How Are Clunkers Killed? The government's cash-for-clunkers program requires car dealers to kill the clunkers before they are reimbursed by the federal government. Bret Cooper, service director and certified technician for Smart Motors Toyota in Madison, Wis., offers his insight.
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How Are Clunkers Killed?

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How Are Clunkers Killed?

How Are Clunkers Killed?

How Are Clunkers Killed?

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The government's cash-for-clunkers program requires car dealers to kill the clunkers before they are reimbursed by the federal government. Bret Cooper, service director and certified technician for Smart Motors Toyota in Madison, Wis., offers his insight.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

We've talked a lot about cash for clunkers lately. Auto dealers have been handing out rebates to new car buyers who turn in their gas guzzlers. But before these dealers get reimbursed by the federal government, there's one thing they have to do, and that's kill the clunker. How do you do that? Well, Bret Cooper is going to tell us all about it. He's the service director for Smart Motors Toyota in Madison, Wisconsin. And Mr. Copper, what exactly do you need to kill a clunker?

Mr. BRET COOPER (Service Director, Smart Motors Toyota): Well, there's actually a list of 14 items that we got for the program that specifically lists what we need to do to disable the engine. And the first thing is going to be - the drain the engine oil and reinstall the drain plug. And then we're going to put a mixture of 40 percent sodium silicate and 60 percent water in the engine - actually, two quarts of it. And then we're going to run the engine until the engine stops running.

BLOCK: Okay, well, you're going to show us how it's done here. You're going to talk us through the process. You have a clunker there that's ready to be killed, right?

Mr. COOPER: We do.

BLOCK: What you have?

Mr. COOPER: We have an older Ford Crown Victoria. Looks like, actually, it looks it might be an ex-squad car.

BLOCK: A squad car.

Mr. COOPER: '95.

BLOCK: An old police car.

Mr. COOPER: Yup, an old police car.

BLOCK: Okay. And what are you going to do? Tell us what you're doing there.

Mr. COOPER: Well, we're actually adding two quarts of the mixture of a sodium silicate mixture to what would normally be - what would normally have the engine oil. We're going to put the oil cap back on the engine.

BLOCK: Okay.

Mr. COOPER: Then the technician, Terry, is going to jump in the vehicle, and he's going to run the vehicle at about 2,000 rpms until it quits running.

BLOCK: And how long does that take?

Mr. COOPER: Well, it's been a whole variety of time. Some of them have been less than 10 seconds and some of them have been a couple of minutes. So, we're going ahead and start this one up and see what happens.

BLOCK: Great.

Mr. COOPER: This is what it sounds like.

(Soundbite of car engine)

BLOCK: That's it.

Mr. COOPER: That one didn't last very long - less than 10 seconds on that one.

BLOCK: That was quick. That was a sudden death.

Mr. COOPER: That was a sudden death. And then we just check them one more time. Just…

(Soundbite of car engine)

Mr. COOPER: Yup, we just check it one more time to make sure it won't turn over, which this one will not - and start.

(Soundbite of car engine)

Mr. COOPER: And now we wait another hour and then we come back out and double check them. Just to make sure that they won't start and run. And then we tag them with a big, bright, beautiful yellow tags that says that we have disabled the engine according to the car loans rebate program and get them ready for pick-up.

BLOCK: And where do they go after that?

Mr. COOPER: There's actually a few certified salvage yards that pick them up and then they get them ready for the shredder.

BLOCK: Mr. Cooper, I wonder, you're somebody who's used to making cars work, making them better. And now you're killing them off. Is that a strange thing to do?

Mr. COOPER: Well, it is pretty sad because we're not used to doing this type of thing, but, you know, it's part of the program, so we have to. It's kind of sad that we are actually disabling engines to this portion, but, you know, it's getting some of those real old vehicles off the road. This particular vehicle I'm not so sure that you would really want it on the road much longer. So getting some of these safe, unsafe vehicles off the road, as well as these old gas guzzlers, is a good thing.

BLOCK: So that Crown Victoria you just killed has seen better days.

Mr. COOPER: Oh yeah, it's ready for a new life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You've hastened it on to a better end.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Well, Bret Cooper, thanks for letting us eavesdrop as you killed a clunker today.

Mr. COOPER: Oh, absolutely. Thank you.

BLOCK: Bret Cooper is service director for Smart Motors, Toyota in Madison, Wisconsin, where so far he has killed off 86 clunkers.

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