The fluids that help keep your automobile’s engine lubricated and cool are potentially hazardous to you, your pets, and the environment. In fact, a single gallon of motor oil can contaminate a million gallons of ground water. It is important that these fluids be disposed of properly.
Laws regarding disposal of these fluids vary greatly by city and county. We recommend that you contact your city hall, county seat, or department of public works to determine what laws and policies apply in your particular location.
If you are lucky, your county allows you to put them out by the curb on trash day and be done with it. Some counties only allow you to do this on certain days and others require you to bring these used fluids to a designated drop off facility or local repair shop. Regardless, it is important that you investigate the proper procedure for disposal.
The typical automobile engine holds about 5 quarts of oil and every time you change your oil you are left with about 5 quarts that need to be disposed of; not to mention a used oil filter which contains left over oil as well.
Most auto parts stores sell oil drain pans that will hold up to 10 quarts (enough for a couple of oil changes). Some even come with a grate that allows you to drain your oil filter and a tight fitting lid for safe storage. It is important to drain the filter for several hours to reduce the amount of oil that makes it to the landfill. Once your pan is full, you should transfer the used oil to gallon jugs. This makes for easier disposal and saves the pan for your next oil change.
In many states repair shops that provide oil change services are required to take modest amounts of used oil from consumers. This may be your best bet for disposal. If that is not the case in your area call your city hall or area waste management provider for guidance.
Brake Fluid And Other Solvents
Brake fluid (as is true of many solvents) is alcohol-based. If you pour the fluid into a pan of kitty litter, it will evaporate in a few days and can be dumped in the trash. Understand that brake fluid is toxic when ingested and flammable, so take care not to poison your pets or burn down your house.
Antifreeze And Coolant
Coolant and antifreeze can be recycled and used again by distilling the glycol out of the old coolant and adding an additive. Many larger auto repair shops will have the necessary equipment to recycle used coolant. Call around to find such a shop and they will typically take your old coolant off your hands. Note that you must use a clean funnel, drain pan and containers. Any oil or other contaminates will render the used coolant unusable.
Finally, when in doubt ask. Your local repair shop is likely a good source of information regarding fluid disposal as is your city hall, county seat, or local waste management provider.