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Where Are the Precious Metals Hiding in Junk Cars?

Where Are the Precious Metals Hiding in Junk Cars?

According to the Applied Materials Division at Argonne National Laboratory, about 12 million vehicles are discarded in the United States each year. Is there any value in all these cars that some people aren’t aware of? The answer is unquestionably yes. A spark plug is an example of a component in a vehicle that holds precious metal value that most people overlook, but we’ll get to that later.

Many of these components containing precious metals may be difficult to extract from a junk vehicle, but in most cases, if the volume is large enough, it is worthwhile.

The Most Obvious Value Are in The Catalytic Converters

Most automotive recycling operators recognize the value of catalytic converters and remove and collect them as soon as they receive a salvage vehicle. Precious metals such as Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium are present in these components. Each of these precious metals is valuable, but the most valuable is Rhodium. These precious metals work together inside a catalytic converter to catalyze the toxic exhaust emitted from the inner workings of your gasoline-powered vehicle. What is the significance of knowing this? Without these precious metals, the air we breathe would be full of toxic compounds that could endanger everyone’s health. What kind of value can these precious metals have? Currently, rhodium is the most valuable precious metal on the planet with 80% of the world’s supply being used in catalytic converters.

The Surprise with Oxygen Sensors and Spark Plugs

Your vehicle’s oxygen sensors may also provide a return. If you can collect many of them, you could be in line for a large payout. The platinum contained within the thimble of oxygen sensors can be recycled and reused back into the automotive circular economy.

Spark plugs, like oxygen sensors, are an underutilized automotive scrap component that contains precious metals. These spark plugs with platinum or iridium tips can provide a great return to automotive recycling operators if there is enough volume. The idea is that automotive recyclers can collect these spark plugs over time and make a good profit on a scrap item along with their oxygen sensors and converters.

Gold Is in Your Car!

Precious metals may be found in the components of your junk car, including a circuit board. The gold on these circuit boards is typically on the coating, with contact points on the edges where connectors are attached. Other precious metals, in addition to gold, could be found in other parts of the electrical control units for a car. These are known by various names such as the powertrain control module (PCM) and the engine control unit (ECU). These onboard computers keep an eye on emission controls, antilock brakes (ABS), fuel injection, ignition timing, turbocharger boost, transmission shifting, and other engine functions. These units are typically simple to remove and are usually found under the dashboard on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Precious metals are extremely valuable, especially those found in automobiles. These precious metals are essential not only for vehicle functionality, but also for our overall health and the health of our planet. Many people are unaware that salvaged cars can contain valuable metals such as gold, platinum, palladium, rhodium, and iridium. Until now, that is.


  1. Lenson, Barry. “Where Are Precious Metals Hiding In Junked Cars? & mdash; Reclaim, Recycle, And Sell Your Precious Metal Scrap.” Reclaim, Recycle, And Sell Your Precious Metal Scrap,, 7 March. 2014,
  2. “Bloomberg – Are You a Robot?.” Bloomberg – Are You a Robot?,,


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