Tuning Up Your Automotive Repair Shop: Save Time and Money with Clean Operations

November 1998

As an extended service of _____________________________________________, you will receive a series of fact sheets to help you learn how to investigate, select and use waste minimization opportunities for your industry. Most often, reducing or eliminating the use of hazradous substances can help your company:

  • Comply with environmental regulations and cut your paperwork burden;
  • Reduce costs by using fewer materials;
  • Cut waste transportation and disposal costs; and
  • Reduce long-term liability and insurance costs.
  • Many of the products used by the automotive repair industry contain a variety of chemicals which are considered toxic and are dangerous to human health and the environment. Federal, state and local agencies regulate the use of these toxic substances, which often requires businesses to identify less toxic alternatives or operate with less environmental impact.

    This fact sheet provides a listing of basic waste reduction opportunities that can be implemented in your shop. For more information about waste reduction, please check the references provided at the end of the fact sheet.

    Seven Ways To Run a Cleaner Shop

    • Install drip pans and trays throughout the shop -- under vehicles and wherever liquids are transferred.
    • Sweep the shop floor rather than hose it down.

    • Do not use compressed air to dry parts cleaned in solvent. Let them drip back into the parts washer. If the parts are not completely dry when needed, dry them with a rag.
    • Use brushes for cleaning whenever possible. This removes larger pieces of grease and grime, and allows for a longer life for the parts cleaner.
    • Avoid all chlorinated cleaners. There are effective non-chlorine cleaners available for all jobs.
    • Clean small spills immediately with an absorbent (like ground-up corncob). Sweep up the absorbent material and save for reuse until absorbing ability is gone. Or, use a squeegee and a dustpan to "sweep" up the spill. Then, add the liquid to the appropriate waste container (for example, oil spilled during an oil change would be added to the waste oil container).
    • When working on pieces containing fluid, do the work at a "Breakdown Table," where the fluids can be caught in a separate drain and then recycled.

    • Segregate and recycle wastes (antifreeze, used oil and other oily fluids).
    • Keep wastes and areas of the shop separate based on use. For example, designate a "wet" area where all cleaning is performed, and designate a "cleaners" area where cleaning material (rags, brooms, squeegees, etc.) are kept.
    • Drain all filters to remove liquid. This can be done in an area where filters are hung over a pan for a couple of hours.
    • Do not dispose of solvents by pouring them into containers of used shop towels.

    • Do not pour any liquid wastes into a storm drain, septic tank, dry well, or on the ground.
    • Do not allow floor cleaning waste water to flow into a storm drain (inside or outside) or dry well.

    • Keep all containers, including parts washers, closed when not in use. Close off all drains that lead to storm sewers, dry wells, or septic systems.
    • Don't leave solvent stream running on parts washer. Turn on parts washer only when needed.

    • Purchase products with long shelf lives
    • Use inventory control: first in, first out
    • Avoid long-term storage of batteries. Recycle them at least every 6 months.

    • Make sure the entire spray can is completely empty before discarding it. Then, puncture the can and drain. Some metal vendors will take the can for recycling. Check and see if they will take it.
    • Phase out the use of spray cans in your shop. Use refillable spray canisters for heavily used sprays such as brake cleaner or use mechanical spray cans when possible.

    Sources for more information:
    The Automotive Service Association (ASA) is an international organization made up of approximately 13,000 member-businesses that work to deliver excellence in mechanical, collision and transmission service to consumers.
    Automotive Service Association, P.O. Box 929, Bedford, Texas, 76095-0929
    Phone: (817) 283-6205, toll-free: (800) 272-7467, fax: (817) 685-0225, e-mail: asainfo@asashop.org, website address: http://www.asashop.org. The website has articles, case studies and clean shop tips.

    Managing Hazardous Wastes: A Guide for Automotive Repair Shops, Washington State Department of Ecology, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program, Publication #92-BR-12, Revised, July 1996. Website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs.shtm
    Department of Ecology, Publications, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600
        Include street address for UPS delivery

    CCAR-GreenLink®. CCAR is a partnership of industry, education and government, and CCAR-GreenLink® offers automotive technicians, automotive educators, and half a million businesses, including automotive service and repair facilities, autobody shops and vehicle dealers, quick access to important information on a variety of environmental issues these professionals encounter. Website: http://www.ccar-greenlink.org Phone: 1-888-GRN-LINK (476-5465)

    Produced by the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, 513 First Ave. West, Seattle, WA 98119
    phone: 206-352-2050, fax: 206-352-2049, e-mail: office@pprc.org, WWW address: http://www.pprc.org/pprc/