Scrap Aluminum Grades – How to Sort and Clean Scrap Aluminum to Maximize Its Value

Aluminum is a non-ferrous metal (which means it will not draw a magnet) that is lightweight. There are several different grades of scrap aluminum, and all of them vary in price. At most scrapyards, aluminum is broken down into the following grades:

Cast Aluminum

Radiators (clean and contaminated)

Extrusions (clean and contaminated)

Wheels (Clean and Chrome Plated)

Siding

Aluminum/Copper Radiators (clean and contaminated)

Old Sheet

Cast aluminum is very brittle and when broken, the inside will appear very grainy. A majority of the cast aluminum that comes across our scale is from auto parts. Transmission housings, engine cylinder heads, and electronic covers are all examples of cast aluminum auto parts. Other miscellaneous items that are made of cast aluminum include BBQ covers, some hot plates and skillets, and some light housings.

Aluminum radiators can be brought to our yard in two forms, contaminated or clean. A clean aluminum radiator must have all tanks, hoses, and steel and plastic removed. The plastic tanks on each end of the radiator will typically contain steel, sometimes however they will contain a tube made of aluminum or brass.

Extrusion is the process of pushing material through a die to give it a particular shape, very much like a Play-Doh spaghetti machine. The most common form of aluminum extrusion we see is window frames, but it is used very often in other framing systems and structural applications. Extrusions are broken down into contaminated and clean grades, with clean extrusion containing no steel, plastic, rubber, or insulation.

Aluminum Wheels come in two varieties, aluminum and chrome plated aluminum. Chrome plated wheels are worth a little less than pure aluminum due to the chrome contamination. Wheels with plastic face covers are also considered chrome plated due to the contamination of plastic and glue. Our listed wheel price assumes wheel weights, valve stems, and center caps are still attached. If these have been removed from your wheels discuss it with our scale operator and he may be able to increase your price.

Aluminum siding also includes gutters, downspouts, and other flat stock aluminum items. To receive the aluminum siding price, the material must not contain steel, Styrofoam, tar, insulation or any other contamination.

Aluminum/copper radiators are found in air conditioning units. They are copper tubes surrounded by aluminum fins. A clean aluminum/copper radiator will contain no steel flanges. If the steel flanges are cut off of a dirty aluminum/copper radiator, the rest of the radiator can be sold as clean and the flanges can be sold as aluminum breakage if they still contain some aluminum and copper.

Old sheet is the lowest grade of scrap aluminum and just about everything that has not been mentioned so far falls into this category. Some common aluminum sheet items include pots and pans, pop cans, lawn chairs, and screens. Siding containing excessive Styrofoam or tar will also be bought as aluminum sheet.