Tear A Part

SALT LAKE CITY FIRM TAKES PRIDE IN RECYCLING AUTOS “THE RIGHT WAY”

Mar 23, 2010

Komatsu wheel loaders - fast and smooth in a tough environment

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do almost everything. In auto recycling, the right way consists not only of being fair and honest with your customer, but also taking the time, making the effort and spending the money to recycle in an environmentally sound manner.

Those two cornerstones of business — fairness and operational integrity — are what Tear A Part Auto Recycling hangs its hat on. Tear A Part is a family-owned business that got its start in 2001 under the name of “You Pull It.” It was opened by Bill Mantas, who has since passed away. Bill’s brother, Chris Mantas, father, Pete Mantas, and widow, Joleen Mantas, now own and run the company, which became Tear A Part in 2003.

Based in Salt Lake City, Tear A Part is a self-service auto recycler. That means customers come onto the lot and pull whatever parts they want from junked vehicles before those vehicles are crushed and sold as scrap.

“We differentiate ourselves from many competitors by having a 30-day cash back, 90-day guarantee on parts,” said Chris Mantas, Tear A Part’s CEO. “That’s pretty unusual in this industry, where companies often have a no-return, all-sales-final policy. We want our customers to know they can trust us to do right by them.

“The other thing that distinguishes us is that environmentally, we’re committed to properly disposing of every junked vehicle we take in,” he added. “That means before we crush and sell a vehicle for scrap, we drain all the oil, fuel and fluids; and we remove all the mercury switches, AC gasses and batteries. Then we dispose of all those potential hazards in an EPA-approved manner. There are people in our industry who try to take short cuts with the regulations to save money, but we value our reputation and believe environmental stewardship is important.”

Cash for Clunkers bonanza

That type of attitude and attention to detail has earned Tear A Part an excellent reputation and a lot of business, in particular during the Cash for Clunkers program last year.

“All the big car dealers in town used us to dispose of the clunkers they took in because they knew we were set up to do the work correctly from an environmental standpoint,” said Mantas. “After crushing, all of our material goes to Simms Metal Management. Simms is a worldwide leader in metals recycling and is very particular about the products they accept. The car dealers knew that if we were working with Simms, we were going to handle the cars properly.”

“We do all the things we’re supposed to do, not only because they’re required by the EPA, but also because we take a lot of pride in running a clean yard,” said Tear A Part Yard Manager Ted Kogianes. “At the peak of Cash for Clunkers, we were probably bringing in 165 cars per day. Over the life of the business, we’ve had about 50,000 junk cars on the property and you won’t find any oil or fluid saturation on the ground. We think that’s pretty impressive and demonstrates the care we take to do things right.”

Because of the company’s attention to detail, Tear A Part has an excellent relationship with EPA inspectors, according to Mantas. “In recent years, the EPA has become tougher and has begun cracking down on violators, which is fine with us. We have an open-door policy toward the EPA, and we welcome their visits. Typically, when they show up here, it’s to ask if we’re doing anything new that they might be able to pass on to other auto recyclers to help them come up to spec.”

In recognition of its environmental efforts, Tear A Part has won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Utah Pollution Prevention Council and a Utah Best of State Auto Service Award.

Like a trip to the grocery store

Visiting the Tear A Part yard on South Redwood Road in Salt Lake City is not unlike a trip to the grocery store. In fact, that’s what the operation is patterned after.

“Instead of products on a shelf, we have salvage cars lined up,” said Kogianes. “People come out, walk the aisles and pull whatever parts they want from those cars. They put the parts in a wheelbarrow and bring them to the cash register.”

“We take older vehicles that a full-service yard typically doesn’t want,” added Mantas. “It’s a roll of the dice for us as to whether we’ll sell any parts, so how much we pay for a vehicle is based on the scrap price we’re going to receive for it. The shelf life of a vehicle we accept is one month. After that, we crush it. We typically go through more than 1,000 cars per month.”

Kogianes says Hondas and Toyotas tend to be the best brands for parts sales.

Komatsu wheel loaders improve production

Parts sales is the retail end of Tear A Part’s business. Processing the cars — draining them and crushing them — is the production end, and that’s where the company uses wheel loaders. For years, Tear A Part has turned to Komatsu wheel loaders from Komatsu Equipment Company to handle the vehicle processing in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

“We use wheel loaders with forks to move cars around the yard, including delivering them to the crusher,” said Kogianes. “We got our first Komatsu, a WA200-5, in December 2004. What sold me on it was the hydrostatic transmission. In a pick-and-carry application such as ours, we need our loaders to be fast and smooth: fast because time is money; smooth because it improves safety when carrying a heavy load. With our first hydrostatic Komatsu, there was a real ‘wow’ factor regarding how fast and smooth it was compared to other brands.”

Kogianes is impressed that despite a heavy workload for the last five years, Tear A Part still uses that original wheel loader. “This is a tough environment for a machine, and our Komatsus have held up amazingly well. Today, that WA200-5 has almost 10,500 hours on it; has been driven more than 33,000 miles (without ever leaving the yard); and has required no major component work. In fact, I think we’ve only lost one day of work with it in the five years we’ve owned it. It’s been a remarkable machine.”

Since that first unit, Tear A Part has added two other Komatsu wheel loaders, a WA320-6 and a WA250PZ (parallel lift with Z-bar linkage). “The hydrostatics on the newest one, the WA250PZ, are outstanding,” said Kogianes. “It’s one fast machine — almost like a dragster.”

“Komatsu wheel loaders are an excellent fit for what we do here,” said Mantas. “We’ve tested others. We like the Komatsus the best. We also like dealing with Komatsu Equipment Company and our Sales Representative Mike Judd. Our machines have required few, if any, repairs, but whenever we’ve needed help, Komatsu Equipment has been great to work with.”

Growth and philanthropy

With about two dozen employees, Tear A Part has experienced steady growth through the years. That’s likely to become explosive growth in the future.

“Our goal is to expand,” acknowledged Mantas. “We plan to start opening new facilities this year. During the next five years, we hope to have as many as 10 new stores with locations throughout Utah and in other states as well.”

Beyond business goals, the Mantas family will continue to be a strong supporter and promoter of the Thavma Foundation. Bill Mantas started the foundation shortly before his death in 2006. Thavma (a Greek work for miracle) is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance for adult lymphoma transplant patients in the Salt Lake City area.

The foundation hosts a biennial fundraising gala. Individuals may also make a tax-deductible, online donation at www.thavma.org or send a check to:

Thavma Foundation, Inc.
445 East 200 South, Suite 140
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

“Because of Bill, the Thavma Foundation is important to us,” said Mantas. “We’re grateful to all our friends, business partners and others who’ve contributed to it through the years. One hundred percent of the money collected goes to patients. If anybody has questions about Thavma, they may call (801) 231-6201.”