Cash For Clunkers: Trade-Ins Get Lethal Injection

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Three days before launch, the Department of Transportation has finally released the rules [PDF] for car dealers participating in the federal Cash for Clunkers program. Dealers must disable the trade-in’s engine [official powerplant-killing technique after the jump] and then send the clunker to an approved salvage auction or an authorized disposal company, which will kill, crush and destroy (not to mention recycle) the remaining bits. The doc also contains a word to the wise: “The CARS Act specifies that while many parts of the trade-in vehicle are permitted to be removed and sold, in the end the residual vehicle, including the engine block, must be crushed or shredded. Therefore, the trade-in value of the vehicle is not likely to exceed its scrap value. Purchasers should not expect to receive the same trade-in value as they might if the vehicle were to remain on the road.” I wonder how many consumers will make that calculation, or how many dealers will help them in that regard.

Engine Disablement Procedures for the CARS Program


Perform the following procedure to disable the vehicle engine.

1. Obtain solution of 40% sodium silicate/60% water. (The Sodium Silicate (SiO2/Na2O) must have a weight ratio of 3.0 or greater.)

2. Drain engine oil for environmentally appropriate disposal.

3. Install the oil drain plug.

4. Since the procedure is intended to render the engine inoperative, drive or move the vehicle to the desired area for disablement.

5. Pour enough solution in the engine through the oil fill for the oil pump to circulate the solution throughout the engine. Start by adding 2 quarts of the solution, which should be sufficient in most cases.

CAUTION: Wear goggles and gloves. Appropriate protective clothing should be worn to prevent silicate solution from coming into contact with the skin.

6. Replace the oil fill cap.

7. Start the engine.

8. Run engine at approximately 2000 rpm (for safety reasons do not operate at high rpm) until the engine stops. (Typically the engine will operate for 3 to 7 minutes. As the solution starts to affect engine operation, the operator will have to apply more throttle to keep the engine at 2000 rpm.)

9. Allow the engine to cool for at least 1 hour.

10. With the battery at full charge or with auxiliary power to provide the power of a fully

charged battery, attempt to start the engine.

11. If the engine will not operate at idle, the procedure is complete.

12. If the engine will operate at idle, repeat steps 7 through 11 until the engine will no

longer idle.

13. Attach a label to the engine that legibly states the following:

This engine is from a vehicle that is part of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). It has significant internal damage caused by operating the engine with a sodium silicate solution (liquid glass) instead of oil.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Vinniestaples Vinniestaples on Aug 14, 2009

    This Is a disgrace its watefull I went by my local dealership and saw a perfectly good gmc z71 extended cab pickup with a new sticker being destroyed I assaulted the tech performing this I am a mechanic run a shop and see people driving unsafe vehicals everyday that will NEVER take a LEGAL sticker I wanted to purchase this truck for my mother in law I have one identical that gets 24 mpg the reason most people dont get good mileage with thier vehicals is not the vehicals fault but more so operator error excessive speed impudent driving waiting till your 10 feet from a red light to stop from 75 ect. I will never drive a compact or sub compact again I had a civic and corolla and got what my full size z71 gets not what everyone else gets what i get. i get customers come in my shop complaing shakes over 80 the speed limit is only 65.... I think they are making vehicals and laws more to accomodate bad and even less competent drivers and It makes me sick to see nice vehicales destroyed when there are many on welfare getting state aide to keep some toilet running that WILL NEVER PASS A STATE INSPECTION. Im really disgusted with whats being done with my tax dollars

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  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.