ordering parts for an old car

A 1996 Nissan Sentra to be exact.

I think I can get the part (smart entrance control unit) at the dealer for $200. That is more than I want to spend. I would be happy to pick up a used one at a scrap yard-they don’t have one. :frowning:

Does anyone have any hints/tricks for finding cheap old used car parts? Googling hasn’t shown me anything useful, but it may be my poor googling skills.


“Recycle yards” belong to computer networks that can find a part in another yard. Have you tried a connected one?

Is this it? Listed as a different model, but sometimes things like that are the same across different models.


Try www.car-part.com.

used auto parts
to find similar sites to car-part.com

Try rockauto.com

I saw that. it is indeed a different model. Not being an expert in the field I do not know if it will work in a Sentra. For the price I am considering ordering it to see, but given that my goal is to save money, it is a risk.


I tried car-part.com and similar sites. My problem is that to use them, the part one is looking for has to be on their drop-down menu. I haven’t found anyone who lists a SECU as a possible part.

I couldn’t identify a category that the SECU falls in.

I think most of my problem is that I don’t have any experience in finding such things. I don’t know what people in the business call the parts.
I only know about the part from reading the wiring diagram in Haynes repair manual.

It is funny that such an obscure part would be so easy to remove and replace-it is a plug-in module under the dashboard. It takes about a minute to locate and unplug. The car works without it, but the door lock switch, seatbelt warning, and rear-window defogger don’t. Probably some other things don’t work that I don’t know about. But it is easy to remove and replace. If I could only find one…

Yes. first thing I tried. I used their automated inquiry system. They said they didn’t have anything but would post a request good for 30 days. I didn’t hear any more.

Search by the exact maker part number… try Google and eBay.

This is the best route. You’ll find many suppliers that will sell you the same part for much less.

However, make sure you’ve checked the fuses first. I’ve had cases where people have replaced the unit, only to find it won’t work.

Check those fuses!

You’ll find it under “Computer Box, not engine” and then I think “Theft/Locking, door lock timer (RH steering column)”, or else it has some other security/keyless parts listed. Looks like you can probably get one for $30 or so.

The nice thing with car-part.com is that it’s basically just a big unified junkyard inventory. Once you find a place that has your part, you can just pick up the phone and talk to them if you need to double check it’s the right part. It also has all the interchange stuff built right into the search program, so it’ll bring up the same part used in other years and models.

I wouldn’t try this, because there are often endless variations of a part - a year, a model designation or an option package could use a completely different black box in that location.

There might have been a time you could go into a parts store or wrecking yard and say, “I need that brace thing that goes next to the brake cylinder on a '68 Falcon” and go home with the right part. Some minor repairs on my 2005 Volvo reminded me just how many micro-variations of parts exist these days.

I again suggest that the only way to find non-commodity repair parts is to search by the exact maker part number. Not only will you get the EXACT “Black box, two plugs, not for the engine, has two mounting tabs and a molded smiley face” but searching that way will get you deep into online parts catalogs where you might end up paying a fraction of counter price for a new item. Or even lower if some schmo on eBay has one with no idea of the list price.

The interchange guide on that website has worked pretty well for me so far. It’s generally pretty good about requiring you to enter the specific options and sometimes even the build date to get the exact right part.

Plus, again, you don’t actually buy the part from the website. It just shows you junkyards that have the part you need and then you contact them and get it directly from them. It will be trivially easy to double check with the junkyard that the numbers match and everything before ordering. Even better, if it shows a local yard that has it, the OP can just drive over there and verify for themselves.

With automotive computer parts, the numbers matching on the outside of the box don’t guarantee it’ll correctly interchange since sometimes they use the same part but with different software which can’t be updated by a DIY mechanic. Either approach will probably work, but I’d trust the junkyard interchange guides more than I’d trust just punching in random numbers on the part into google.

Okay. I can’t think of a single time I had a problem with an exact-number part, acknowledging that it can get pretty subtle about build dates and teeny tiny suffixes. I don’t know of a single case where a manufacturer part number - a *complete *part number - referred to more than one part.

I’ll stay with that system - which is hardly “googling random numbers” - over trusting a user-compiled cross-reference that then depends on a couple of sales and fulfillment layers to get things right. I just bought some fairly basic brake parts - pads and rotors - and the ONLY consistent cross-reference across a dozen sales, how-to and DIY sites was the Volvo part number stamped into the rotor hub. I saw many different references, specs, recommendations and parts and half of them were flat-out wrong… but the Volvo part number told the tale.

thanks. I will try again. I would like to go the part number route, but I can’t locate the part number. there doesn’t seem to be one on the part itself.
Re checking the fuse-I know it is the unit, it isn’t completely broken. When I put the part in, it works sort of. The locks work normally for a few minutes, but after that they all lock on their own. I can take the unit out, then replace it and it works for a few minutes.

thanks. I would never have been able to figure out how to search for this part on my own. I found one that is almost what I need. 200 miles away, but maybe available.

I was amused when I went to the salvage yard website. It is still the default page from Netscape navigator server v3-1997. It came up though. Impressive.

My 95 VW Golf GL had a bad cruise control module. It had a 9 digit part number on it, in the 3 groups of 3 digit format VW likes. I took that part number over to a salvage yard who tracked the number down and brought it in. When the part arrived it had the same 9 digit number on it, but was in many ways incompatible with mine. It was a VW cruise control module, but not for my car. With 9 to the 10th power possible combinations I have no idea why VW/Audi would re-use numbers, but they did.