Houston’s Best Total Car Detailers – Disposing Of Used Oil And Other Wastes Properly Pt2

Houston’s Best Total Car Detailers – Disposing Of Used Oil And Other Wastes Properly Pt2

Disposing Of Hazardous Auto Waste Without Environmental Damage


Years and years ago, we used to kill weeds around our garage with old coolant once we’d drained it out. Sometimes we simply dumped it down the sink before flushing out the radiator with water straight from the hose. The used water, chock full of heavy metals, ran down the driveway and into the gutters. These sorts of operations are illegal now. Commercial shops can’t dispose of antifreeze this way, and you shouldn’t either. When it’s time to drain your radiator, catch all of the coolants in a pan with minimal spills. Top it up with water and run the engine long enough to heat up and open the thermostat. After the water’s gotten to every part of the system (a few minutes), drain it and repeat the process. Flushing the system twice will purge all but the tiniest traces of the old coolant from the system. Put the right amount of fresh coolant into the system and use more water to top it up.

Now you face the question of what to do with your used coolant. In a lot of larger shops, recycling distillers are used to pull glycol out of used coolant so that it can be reused. Water is boiled away during this process, reducing all the unwanted material to just a few teaspoonfuls. Check around with shops in your area; one with the necessary equipment will likely accept your old coolant for free. There’s one important provision when you’re changing coolant: You need to use completely clean containers to extract the coolant. That includes pans, funnels, and any other surface that touches the antifreeze. Any contaminants – especially oil – will make the coolant impossible to recycle.

Paint And Gasoline

Today, most aftermarket automotive paint is based on either enamel or lacquer. (Many new cars are painted with water-based paint when they’re built.) The bad news is, a lot of local waste disposal systems won’t accept solvent-based paints or the thinners that go with them. For small quantities of paint, gasoline, or paint thinner, you can do what we do: Leave them in an open can and let them dry out. Note that this needs to be done in a secure area with plenty of ventilation – open liquids like this are both fire and poison hazards. Do not leave them where children or pets can get to them! (Also, you should be aware that evaporation doesn’t work for coolant; it takes too long to dry.) For larger quantities of paint, thinner, and gasoline, contact your local waste management authorities for proper disposal instructions. Gasoline needs special handling because one of its key additives, MTBE, is a potential groundwater contaminant.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is based on alcohol, and it has enough toxic components to make it poisonous if ingested. Catch the runoff when you bleed brakes in a jar. Old brake fluid that’s been exposed to air will absorb water, making it more volatile and less safe. New or unused brake fluid can be disposed of by pouring it into cat litter. Evaporation will dry the fluid out in a few days. As with paint and gasoline, this drying should be done in a secure area free of fire hazards and secured against pets and children.


Car batteries contain lead that must be kept out of the groundwater. The good news is, most batteries are recyclable. The lead plates and sulfuric acid inside a battery can be readied for reuse fairly easily. Most states now have incentive programs in place to encourage you to let battery vendors recycle your batteries. Effectively, you get a small discount on the price of a new battery when you turn in an old one at the same time. Many garages and auto shops will take old batteries off your hands for free. As a last resort, you should be able to find a free battery disposal site operated at the city or county level.


Keeping old tires in your neighborhood is a bad idea. They hold water and then breed mosquitoes. In some areas, old tires are reused as fuel for curing cement. Turning limestone into portland cement requires extremely high temperatures; using tires as fuel for this process completely combusts the rubber and fabric in them. The steel in the tires melts and can be collected from the furnace. Most tire-selling businesses have recycling programs that will help you get rid of your used ones. Some shops do charge for this service. Many local governments have tire disposal arrangements for homeowners. They may have a specific disposal site or special days when they will pick up tires from your home.

Make Less Waste!

The most efficient way to take care of hazardous waste is to try to generate less of it. Keep an eye on the future and plan purchases and maintenance to minimize the amount of waste you have to deal with. Some quick tips:

  • Keep your charging system in good working order to maximize the life of your battery.
  • Buy paint and solvent in smaller batches, sized as close as possible to the needs of the job.
  • Buy brake fluid in 8-ounce bottles, rather than quarts. This reduces the odds of leftovers going bad.
  • Keep your air cleaner sealed and fresh so that airborne contaminants stay out of your oil.
  • Keep your suspension aligned and rotate your tires regularly so that they’ll last longer.

At Total Car Detailing we are committed to keeping your car clean and cared for. Call us now for your detailing needs or contact us to schedule a detailing time that works best for you. Click here for the first installment of this article and don’t forget to peek at our blog for more helpful tips on automotive detailing and auto maintenance!

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