In the best of times, when demand for recycled
automobiles is strong and steady, the auto
recycling industry goes through its share of
trials and tribulations. Modern automobiles
are tougher than ever, specifically designed
to resist being crushed in order to protect
occupants inside. They are manufactured from
an increasing number of exotic materials, from
ever-growing quantities of plastic to precious
metals in onboard computers and catalytic converters.
In the world of recycling, cars represent one
of the oldest, richest and yet most problematic
sources of recyclable materials. One of the
biggest problems is transporting junk cars
to shredders where the vehicles can be reduced
to particles so that various materials can
be sorted out. Cars are mostly air, which is
where auto crushers come in.
Al-jon Manufacturing LLC in Ottumwa, Iowa has
been building car crushers since 1963. Curt
Spry, scrap sales manager, said the company,
recognizing the extreme demands placed on auto
crushers, emphasizes strength and durability
in its designs and manufacturing processes.
“Al-jon is the only car crusher manufacturer
with service centers placed around the country
giving the customer the very best parts and
service available,” he added.
The Company operates with an exceptionally simplified
product line — it manufactures only one car
crusher, the Impact V. “We like to build them
one way, completely loaded with every available
option including hydraulic landing gear, air
compressor and remote control,” according to
The Impact V is a portable crusher that allows
a single operator to crush and stack five or
more cars with manual or remote operation.
Al-jon’s Quad-Post guide system, with a post
on each corner of the crushing deck, provides
better crushing power and improves reliability,
the Spry said. The Impact V features automatic
cycling and an oil recovery system. Al-jon
offers a two year warranty on the entire machine.
The completely portable system weights 57,700
lbs. and is mounted on a trailer equipped with
air brakes. One minute set-up makes it suitable
for mobile operators who go from yard to yard
handling crushing chores. The crusher is powered
by a 100 h.p. diesel engine for maximum portability.
After relying on its one-item car crusher product
line, the company will introduce a new model
in 2010. Spry said the 300HS will be “the fastest
car crusher in the industry.” The specs on
the new model weren’t available at press time.
The Impact V requires approximately 49 seconds
to cycle from full extension to full retract.
Granutech-Saturn Systems of Grand Prairie, Texas,
manufactures three models of MAC car crushers.
The most popular, according to Granutech-Saturn’s
Greg Wright, is the Big MAC Flattener. The
56,000 lb. Big MAC is intended for mobile scrap
processors and comes on its own trailer. Customers
can choose from several 165 h.p. diesel engines,
of which Wright said the most popular are from
John Deere and Cummins.
A 90” lift provides for easier loading and larger
capacities of up to four automobiles at a time.
A single Big MAC operator can load and crush
cars using the remote operational capability,
which comes standard. Remote operation also
improves safety by removing people from the
processing area, according to the company.
The Stationary MAC Flattener offers many of the
same features as the mobile Big MAC. It employs
a crushing force of 306,000 lbs., enabling
4 complete automobiles to be compressed. It
also handles household appliances, loose automotive
scrap and other scrap materials. Power can
be supplied by either diesel or electric motors.
The Big MAC QS Flattener employs a quick-setup
system. A fully-automated hydraulic system
raises the cylinder to its upright working
position, then locks the trunnion in place.
Tear down is also automated. Setup or tear
down can be completed by a single operator
in less than a minute, the company said.
Wright said the biggest challenge for the industry
in 2009 was the weak economy, coupled with
the sharp fall in scrap prices from the 2008
highs. “The industry really did a 180,” said
Wright. Through it all, Granutech-Saturn’s
customer base has changed little. “The markets
for our car crushers are the auto salvage yards
and the mobile crushing businesses,” Wright
said. “Our customers range from the small family
owned business to the large metals companies.”
Regulations have not affected car crushers a
great deal in the recent past. “We do have
to keep up with the laws regarding engines,”
Wright said. “Currently engines have to be
Tier III and eventually they will be Tier IV.”
While regulations may have had little impact
on the car crushing industry, the same can’t
be said for the Cash for Clunkers program initially.
This 2009 federal initiative aimed to boost
auto sales while improving the nation’s overall
automobile fuel efficiency. All cars traded
in under the program were required to be recycled
so they wouldn’t return to the streets, and
recycling was supposed to occur within 180
days of trade in.
The program was heavily oversubscribed, however.
Early estimates expected 250,000 trade-ins
but funding was doubled and the total number
of trade-ins eventually reached 700,000 before
the program was ended. Auto recyclers requested
more time to process all the extra cars, and
received an extra 90 days.
It’s unlikely anyone will soon see a flood of
autos for recycling like the one prompted by
Cash for Clunkers. But auto recycling isn’t
going to go away. “Short term is anyone’s guess,”
said Wright. “Long term will be good. The need
for scrap steel will always be around.”