Automobile Maintenance

Many of us are “weekend mechanics”.  We enjoy the cost savings of changing our own oil and antifreeze, topping off the battery with water, and generally making our car perform its best.  There are many potentials for stormwater pollution associated with these activities.  However, the following Best Management Practices will help you minimize pollution while servicing your car.

Suggested Best Management Practices:

  • Take your vehicle to a commercial facility for servicing.  They will properly dispose of oil, coolant, transmission and brake fluid. 
  • If you do it yourself, recycle all oils, antifreeze, solvents and batteries.  Many local car parts dealers and gas stations accept used oil.  Old batteries can actually be worth money.  Call shops listed under Batteries in the Yellow Pages of the phone book to find out if they are paying for used batteries.  Check with your local solid waste collection facility, listed at the end of this document, to determine which products they will accept.
  • Never dump new or used automotive fluids or solvents on the ground, on the street, in a storm drain or street gutter, or in a waterbody.  Eventually, it will make its way to local surface waters or groundwater, including the water we drink.
  • Do not mix wastes.  The chlorinated solvents in some carburetor cleaners can contaminate a huge tank of used oil, rendering it unsuitable for recycling.  Always keep your wastes in separate containers which are properly labeled and store them out of the weather.
  • To dispose of oil filters, punch a hole in the top and let drain for 24 hours.  This is where a large funnel in the top of your oil storage container will come in handy.  After draining, wrap in 2 layers of plastic and dispose of in your regular garbage.
  • Use care in draining and collecting antifreeze to prevent accidental spills.  Spilled antifreeze can be deadly to cats and dogs that ingest it.
  • Perform your service activities on concrete or asphalt or over a plastic tarp to make spill clean-up easier.  Keep a bag of kitty litter on hand to absorb spills.  Sprinkle a good layer on the spill, let it absorb for a little while and then sweep it up.  Place the contaminated litter in a plastic bag, tie it up, and dispose of it in your regular garbage.  Take care not to leave kitty litter out in the rain; it will form a sticky goo that is hard to clean up.
  • If you are doing body work outside, be sure to use a tarp to catch material resulting from grinding, sanding and painting.  Dispose of this waste by double bagging in plastic and placing in your garbage.