Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

Auto Solutions T

Profit to be made from engine crackers

engine cracker McIntyreCar salvage and breaking vehicles that have been written off for insurance purposes and other end-of-life-vehicles (ELV) that are broken for spares represent an important and valuable market. Most authorised treatment facilities (ATF) are efficient operations running under stringent EU ELV legislation. But not all are maximising the profits to be gleaned from car scrap. Technology has come a long way in recent years to boost profits by improving the depollution, separation, recovery and processing of output materials. 

Here, we look at one of those systems – engine crackers – and ask expert car recycler, Phillip Pownall, Managing Director of UK recycling systems manufacturer McIntyre (a JMC recycling company) how they work and, more importantly, how they can contribute to the bottom line.

What is an engine cracker?

The Boss - McIntyre engine cracker
‘The Boss’

The process of recovering the aluminium from scrap vehicles begins with an engine cracker. Engine crackers are powerful machines with a mega-tonne crushing force that separate steel from aluminium in engines, transmissions and other component parts of an engine, giving you more end material to recycle for profit, as well as minimising waste that ends up in landfill. 

How big are they?

Our 1200 model is a 120 tonne cracker and remarkably compact: L3340mm, W1580mm, H 2922mm.

The McIntyre 1250 is a 125 tonne machine, dimensions: L4120mm, W2770mm, H3350mm.

Our new 150 tonne cracker, the McIntyre 1300 (also known as ‘The Boss’ in honour of my late father) measures: L4186mm, W2795mm, H4210mm.

What are the operating costs?

Models can be powered by electricity or diesel. 

To give you an indication of running costs: if you run an engine cracker for a standard eight-hour shift, you can expect an electricity bill of around £5,500 per year in the UK – which is very reasonable given the potential profits a cracker will deliver.

What sort of profits can you get?

Recovered aluminium
Recovered aluminium

The economics are really good. But don’t just take our word for it. For example, one client with a 120 tonne engine cracker – Crosstown Auto – cracks on average 70 engines and 70 transmissions per day. 

Let’s say that 10 tonnes uncracked will return £1,900.

In comparison, 10 tonnes effectively cracked should return a combination of:

  • 7 tonnes steel/cast iron mix = £1,400
  • 3 tonnes aluminium      =   £2,700
  • Total = £4,100

So that’s more than double the profit, minus labour and running costs.

The actual final profits any operator will achieve depends a lot on what add-on systems they use, and what processes they employ. For example, the addition of efficient sorting conveyor belts with magnets can significantly improve the quality of output product, and therefore the price the market will pay for it. Many operators will run cracked product through this process twice, to increase the separation percentage and quality of final product.

An aluminium melting oven will add even more value to the process.

What is the Return on Investment?

An engine cracker will typically deliver a return on investment in less than a year.

What should you consider when buying one?

  • Reliability – Keep in mind that smashing engine blocks is a rough process. It’s not like making doughnuts. Any downtime will significantly impact the return on investment. Look out for a machine that is really robust, that can be quickly serviced, and for which spare parts are locally and swiftly available.
  • Performance – Don’t buy anything that can’t crush at least 120 tonne. An effective system of that power can break between 3 and 5 tonnes every hour – that’s up to 30 engines. The new generation of crackers have a 150 tonne crushing force, and can demolish an engine in just two minutes for even greater returns.
  • Flexibility – Look for a system that can also handle electric motors and alloy wheels, for maximum commercial opportunity.
  • Quality of output – Know your market. You have to find the happy medium between under-cracking for fast production, and over-cracking which produces more material, but is slower and also puts more strain on the machine which means higher maintenance costs. The right machine for you will produce aluminium with a percentage of steel: know what your buyers will permit without penalty. Most allow 3%, so unless a committed, long-term buyer requests better, seek a system that delivers that.
Engine Cracker Conveyor layout
Engine cracker conveyor layout

New vs reconditioned – when to choose which?

The newer machines are larger, more powerful and offer higher throughput for greater profit potential. They also tend to have two hydraulic cylinders so they can run at a lower pressure and cut down on vibration, which reduces the rate of wear and tear.

The more robust older models can be great when you’re testing a new service stream. The cost can be 50% of new, and you’ll still be guaranteed a great return on investment. Just make sure you have someone who can service it in a timely manner and that spare parts are still available at a reasonable price so that maintenance of the machine doesn’t eat into the new profits.

About McIntyre Recycling Systems & Services

McIntyre is the gold standard in recycling systems and services. We have installed 27,000 machines worldwide, helping clients to maximise profits from metal, cars, waste and aluminium. 

With scrap metal roots extending back to 1872, we continue to operate a thriving recycling business today. This gives us an unrivalled understanding of the challenges faced by scrap merchants, car breakers, waste managers, manufacturers, foundry managers and others charged with recycling responsibilities, such as Councils. This knowledge, combined with innovative design and meticulous engineering means that a McIntyre system meets the world’s most exacting standards for performance and value for money

Based in Nottingham, UK, McIntyre is still proudly managed by our founding family today, with the same commitment to honest dealings, quality, choice, safety and customer care. It is an ISO-accredited and Safe Contractor-approved manufacturing facility.

As a result, the McIntyre name has become synonymous with problem-solving designs, robust products that deliver the best return on investment, and a knowledgeable, friendly and helpful service.

To find out more from JMC visit:



More News


ATF Professional is produced by ARW- Group LTD, which is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 14914439

The views and opinions expressed on ATF Professional are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the editor, publisher or staff of ATF Professional.


01432 355099

© All rights reserved

Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

e2e awards logo

e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

New Client Special Offer

20% Off

Aenean leo ligulaconsequat vitae, eleifend acer neque sed ipsum. Nam quam nunc, blandit vel, tempus.