Dear Tom and Ray: My wife has a 1999 Subaru Forester with low mileage (85,000), but the interior is not so good. She lets the kids eat in her car, and, as such, the seats are getting ruined, the floor mats are gone, the cup holders are broken and the list goes on. I'd like to replace the broken items in her car and replace the seats and the carpet, but I don't know where to get those items at reasonable prices. Of course, the local dealer can get some of those parts, but at a nice premium, which I'd like to avoid. Any ideas where can I find OEM parts or replacement interior parts at reasonable prices? — Jaime
Ray: Sure. At a junkyard. Also known these days by its society name, the "automotive recycling center."
Tom: There are situations where a car will get in a wreck of some kind, and the car is totaled but the interior is still fine.
Ray: Or the car is sent to the junkyard for some kind of catastrophic engine failure, even though the cup holders are still working like they're brand new.
Tom: In fact, you even can buy an entire interior for your car at a junkyard if you want to. Or if you're looking for a hobby, take the engine out of yours and put it into one of those junkers!
Ray: Most junkyards are connected electronically these days, so if one doesn't have what you're looking for, they can see if another one has it.
Tom: Another option is to find a body shop that's willing to do the work for you and source the stuff "used," from a junkyard. They do this a lot more frequently than you do.
Ray: But if you do decide to do it yourself, ask if you can check out the interior "in situ" first — that is, when it's still in the donor car, if that's possible. Then get in, and take a deep breath. Because you don't want to install seats and carpet in your wife's car only to find out that they were previously in the car of an old lady who drove around all day with her eight male cats, while chain smoking Cuban cigars.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)