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Helping the local community

Alvin’s Auto and Free Montgomery
Oakland, CA
By: Giuliana Carranza

Giuliana4Free Montgomery, an organization supporting the homeless through providing situations for creative expression, ran a food and clothing drive from November 12th through December 18th that hosted two recycled cars and two recycled hoods to be spray-painted by those who donated. Alvin Collier from Alvin’s Automotive Recycling in Oakland, California provided these two cars and two hoods. Collier is very passionate about automotive recycling and was excited to be able to give new purpose to these cars and car parts. Collier speaks on the event, “We were able to let them borrow the cars so they could paint them and then we took the cars back.” Upon asking him what they did with the cars after this event he replied, “We recycled them of course!” The drive was all about community involvement and had an air of encouragement and support.
Collier is very supportive of his community and does what he can to give back. “I like helping my local community in any way I can. When Free Montgomery approached me with this idea, I jumped at the chance to further the auto recycling industry and branch out into supporting the arts as well.” And that he did. Collier also supports the local artists by giving them pieces of his scrap metal for sculptures. He explains, “It may just be scrap metal to me, which has a monetary value. However, to the artists it might be just that piece that they have been dreaming about for a work of art of theirs. I let the guys look through my bin and see them get really excited.” Collier here demonstrates the versatility of these car parts and pieces of metal that many believe to be useless and broken. This event not only helped those in need, but it also furthered the automotive recycling industry and displayed the endless possibilities these car parts have.

Making more money off the same cars

(Teaching old dogs new tricks)

My name is Alvin Collier, owner of Alvin’s Auto Recycling Oakland CA. I have  owned it since May 1985. Prior to that Iy name is Alvin Collier, owner was employed in the auto recycling business since I was a young man. In total I have  been in this business for 40 plus  years. Things have  changed dramatically over those 40 years, not only in the economy, but in our industry and  that is what I want to talk about. Back  in the day there was not as much competition as there is today: back  then it was just us dismantlers at the auction to purchase cars, and  now  it is anybody and  everybody from all over the world. Other competition that was not as big back  in the day is all the different parts that are available aftermarket today. The lack of access to inventory to buy,  mixed with a lot of parts we used to sell that are readily available aftermarket has  cut into our profits. This  means to me that I had  to find more money in the cars I was already processing. I pre-dismantle about 400-450 cars per year at my store. We process the car as normal: draining all the fluids  and  pulling and  tagging all the parts we are going  to inventory. This  is where the extra money comes in. We save as much of the wiring harness from the car as we can  that is easy and  accessible. This  includes under the hood, in the trunk taillight harness, and then if you pull the inside rocker plastic covers there is always a big loom of wires right there that is very accessible to cut. We never use to save these harnesses — all we saved  was the battery cables in a 55 gallon drum. I would get maybe 2 of these barrels full in a years’ time with a low value. Now that we have  started saving as much of the wiring harness as we can,  I am planning on bringing 5-7 4x4x4 metal bins to the mill per year, which should get me thousands of dollars. Now that is squeezing money out of cars!

We also use these same 4x4x4 metal bins  for a number of other things that are easy and  not time consuming when processing a car. We have  a bin  for clean cast iron such as brake rotors and  drums (which we do not stock anymore because of the aftermarket suppliers). These rotors and drums are very easy and  quick to pull off as we process the car. The other bins  we have  are for clean aluminum and  one for dirty aluminum. There is a lot of easy aluminum to pull off the engine compartment after the engine and transmission is out of the car, AC condenser, AC lines,  AC receiver dryers and  evaporator cores. Also all the quick and  easy aluminum on the engines such as valve covers, intakes, and  mounting brackets are usually quick and  easy. The next way we way we are making more money off of the same cars is by selling parts that we are not saving for inventory to core companies. If you have  not been doing this I personally know this is a way to make more money off the same cars. In the 14 months I have  been selling these kinds of cores to this company we have  generated over $8000.00. Now that is making more money off the same cars! Just for an example here is a list of parts I recently took off of one car that we were dismantling. This car is a 1995 Honda Accord EX 4cyl: auto the core company is going  to pay me for the front calipers, the engine computer, the power brake booster, the rack and pinion, and  the power steering pump. That is over $50 I would not have  gotten if we did not deal  with this company.

These parts that I do sell to this company will go in a bin  and  when the bin  is full I call them and  they arrange and  pay for the shipping to them. They also have  a program where they will buy your excess  inventory that you may  have  duplicates of or maybe it has  just been sitting on the shelf forever. Something we just started recently was to start saving the O2 sensors. There are companies that will buy these, so start saving them now  in a box or bucket. Another tidbit is to save all the extra keys you get with the cars. Find keys throw them in a bucket: keys are brass, and  brass is roughly .50 cents a pound. Question: how much does  a 5 gallon bucket of keys weight? I have  my bucket started and am  waiting to find out. Will you? Talk with your representative from your local  scrap recycler (he is an associate member of your state or local  association): ask him  to help  streamline your dismantling operation to help  you make more off of your scrap you are already sending him. I hope after reading this article the ideas help  you like they have  helped me make more money off the same cars. All of this information I have learned from attending and participating in not only my local recycling association, but also the state association. I hope to see you at this year’s state convention in Tahoe and  hear your success on how you were able  to make more money off the same cars.


Recycled parts are good for the environment, repair shops, and their customers

Recycled parts are good for the environment, repair shops,  and their customers

by Steve Sharp

Oakland, Calif.—Inexpensive OEM parts are readily available from local recyclers and using them is good for the environment, for businesses, and for customers, Alvin’s Auto Recycling Owner Alvin “Flash” Collier said.

Reprinted from Parts & People, Northern California Edition, May 2012

According to the Automotive Recyclers Association’s (ARA) newly launched website, recycled auto parts save an estimated 80 billion barrels of oil annually, and the total amount of oil and fluid reclaimed yearly by auto recyclers is equivalent to roughly eight Exxon Valdez spills. “No one even called it recycling when San Pablo Auto Wreckers opened on this site in 1923,” Collier said. Alvin’s resells or recycles everything from vehicles, including wiring, he said. “Copper wiring has become a valued recyclable. We used to fill a small can, and now we fill a large bin,” he said. “In-house, we recycle all of our paper, bottles, cans, and cardboard. Recycling is taking responsibility for our own waste and our environment. ” Collier’s wife and co- owner, Isabella, said that when selecting a recycler, it is important to confirm their certification. Certified recyclers are held to the highest standard of safety and practices, and provide the highest standard of products, she said. As a member of ARA and a Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR), Alvin’s is independently audited for compliance. “We are all about doing it right,” Flash Collier said. “It is a lot of work, but well worth it in the long run. ” Independent audits include facility inspections to ensure a clean and safe workplace plus a business practice review including licensing and permitting, he said. Audits also look at the disassembly procedure, recycling procedures, and the identification, categorization, and storage of parts, he said. “CAR certification has specific requirements for business procedures and the products we sell, as well as verifying regulatory compliance,” he said.


Today’s recycling process includes documentation of the end-of-life vehicle as well as its hazardous components, Collier said, and detailed records are maintained for state, local, and federal officials. Environmentally hazardous materials including tires, oil, coolant, batteries, wiring, and mercury switches are removed, documented and recycled. The balance of the vehicle is disassembled with each part labeled, including year, make, and model, as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN). “Vent glass, engine, or fan motor, it is all right there. They can take one look at the label and know exactly what vehicle it came from,” Collier said. Every receipt provides additional documentation including Alvin’s dismantler license number and the VIN information from each of the donor vehicles, he said. Besides the proper disposal and accounting of hazardous materials, information regarding the recycled vehicle is reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Justice prior to being sent to scrap.


“There is a reason there are fewer and fewer recyclers,” Collier said. “As a certified recycler, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. Yes, it is a lot of work — but ultimately we are doing the right thing for our customers, their customers, and the environment. ” Another area of concern is the availability of vehicles, especially through auction, he said. “I go to tow yards, dealerships and others for our vehicles so we are not dependent on auctions for our inventory. ” Alvin’s specializes in suspension, powertrain, and glass. “I probably have the largest selection of recycled auto glass in the Bay Area and it’s all reasonably priced,” Collier said. He said most of his sales are mechanical, rather than panel, and that he sells spindles for $50, for example, that are as much as $400 new. “We have OEM parts — used, yes — but good, clean warrantied parts that have been carefully inspected,” he said. Electrical items such as CPUs do not come with a warranty, Collier said, although he buys mostly late-model, low-mileage totals so the electronics are more reliable. Collier said his business is Internet-driven. “We are listed on and car- I love it when they call and say they saw it on the Internet,” he said. “They know the part and they know the price.”

Collier said auto recyclers are a key part of the long-term environmental solution. “Repair shops, collision shops, and dealerships should all be partnering with a recycler. It is good for their customers, good for their business, and good for the environment,” he said.

Salvage Yard Owner Awarded Best Boss 2012

Locator UpFront 2012 Boss Of The Year

When Alvin “Flash” Collier bought Alvin’s Auto Recycling in 1985 he only had two things to his name, a Chevrolet El Camino and his last paycheck. But, that didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dream to run his own auto recycling facility, something he wanted since his childhood. “My youngest memory was climbing up the side of a forklift with a rope to get inside of it,” he recalled. Growing up, Collier worked in many of his dad’s, Henry Alvin Collier, auto recycling facilities. “I used to sell the shoes I found in the cars. I went on to stripping the wires, then the heater cores and later started pulling parts.
I remember putting an intake manifold in a ’64 Chevelle when I was in junior high.” It was his dad who gave him the opportunity to buy Alvin’s Auto Recycling in Oakland, Calif. They planned on being partners in the business, but Collier bought him out just a few months later in September 1985 and never looked back.

In fact, it’s because of his experience and dedication to the business that his employees nominated him for the Locator UpFront’s 2012 Boss of the Year.“He’s just an all-around good guy,” said Manager Freddie Hebert, who has worked with Collier for more than 10 years and has nominated him in the past. “He’s fair to his employees. His biggest strength is his ability to communicate with us.” That’s because Collier has been in all of his employees’ shoes at one time or another. “I’m hands on,” Collier acknowledged. “I’ve done everything. I started in the back of the wrecking yard. I swept, pulled parts and was a full-time dismantler, plus a counterperson at three to four different places. Then I became an owner.” As an owner, Hebert said Collier is compassionate, honorable, funny, understanding and conducts himself with integrity. Collier said his management style comes from the past bosses he’s worked with. “I’ve worked for guys that were not good bosses and I’ve worked for some really great bosses,” he explained. He said he took the best from the best bosses and learned what not to do from the worst.

Employee Rewards
For example, Collier thanks each employee for a job well done when he hands out their pay checks. “When they say thanks to me, I answer, ‘No, you’ve earned this check, this is me thanking you.’” Collier also buys each employee a cake on his or her birthday, and he’s been doing that for the last 20 years. He said his aunt used to bake him a cake every year, so it’s a tradition he started with his employees. It is a gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed. “I had one guy, who was a grown man that had never had a birthday cake,” Collier remembered. “He had tears in his eyes when he got that cake.” “What other boss do you know that gets a birthday cake for you every year?” asked Hebert. The answer is the kind that not only rewards his employees with bonuses and birthday cake, but reaches out to his community as well.

“What other boss do you know that gets a
birthday cake for you every year?”
–Freddie Hebert

Reaching Out
Alvin’s Auto Recycling donates used auto parts to area nonprofit organizations, buys its shirts from the Handicapped Sales Workshop ( in Margate, Fla. and is involved in yearly Rebuilding Together projects.
“I’m one of those guys if you’re walking, running or biking, I’m an easy mark,” laughed Collier. One organization Collier has been actively involved for the past 20 years is the state of  California Auto Dismantlers Association (SCADA) and Bay Area Auto Dismantlers Association (BAADA). He is on the SCADA board of directors and is president of BAADA. Alvin’s Auto Recycling is also an ARA member. “I like being both (a member of SCADA and ARA),” said Collier. “I consider it a feather in my cap.” Alvin’s Auto Recycling is an ARA Certified Auto Recycler and a SCADA Partners in the Solution member. Collier said it is the only business in the East Bay area to have both certifications. “We’ve been called auto wreckers, then dismantlers and now auto recyclers,” he said. “I’m very proud of being an auto recycler. I think that’s the best thing we’ve ever done is turn into auto recyclers because we’ve been recycling for years.”
The business is a full-service, pre-dismantled facility with more than 40,000 used auto parts stored in its more than 20,000-square- feet of warehouse space. At first glance, the business doesn’t look like a salvage yard. “We’re not your typical auto recycling facility,” Collier acknowledged. “We don’t have 500 cars lined up outside.” It utilizes eBay and Car- to sell parts. Collier said he and his six employees sell everything, but he likes to stock up on parts from ’97 to ’07 and has a process to figure what he needs to buy. He checks out the parking lots whenever he goes to the movies, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Costco, etc. “When I’m walking through the parking lot, I look around,” he explained. “And I know if I don’t have any parts for those cars in the lot, I’m not selling parts.” Collier has been in the recycling business for 27 years. He said he has no plans to leave the business anytime soon. “My employees know I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m not trying to sell the place, I’m not going anywhere. “I love what I do. As the saying goes, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’”





It’s Easy To Tell Your Green Story

Green Recycled Parts is one member initiative that is a must for your business. 

By Michelle Keadle-Taylor
September 1, 2011

Alvin’s Auto in Oakland, California, has recently gone all green. From the green painted walls in their offices to their staff wearing green T-shirts to three of their cars being branded in the latest Green Recycled Parts logo, Alvin Collier, President of Alvin’s Auto and his staff are excited about the new Green Recycled Parts initiative.“We’ve gone green!” said Collier enthusiastically. “We love this program! We plan on doing a lot more with it. For example, on National Recycling Day in November we’re going to try to use this initiative’s promotional materials and branding to raise our awareness in the community. We are planning on accepting items, such as tires, scrap, oil, and other recyclable parts from the local community for free to try to help them understand what we do in the automotive recycling industry.”Stoystown Auto Wreckers in Stoystown, Pennsylvania, shares the enthusiasm Alvin’s Auto’s has for the Green Recycled Parts initiative. Continue reading
We Buy Car for Cash Alvins Auto Recycling

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