What Happens to A Clunked Clunker?

The New York Times has an interesting blog post about how car dealers are racing to get the cars, which have been traded in as part of the Cash for Clunkers program, decommissioned and sent to the scrap yard. The process seems even more laborious than the paperwork they need to file with the U.S. government. In the YouTube video above, some employees detail exactly how an engine is decommissioned using a special solution that causes it to seize. The trade-ins will never be driven again.

By David Thomas | July 31, 2009 | Comments (22)



Stupid.What a waste of a good,used engine.


I agree with you Paul.


How about the people who cannot afford to buy a new car- will they now have to choose from a limited supply of used ones because you wish to take away as many affordable used ones as possible? Or is it that those in favor are beholden to the environmentalists who want this for eco-reasons? Perhaps it's better if someone now takes on the expense of a new car who may not be able to reach the end payment? This 'program' involves 'immobilizing' the engine of the trade-in with an additive and imposes other time conditions as well, reducing availability of spare parts and forcing salvage yards to now disassemble these cars or destroy thus driving up costs. I cannot imagine this helping the poor slobs being forced to accept this.


Is it really better for the environment to throw something away before it is truly useless? What about reduce, reuse, recycle?

Mike don't be surprised if they take your comment off. I tried three times and anything they (the other nine people said was deleted also. I believe in freedom of speech. Isn't that what this country is suppose to be about? If they don't like comment oops goes away. Shame on them. But I believe in your comment 100% and then who makes the money on all those good tires and parts? Nancy


So, how hard would it be to take one of these cars with an "immobilized" engine, pull the block, bore it .030 over, do an econo rebuild, and get it back on the road here (or China?)

Dave Wuss

This is silly as it's really more about consumerism than it is about improving the environment. It defies logic to ruin a completely good engine.


It would be interesting to know how many of the vehicles bought under the cash for clunkers program are going to be repossessed in the next month.

Derrick G

Gee, how good could this engine be? It has 240K miles already and if you watched the video, it said every warning light on the dashboard was already on and it had a rusted exhaust and broken A/C. This is not some cherry well-mainained car and the stats so far indicate most coming in are not.

While yes this will reduce the used car pool some, there will still be tons of cars that were too old or too efficient out there to choose from. And most people just scraping by would be better buying something with better gas mileage and cheaper to insure anyway.

I don't think anyone has denied this is a stimulus program just as much as an environmental one. Everything in life has multiple consequences and decisions to be made. This will also increase safety, for example. And if it reaches a million vehicles, most getting 10MPG better, gas prices probably will decrease, at least until that stimulates demand for big SUV's and cross-overs again.

As for as the payments, many of these people haven't had a car payment in years and still got loans. That would indicate they have good credit and perhaps some money saved up from not having a payment, but decided the maintenance was now too much to continue. For others, the clunker was a 2nd car, they have a primary car with a good payment history on it, and this was just too good of a deal. There's no special financing for these cars, so there's no valid reason to assume with the credit markets still being quite tight that an undue number will end up repo'd, if you REALLY think.


That car is hardly a clunker. I would not mind having it.


Thats sad, prolly more so because its an Oldsmobile. :(


I took my SUV to the Ford of Ocala dealership in Florida for the cash for clunkers program on July 1, 2009. I explained honestly to them that I knew I had lapsed in my car insurance. I wasn't sure if it would qualify for the CFC Program. It did qualify for everything else. They assured me that they would get it approved. They got me into a 2009 Ford Focus which I just had to return today after having it for 1 month b/c, the dealership just checked my car insurance coverage and saw that I had a lapse of coverage. After they told me I was approved for everything, they took the car back today 7/31/09. I even spoke with the approving lender and got everything finalized and registered to my name. I’m a hard working single mother taking care of two children on my own. I’m trying my best to live within my means. I am hurt and distraught and simple so discouraged that someone would do this to me. This is why I’m trying to trade in my truck. I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT AFFORD IT ANYMORE. The engine is blowing white smoke. I just don’t know what to do?


Here in Porkopolis, the megamillionaire's Cadillac dealer is selling the clunkers to the general public for around fifty cents on the dollar. He gets his $10K - $20K net off each Caddy, plus the $4500 CAR plus the money from selling the clunkers. Nice work if you can get it.


Oops! Forgot to give the advert link.



I thought dealers would be fined heavily (around 15k) if the were reselling the clunker trades instead of disabling them. I really hope that rule doesn't go neglected. I feel like since most of the clunkers are worth so little, it's in the dealers' best interest to collect the rebate value from the govt (assuming of course the money comes through).

We just traded an '88 Jeep Cherokee (260k miles and on the verge of death) for a '10 Mazda3 5-door. The dealer told us that in addition to the rebate we got they were obligated to give us the value that the car recyclers said it would be worth. We got an extra $120.

Dear DK: I feel for you it's hard I know on us that are living in poverty level. You should of gotten your SUV back or was it destroyed already. If not they should owe you money. Please let me know. My boyfriend and I are disabled he gets SSI and can only own a car worth $2,000 due to government laws and I'm on SSD which I can only own a car of $4,000 of which I got a very good deal at a sale. It only had 30,000 miles on it and meets all the requirements but I can't use the CFC on that because it gets excellent gas mileage. By the way it just got ran into by a worker at Meijers bringing in a whole line of carts and Meijers said they will probably have to take care of the damage. They reassured me of this.
Please let me know what they did for you. Nancy


This whole program shows just how out of control Washington is. What good does it do to destroy a perfectly good engine? I drive a car that would qualify as a "clunker", but I need a van since I have a larger family. I get used parts all the time so now those parts will be more expensive. Not to mention my tax dollars going to someone else so they can get a new car. What a waste.


Get a grip people...it is an engine in a car, they are euthanizing puppies here.


240k on a Northstar is impressive. Must've been one of the few good ones.


As a 25-year ASE Master Auto Technician I can assure you that C.F.C. is onerous, wasteful, socialist, piece-of-crap legislation not taking into account the resources used to build the car in the first place. It rewards those people who had been driving a poor fuel economy vehicle the past year! >:-( How about rewarding those of us who have been driving fuel-efficient cars for decades? Typical current admin. policy of enabling and subsidizing improper behavior...


Wow.... That car did not appear to be in too bad of shape. The paint was in good condition and the tires were good. Perhaps some poor family could have purchased that car for cheap, rehabbed it an got it back on the road. I understand that we have an oil crisis, but this seems wasteful.... My 16-y-o daughter is in a 1996 Buick LeSabre w/ a 3.8 liter V6. It does not qualify for clunker status and even if it did there is no way I'd trade it it. It runs, it's paid for, and passes the CA Smog Check every 2 years...

I can't believe what I read today on the internet regarding the dealerships are selling gas guzzlers under the $4,500 that don't qualify for the Cash for Clunkers Program. Do they smash the expensive cars they own too when good parts in excellent condition could be used. I heard the other day that a guy sold his vehicle for $500 and the purchaser took it to the junk yard and got $1,500 for it and no one saved the good tires nor parts on it. The seller was hot. Nancy

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