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Repair Shops

Publication Date: November 1998
Links Last Checked: July 2004

Changing Fluids
• What does the facility do when changing/replacing fluids – use drip pans or accumulate the fluid on the floor?
    – Install drip pans and trays throughout the shop, wherever there is a transfer of liquid.
    – Do not pour any liquid wastes into a storm drain, septic tank, dry well, or on the ground. Avoid putting waste down any drains.
    – If the floor has to be washed with water and poured into a drain, make sure the drain leads to a sanitary sewer. Remember, it is better if the floor is cleaned without water, preventing wastewater from going down any drain.

Managing Wastes
• Are wastes segregated and managed? Recommendations:
    – Antifreeze, used oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, shop towels and all metal parts should be segregated and recycled. Please note: some of these waste streams are compatible with one another. For example, brake fluid and used oil can go in the same container. Not all streams can be combined, though. Antifreeze should remain separate from the others.
    – All filters should be drained for a couple of hours to remove liquid.
    – Do not dispose of solvents by pouring them into containers of used shop towels.

Floor Cleaning
• How does the facility keep the floor clean: water hose down or sweeping? Recommendations:
    – Sweep the shop floor rather than hose it down.
    – Clean small, non-chlorinated spills immediately with absorbent. Sweep up the absorbent material and save for reuse until absorbing ability is gone.
    – 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.

Many of the fluids used in an auto repair shop can have adverse effects on both the environment and the health and safety of the employees that are using them. Many of the fluids, such as brake fluids, are flammable. If these liquids are spilled on the floor, workers are at a risk of slipping and falling. It is best to avoid these spills altogether, and keep the floor as dry as possible.

Health & Safety Resources

OSHA Solvents Page

Solvents - Hazard Recognition

Ethylene Glycol FAQs

Other Solvent Info
(includes information on ethylene toxicity)

"Sources of Common Contaminants and Their Health Effects."

Parts Cleaning
• What is the first step in parts cleaning for the facility? How is the rest of the parts cleaning performed? Recommendations:
    – 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 cleaners available for all jobs that do not contain chlorine.
    – 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.

Many air emissions from auto repair work comes from the parts cleaner – just by using the cleaner, and leaving the container open. By minimizing the amount of time the parts cleaner is open to the air, the shop employees can minimize the emissions to the environment and the amount of solvent they inhale.

Materials Storage
• How long are materials in storage? If the shop owner has to dispose of products that have expired but not been used up, recommend:
    – Purchase products with long shelf lives, and use inventory control: first in, first out

While this may not appear to be a big issue, it can be useful for shop organization and thinking about what supplies are really needed. Although it won't be possible to have one or two cleaners for every job in the shop, it is possible that one or two cleaners could be used on 90-95% of the jobs. By having a new approach towards inventory management, it may be possible to identify just such a cleaner, and minimize the superfluous chemicals at the shop.

For More Information:

Small Business Home Page
Many different publications and fact sheets about automotive repair. Go to http://www.smallbiz-enviroweb.org/
and choose "automotive" for the Industry Sector/Environmental Topic search.

Managing Hazardous Wastes: A Guide for Automotive Repair Shops, Washington State Department of Ecology, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program, Publication #92-BR-12, July 1996. 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

Guides to Pollution Prevention: The Automotive Repair Industry, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, October 1991, EPA/625/7/91/013.

CCAR-GreenLink®. CCAR is a partnership of industry, education and government. CCAR-GreenLink® offers automotive technicians and 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.
http://www.ccar-greenlink.org, 1-888-GRN-LINK (476-5465)

Containers Management
• Are there multiple bottles/containers of the material open on the shop floor? Recommendations:
    – Only one container on the floor at any one time; store in a central location so all have access to it. Once it is empty, get the next one from storage (see recommendation above)
    – Make sure that the can is completely empty before discarding it. Some metal vendors will take the can for recycling.

Again, try to minimize potential spills, waste and emissions. Limiting the number of open bottles and where they are kept on the floor can help with this.

Closing Containers
• Are the containers in the shop closed? Is the parts cleaner left off and closed? Recommendations:
    – Keep all containers 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.

Battery Management
• Does the facility store batteries for recycling? If no, emphasize that the batteries can be recycled, and do not count as dangerous/hazardous waste when recycled. If yes, make sure that the shop
    – Avoids long-term storage of batteries. Recycles them at least every 6 months.
    – Stores them in a dry, secure place.

Other Recommendations
If the facility is performing all of the above, there are some actions/opportunities that you can ask them to consider:
• Phase out the use of spray cans in the shop. Use refillable spray canisters for heavily used sprays such as brake cleaner or use mechanical spray cans when possible, and if fire codes allow it.
• Use spray cabinet washers with skimmer and evaporator built in.
• Switch from solvent washing to water-based washing.
• See if one or two general, less toxic cleaning materials can replace single-purpose cleaners.
• Consider a laundry service for rags, reducing the need for absorbents for spills/cleaning.
• Use recycled antifreeze and oil in the shop.
• Refuse free samples from vendors unless unused portions can be returned.

The information compiled in this report was current as of November 1998; the web links in this report were current as of January 2002.

Created 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 with funding support from EPA.