When you recycle nearly five million cars annually and many are suitable only for scrap, handling that vehicle volume is a tall order. To meet that demand, the $26 billion auto recycling industry turns to car crushers. These powerful machines compress and compact entire automobiles to make them easier to store and transport.
In recent years, auto loggers that produce neat bales from car bodies have been a major new entrant into the car crushing industry. “People who for the last 20 years have been buying car crushers are now buying car loggers,” says Curt Spry, sales manager for Al-Jon Manufacturing LLC in Ottumwa, Iowa, maker of Impact V car crushers as well as 580CL car loggers. “We’re manufacturing eight car loggers a month as opposed to two to three car crushers a month.”
Car crushers are still the mainstay at The R.M. Johnson Co. in Annandale, Minnesota. “We sell at least 10 to 1 on car crushers for every auto logger,” says David VanVleet, sales manager. R.M. Johnson has discontinued production of its E-Z Crusher Model C, which crushed a single car at a time, but is experiencing strong demand for its larger A+ and B models, VanVleet says.
R.M. Johnson’s crushers feature hydraulic systems mounted below the crushing deck, which reduces setup time. Setup time is especially important for the 80 percent of R.M. Johnson’s customers that offer mobile crushing services to scrap yards. “We have virtually no setup time,” VanVleet says. “When you pull into the yard, within a matter of seconds you can be ready to crush your cars.”
The speed of car crushers is one feature that continues to win buyers among demanding recycling industry customers. And crushers not only cycle quickly, but also can be loaded with several cars, including engines, axles and wheels to be crushed in a single stroke, simplifying handling requirements.
Jeff Hebbert, sales manager for car crusher maker OverBuilt Inc., of Huron, South Dakota, says his products’ rapid cycle time appeals to crusher buyers. OverBuilt crushers, with their high-speed option, move the crushing deck 8 feet up and 8 feet down in fewer than 15 seconds.
The extra-wide opening of OverBuilt crushers allows operators to insert up to six cars for crushing at a time. Large vehicles, such as vans, can be inserted after a couple of smaller vehicles rather than loading the vans before the cars.
“You can crush a lot more cars in a crusher than you can in a logger,” Hebbert says. Scrap yards and mobile crushing operations purchase OverBuilt’s portable units. “Pull-a-part yards are real big too,” Hebbert says.
Al-Jon’s Impact V crusher employs four posts, one on each corner of the crushing deck, resulting in tightly crushed cars and high reliability, according to Spry. The Impact V’s lid comes down to within nine inches of the floor. And the four-post arrangement resists cracking compared to designs with a single post in the center, he adds. “The key to the quad post system is equal distribution and crushing force,” says Spry.
Al-Jon’s customers include auto salvage yards and commercial crushers, which take advantage of the Impact V’s portability, traveling to yards to crush their cars on-site. “We’re starting to see a lot of shredder owners and operators buy car crushers,” Spry says. “They’ll place them in feeder yards in order to get the feedstock back to these mega-shredders.” Pick-and-pull parts operations are another customer segment.
Granutech-Saturn Systems of Grand Prairie, Texas, has been making car crushers for nearly 40 years. Sales manager Mike Hinsey says their Big MAC crusher is similar to the original design with some significant improvements. “The addition of wireless remote control eliminated the need for an operator to remain on the machine,” he says. “The quick setup design eliminated the need for an operator to climb on the machine for set up. Hydraulic landing gear eliminates the need for heavy operator labor to pick up or drop off the Big MAC.”
Granutech-Saturn also increased the opening of the lid, allowing operators to get the maximum number of cars into the crusher. Unlike some manufacturers, Granutech-Saturn offers no additional custom features. “The Big MAC is built ‘loaded’ and requires no options,” explains Hinsey.
Some manufacturers offer specialty crushers for certain applications. Haag Manufacturing of Otoe, Nebraska, sells a small and inexpensive crusher called the Mighty Mite. Owner Bill Haag says the portable Mighty Mite is intended for sale to smaller yards that need to crush a single automobile at a time. “Maybe they’ll crush 600 to 700 cars a year, and they want to crush them themselves,” Haag says.
While car loggers are making inroads, manufacturers say the future of car crushers is secure. “The development of whole car loggers has gained some market share but they come at a premium cost and are far more complex than the Big MAC,” says Hinsey. “We believe there will remain a market for the Big MAC.”
Innovation is also active in the industry. “We’re looking at coming out with a new high speed model car crusher in the future,” says Al-Jon’s Spry. “It’s going to be extremely fast. But that’s about all I can tell you on that one for right now.”