carbureted components from an earlier Mark IV motor. The Mark IV had a factory Q-Jet and intake but was only a two-bolt main. We swapped the intake and carb from the Mark IV onto the four-bolt Gen VI 454 and had the ideal combination.


LKQ Corporation

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Community Service

“Volunteering really brings people together and makes you feel like you are helping out the community and doing well for others. It was a great experience, especially doing it alongside friends and teammates. Everyone is helpful and in high spirits, which makes it all the better. It makes you realize that others less fortunate around you can be easily helped with the help of the community, which makes you want to do more.” – Karen Casteneda, ’18

Men and Women for Others

Our Jesuit tradition informs our students’ commitment to service and progressive activism. Through Campus Ministry’s community service programs, students have a wide array of volunteer opportunities available to them locally, nationally and internationally.

Annually, more than 700 students volunteer on 50 or more projects at 30 different sites in Hudson County. The results are astounding. During the past year, Saint Peter’s students contributed more than 16,000 hours of service and raised over $8,000 for various charitable causes.

Students have the option of individually committing to at least 5 hours a week tutoring in local schools through our America Reads Program, or at least 30 hours per semester, 10 hours a month, in any number of local agencies with our Loyola Volunteer Program. In conjunction with student clubs and organizations, the Community Service Program helps students participate in events through our Monthly Service Calendar.

America Reads

The America Reads Program is a federally funded tutoring and enrichment program. Students who qualify for federal work-study may apply for a tutoring position. Tutors work in 3 schools: Resurrection School, Saint Aloysius School, and the Team Walker Youth Program. Students work with children from grades 2-9, providing homework help, and enrichment. The hours are Monday-Thursday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. for Saint Aloysius and Saint Joseph’s School, and 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Team Walker Enrichment Program.

Emmaus Project

The Emmaus Project is weekly service program that provides bagged lunches and toiletries to the homeless and those most in need. The project takes place every Thursday from 2:45 – 6:00 p.m. making stops at Journal Square and Saint Lucy’s Shelter.

Junkyard Dogs

The Junkyard Dogs is a service program that seeks to foster pride and care in Jersey City by physically cleaning up its streets and spreading awareness of the need to maintain and respect it. Clean-ups take place on weekends from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. or weekdays 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Saint Peter’s and Saint Aedan’s Food and Clothes Pantry

On the first and third Saturday of every month, volunteers distribute food, clothes and toiletries to those in need, from 1:30-4:00 p.m. at our pantry/clothes closet out of the garage of Stewardship Hall in the parking lot of 41 Tuers Ave. All donations are collected year-round.

Campus Kitchen

This program takes unused food and repackages it into healthy meals to be delivered to people who are hungry. Shifts occur in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Fridays. Volunteers are needed to repackage food, deliver the meals and pick up donations.

Community Service Calendar

Each semester, Campus Ministry schedules service events open to all students. These events include:

  • Glamour Gals – Make-up and hair done for elderly residents of nursing homes.
  • Freshman Day of Service
  • Hillside Foodbank visits – Sort and package food for soup kitchens and shelters.
  • Blood Drives – 4 drives a year.
  • Awareness Walks: Breast Cancer, CROP Walk.
  • Angel Giving Tree – Purchasing and wrapping gifts for children in need.

Petrus Project

The Petrus Project is a program that seeks to rebuild and improve the homes of those most in need. Through the Hurricane Sandy recovery and working with Rebuilding Together/Jersey City, students work in private homes as well as non-profits, completing small projects such as painting and light clean-up.

Student Organizations/Athletic Teams

Campus Ministry also works with all student organization and athletic teams, coordinating service projects to satisfy their requirements.

For more information please contact:

Erich Sekel
Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Community Service
(201) 761-7395

Saint Peter’s was named on the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities that help solve community problems and motivate students to pursue a lifelong path of civic engagement. Saint Peter’s was the only higher education institution in New Jersey to be recognized in all four categories: Community, Service, Interfaith Community Service, Economic Opportunity and Education.

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