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Junk Collectors Inc

Cheap but useful stuff

by Julian Edgar

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This article was first published in 2007.

If you’re the sort of person who delights in visiting garage sales, secondhand shops and even the tip in search of useful stuff, read on. Especially if you expect to be modifying cars over the long term, where items you pick up today might be useful not for your current car but maybe the one after that – or perhaps even the one after that.

Each of the following items pops up only occasionally – they’re not the sort of thing you’d expect to immediately come across. But you will find them – the trick is to recognise their usefulness to car modification when they appear.

All of the following items have been acquired by me cheaply – often at zero cost – and put aside for later use. Many such items that I have collected in the past have been incorporated in cars, or have been used to work on cars, and invariably they have been successful in the roles they’ve been put to. And over the years and with many similar items I have saved literally thousands of dollars over more traditional approaches...

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Item: Aluminium drink bottles, fire extinguishers, soda syphons

Car Uses: Either as they are, or with some fittings welded on – fuel swirl pots, over-boost pressure reservoirs (reducing wastegate creep), water injection reservoirs, catch cans.

Notes: Soda syphons and fire extinguishers are designed to hold pressure.

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Item: Fisher and Paykel washing machine 12V water solenoid valves

Car Use: On/off valve for water injection, on/off for pressurised intercooler water spray, potentially able to be pulsed at varying duty cycles.

Notes: Most washing machine solenoid valves use mains power (eg 240V) and won’t operate on 12V DC, so you need the Fisher and Paykel ones. They have ‘12V’ written on them (arrow).

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Item: Late model mufflers

Car use: Obvious...

Notes: Most recent cars use stainless steel mufflers that will last for nearly ever. Making a note of the power output of the original car and then using the muffler on a car with say half that power will get you a very free-flowing, quiet and cheap muffler.

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Item: Flexible large diameter ducting

Car use: Cold air intake to airbox

Notes: Very easy to find as short length, discarded off-cuts but often hard and expensive to buy new

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Item: G-clamps

Use: Obvious

Notes: You can simply never have too many. When buying secondhand, make sure the clamp butts up square against the stop when fully closed. A wirebrushing and some paint will make this one look like new.

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Item: Turbo boost control valves

Use: Controlling turbo boost in aftermarket applications

Notes: Any factory turbo engine of the last 15 years has one of these. If you’re using an aftermarket ECU or something like The Independent Electronic Boost Control, Part 1 to control turbo boost, having one of these valves is invaluable.

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Item: 240V AC pulsing pump

Use: Ultra high pressure intercooler water spray

Notes: As shown in World's Best Intercooler Water Spray, Part 1 it’s possible, with the use of a 240V inverter, to use one of these pumps as an intercooler spray. You’ll find them in industrial equipment.

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Item: Hand files

Use: Obvious

Notes: Files can often be picked up for nearly nothing, especially if they are a bit worn. However, a worn file works very well as a final finish file. Look especially for half-round files as they are very useful.

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Item: Brass fittings

Use: Connecting to pumps, valves, pressure regulators

Notes: Brass fittings are used in manual boost controls, when plumbing-in fuel pumps or water spray pumps. If they’re cheap, worth picking up irrespective of thread and size.

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Item: Heat exchanger cores

Use: Water/air intercooler

Notes: Rare but a worthy pick-up. Jacket the outside of the tube stack and weld on fittings. Run water around outside of tubes and intake air through tubes. Suitable for smaller turbo cars.


I don’t think that these ten things are groundbreaking. But I do know that they’re each very useful in modifying cars, and that if you keep your eyes open, they can be picked up for near zero cost.

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