Here's how eBay dismantles cars to stock thousands of used car parts | Top Gear
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Saturday 30th September

Here's how eBay dismantles cars to stock thousands of used car parts

Know all those parts on eBay? This is how they're processed

Cars stacked in a recycling centre used by eBay motoring
  • Pick a car, any car

    Forklift truck driver moving scrap car on forks onto dismantling line

    In a bid to save motorists money, eBay has launched a ‘certified recycled portal’ for car parts. Cars intended for the scrap heap are instead deconstructed by Charles Trent, a recycling plant down in Dorset. eBay reckons drivers opting for used parts not only save money, but also some 16,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, and prevent three million kilos of waste from hitting landfill. 


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  • Stage 1: parts identification

    Recycling worker deconstructs car, which has identifying codes written on body panel in yellow chalk pen

    The deconstruction process starts with Step 1: parts identification. An inventory is started for all the parts that can be rescued, the vehicle is cleaned, rubbish is removed and photos are taken.

    Why do all of this? eBay reckons offering certification on recycled parts could save drivers 70 per cent off the manufacturers' recommended retail price.

  • Stage 2: depollution

    Stage 2

    Depollution involves the safe removal of the battery, tyres and air-con gasses. Other fluids, like fuel, oil and washer bottle water are also sorted out here. According to eBay research, some 14 per cent of drivers choose used items to reduce their carbon emissions so there's interest in pursuing earth-friendly repair options.

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  • Stage 3: panel removal

    Stage 3: panel removal

    Doors and bonnets are removed and other parts are loosened in preparation for more deconstruction later down the line.

    This isn't the first time eBay has embarked on Certified Recycled parts. It first started in 2020. There are now 81 recycled vehicle parts sellers on eBay's approved list, including Charles Trent.

  • Stage 4: electrical removal, part 1

    Stage 4: electrical removal, part one

    Removing the electrics is done in two parts. First, the lights and centre console get lifted out. eBay reckons over 400,000 lighting parts were sold on the platform last year.

    Dr Tony Tong, head of automotive at eBay UK, said: “We’re making it as easy as possible for people to find these parts, and to understand the potential benefits they bring, in the hope that motorists will increasingly choose Certified Recycled parts as alternatives to buying brand new items.”

  • Stage 5: mechanical removal

    Stage five of recycling process showing car tilted on side to remove engine

    Mechanical removal sees the engine, gearbox, rear axle, catalytic converter and tailgate decoupled from the chassis.

    According to eBay stats, drivers, mechanics and automotive enthusiasts bought over 130,000 engine-related parts using the online marketplace in 2022.

  • Stage 6: electrical removal, part 2

    Recycling worker removing electrical wiring from engine bay

    The second part of the electrics is the complete removal of the dashboard, wiring, infotainment and climate control systems.

    Parts with 'certified recycled' status means the parts listed can be traced to an end-of-life vehicle and have been adequately tested - they're sold by businesses that have been checked and certified by the Vehicle Recyclers Association (VRA) and are expected to jump through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to prove their compliance.

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  • Stage 7 of eBay x Charles Trent's recycling process for cars
  • Stage 7: mechanical dismantling

    Recycling workers dismantling car parts

    The mechanical dismantling is where the engine and gearbox are removed from the subframe and the driveshaft and brake calipers are also broken down. Then the engine is separated from the gearbox, and the alternator, starter motor and turbo are taken out. At this point, the engine is prepped for resale. And then stacked and secured prettily on a pallet.

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  • Secondhand engines sitting on pallets ready to ship


  • Stage 8: it's stripped

    Body panels stacked on a green frame

    All the panels are stripped completely, including the wing mirrors and window mechanisms. Components are cleaned, identified, numbered, inspected, photographed and weighed (for shipping costs, we presume).

  • Stage 9: parts are shelved and listed

    A wide shot in Charles Trent recycling warehouse, showing No. 8 board

    All the usable components are packaged, labelled and put on a shelf ready to dispatch. Someone else uploads the images and listings to eBay and voila, you’ve saved yourself a small fortune. £96 million, eBay reckons.

  • Boxes stacked in a warehouse ready to be shipped
  • Secondhand door panels stacked in a warehouse
  • Warehouse worker handling secondhand car door wearing hi vis vest
  • Secondhand car seats wrapped in cellophane, ready to be shipped

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