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Montville — Harvey Orenstein was heartened this week by the news that the cars traveling U.S. roads are older than ever - 11.4 years, on average.
"That should be good for us," he said Tuesday.
Orenstein and his son, Jason, own Yale's Inc., an auto repair and salvage business that's been in the family for generations. A rolling stock that's ever-aging is right up their alley.
The Orensteins recently introduced a self-service "pick-and-pull" lot, which they believe may be the only one in the region. Banned in Connecticut in 1984, such lots were legalized this year when the state Department of Motor Vehicles revised its regulations regarding motor vehicle recyclers.
The DMV recommended repeal of a provision that allowed only the owner of a recycler's yard, an employee or a motor vehicle dealer or mechanic to remove parts from vehicles. The repeal, approved by the General Assembly's Legislative Regulation Review Committee, took effect in January.
A couple of months later, the Orensteins converted a former used car lot across Maple Avenue from Yale's main location into a self-service lot they filled with the remnants of about 125 vehicles. For a $2 admission charge, a customer can enter the area at his or her own risk and remove parts at discount prices.
It's strictly BYOT - Bring Your Own Tools. Jacks, body saws and torches are expressly prohibited.
"Normally, people ask about a part before they go over (to the lot) and we can tell them whether they're likely to find it," Harvey Orenstein said. "No bare feet, no sandals, and they've got to wear protective clothing."
They also have to sign a waiver absolving Yale's of responsibility for any injuries that might occur.
Customers seeking particularly valuable parts or who need assistance removing them may still opt for Yale's full-service lot, which has an inventory of 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles. Unlike parts taken from the self-service area, full-service parts are subject to testing and are covered by warranty.
"If I was looking for a tail light, I'd go to pick-and-pull," Jason Orenstein said. "If I wanted an engine part that I might not be able to remove myself, I'd go to full service."
Sometimes, the selection is the deciding factor as to which lot to visit.
"Last week, some people wanted bucket seats," Harvey Orenstein said. "They were $20 apiece in pick-and-pull, but they weren't the right color. So they got the color they were looking for in full service for $50 apiece."
In embracing the pick-and-pull concept, the Orensteins bucked the Connecticut Auto Recyclers Association, a trade group that opposed the repeal of the provision banning self-service lots. Harvey Orenstein's uncle, Yale, the business' namesake, was a founding member of the group.
In letters to the DMV, the association and a half-dozen member recyclers claimed the repeal would endanger the public and the environment and create financial hardships related to increased insurance costs and the loss of jobs.
The nation's largest auto-parts recycler, LKQ Corp., argued the opposite.
"Self-service motor vehicle recycling facilities cater not only to customers such as body shops and garages, but also individual 'do-it-yourself' consumers wishing to save money," an LKQ official wrote. "Recycled parts can be the consumer's only viable option to properly repair and keep their vehicle on the road."
Connecticut was the only state that prohibited self-service recycling facilities, according to LKQ.
While several opponents of the repeal claimed a fatal accident in a recycler's yard had prompted the 1984 ban on self-service lots, the DMV said it was unaware of any injuries occurring in Connecticut.
Harvey Orenstein said the introduction of the pick-and-pull lot won't cost any of his 10 employees their jobs. In fact, he said, it's made his staff more efficient.
"Like a guy wanted a handful of bolts, so we sent him over to pick-and-pull," Orenstein said. "I couldn't afford to have one of my men pull off bolts for him. I'd have been tying him up for a couple of hours for $10 worth of parts."