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Getting the toxic gick out of automobiles  RSS feed

 
Jesse Grimes
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I recently purchased my own little Ranger Doug to help me with the ant village challenge. Not sure what this one's name is yet, but maybe it will come on the long drive to Montana. I just spent all day doing a coolant system flush, and now I've got gallons of toxic gick (antifreeze) that must be transported to the hazardous waste disposal site at the dump. While I am certainly glad that I learned how to work on cars, I never find it to be an enjoyable experience, primarily because I always end up absolutely covered in toxic gick. Nearly every system in an automobile involves some sort of toxic substance, and the entire undercarriage is usually covered with a layer of road grime, which is some unknown combination of all the toxic gick that has leaked out of everyone's cars.

While I was covered in smelly engine crust and coolant, I wondered if there are any natural alternatives to the toxic fluids that are used in Automobile engines. Is there a plant based oil that could be refined enough to withstand the high temperatures? Is there some natural substance that could be used in place of antifreeze, that would keep the coolant from freezing while not rusting out the radiator?

Any thoughts?
 
Dillon Nichols
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The shit those toxic nasty fluids have to survive is pretty intense... I can't picture any 'natural' alternatives. In summer, you could obviously run a much lower concentration of antifreeze in many vehicles, as long as sufficient anti-corrosive additives are involved. Just don't forget to adjust the mix for winter...

I'd think the most environmentally friendly option, in terms of internal combustion vehicle byproduct reduction, is to extend the life of the various substances. Bypass filters are available for oil, trans fluid, coolant... How much you can consider these to extend the service interval is kinda all over the map, but from double to far better than that is a pretty improvement IMO.

I suppose an air-cooled engine would have the advantage of no antifreeze required... but that would rather limit your vehicle selection!

 
Michael Cox
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If you can't eliminate it complete then the next best seems to be finding ways to handle it so that you

a) don't get covered in it yourself
b) the waste is processed in the most environmentally aware way possible.

for oils based products this may be either burning in a well designed system with scrubbers etc... to remove heavy metal contaminants etc... or fungal remediation in straw or woodchip. Combustion scales most easily and you get a useful product (heat for fuel) rather than a dubious soil amendment.
 
allen lumley
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- Check your local Auto Supply houses, most are required by law (varies widely/wildly from State to State ) to accept used Oil/Anti- Freeze !

A couple of things happen immediately, (they don't ask you where you got the oil/Antifreeze - or for any I.D. ) They may try and tell you that you
have to have bought the original O / A there _ NOT in New York State !

How they dispose of it gets interesting, they have to keep a record of where it goes, and any Oil Filters TOO! In many locations they end up paying
someone to truck it away !

Lawful almost everywhere is the option of Burning it up In a Waste/Used oil Fired Furnace for its for its Heat Energy !

As a Type of Green Washing some Car dealerships with service departments are selling or giving away this oil to places that will burn
this oil, and have documentation that all their oils/antifreeze was accepted by a 3rd party with responsibility for Lawful disposal

YOU have a responsibility to Know what happens to your used oil - often -where there is enough volume to make re-cycling pay, they are paid for
the Used oil, and it is trucked back to one or more oil refineries to be reprocessed responsively into new oils that meet or exceed all standards
for each grade !

The caustic sludge I have avoided by replacing the fluids before it gets that old / degraded, you can read the can for proper disposal instructions -
or accept traveling for proper disposal !

Take this next part with a grain of salt as it is mostly repeating the personal opinion of myself and some other people - Most Cars today have large
cooling reserves, fans, belts, whistles, and flashing lights built in to protect against overheating, so the two remaining duties that your Antifreeze
must still 1)Be Able to do is keep every thing from freezing and breaking And

# 2 ) Provide Lubrication for You Cars Water Pump shaft seals, Running straight water, or avery weak mix of Antifreeze/cooling protecter will
definitely cause an early failure of your water pump at the shafts seal, pissing water out onto your radiator rather than Circulating it !
For the Good of the Craft !
 
Jesse Grimes
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Location: Orange County, CA
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Good discussion!

I am familiar with the auto parts stores' oil collection service, and have used it many times. Around here (Orange county, CA) we have O'reily and Autozone, which both take used oil, but I am not sure what they do with it. I will ask them next time I am in. The antifreeze has to go to the hazardous waste facility at the county landfill, which will take up to 12 gallons for free, and also accepts all kinds of other toxic gick like household cleaners and paint. I've checked their website and it doesn't say what they do with the stuff, I will ask them when I go.

One thing about doing auto repairs in a home garage is that it is difficult to prevent spills, and inevitably some fluid ends up on the floor. What do you do about this? I didn't see anything on the county landfill site that says they take oil soaked rags or kitty litter used to clean up wastes. What does the home mechanic do with this stuff? It makes me think that taking your car to a mechanic, where they have wells and collection systems to catch spilled fluids, is the more eco-friendly option. But on the flip side, this is downright unaffordable for a lot of people, and what is a homesteader to do when their vehicle breaks down miles from any shop?

I like the idea of shared community autoshops, with certain shared tools including all the nifty catch pans for the fluids. One place where I worked had a 3 bay auto-shop for their fleet of vehicles, which I was allowed to use after hours. Not only was it sooooo much better to work on my car with it lifted above my head, but there were collection systems right in the shop for all of the fluids. There was a big catch pan that could be raised up under the vehicle, and the oil would drain right into a barrel attached to the pan. The used oil was pumped into another larger holding tank, and a company would come occasionally and haul it away for recycling. Same thing for the coolant. There was also a collection system for oily rags and kitty litter. It seems to me that a community could pool a little bit of money together, perhaps with a co-op membership system, to build or buy a professional auto shop with all of these systems in place. That way all of the toxic gick is contained in one place, and people have an affordable option for vehicle maintenance. I'm sure there are existing examples of this.

For a rural village scale community where waste disposal companies might not exist, perhaps there is a way to treat or recycle the wastes on site. I know paul stamets has done a lot of work with myco-remediation, involving one experiment at a truck yard where diesel and oil soaked soil was cleaned up by oyster mushroom mycelium. Perhaps a couple of very well sealed basins could be built and filled with an organic medium like wood chips, inoculated with mycelium, and the communities toxic gick could be dumped in the basin. You would end up with some very toxic mushrooms, but at lest then the toxins are contained in a solid form and more easily contained. What do you do with the toxic mushrooms and mycelium?
 
Dillon Nichols
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Oh man, a well-equipped garage would be a huge asset to a community or community association IMO.

I put down cardboard, the big pallet-liner squares from the feed store recycling bin, when working under my vehicles. Store under cover, reuse as practical, and when it gets too soiled for me to want to crawl around on it, it goes in the garbage. Not optimal, but better than into the ground; I'm working on grass or gravel, so soaking it up with kitty-litter isn't really an option.

I might use the oil-soaked stuff as fire-starters down the line, but haven't really looked in to the pros/cons of that. The idea of processing the used oil for burning in a furnace or vehicle is tempting, but I don't think it's worthwhile for an individual unless you drive an awful lot. A community or a multi-family property, on the other hand, could get a useful amount of waste oil from this... Though of course being good permies we'll all be using electric cargo trikes eventually, right?

To me, going to a mechanic isn't just a cost issue, it's also about competence and trustworthiness. I drive 2 hours one-way to my mechanic, because I've never been able to find one in my city that I feel comfortable with. This is alright, since I tend to only do this once a year or so, and can generally make a multi-purpose trip out if it... but would not work very well if I was up there for every oil change.


Allen, good point about the lubrication, changing the antifreeze concentration would definitely need to be done on a case-by-case basis. In my Powerstroke, coolant not only needs to take care of lubrication, I also need to monitor supplemental coolant additives that are in there to prevent cavitation. Funny thing, this is described in the ford manuals, but both dealerships in town claimed to have no idea what I was talking about when I tried to buy the test strips/additive from them. Had to go to a heavy-truck specialty shop. Speaking of competence issues...
 
John Master
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Location: Wisconsin
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"Certification for use in cars and trucks is pending from the American Petroleum Institute. " As it will for a long time I presume.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/automobiles/08BIO.html?_r=0

The ironic thing is that beef tallow is incredibly nutritious traditional fat that many people have eschewed for the terrible highly refined gmo oils like corn canola soy.

People putting in their cars what should be in their mouths, people putting in their mouths what just needs to go away. sooner the better.
 
Michael Longfield
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I have been thinking about this stuff lately. What does the permaculture mechanic look like?

Biodegradable engine oil - http://www.amazon.com/Green-Earth-Technologies-1657-Biodegradable/dp/B0095FVDJS\

Now I just want to find someone who has used a similiar product in their tractor with long term success. Anyone?

Then of course there is getting a diesel engine and converting it to run on grease.

The contamination from working on vehicles is a nightmare for me as a toxin-phobe. I like the idea of having the mechanic shop up hill of some kind of toxin sequestering reed pond. We try to wash our hands on rags that get sent to the landfill, and throw away anything that has touched oil or any other auto toxins. There will always be some level that needs to be washed off the hands, so that water could get sent to the reed pond as well. Alternatively you could ware disposable gloves.

I would love to see innovation done in this space!

We should petition tesla to make an electric tractor.
 
Michael Longfield
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We clean up our spills with a kitty litter like product. Our shop has a cement floor. We bag it up and send it to the land fill. Then whenever we sweep organic matter in the shop that was around where we were working on the vehicle, we throw that away to. I would probably want to do this for about 3 rounds before I would ever consider returning that organic matter to the land. But for the most part I consider all dust in the shop toxic gick and send it off site. Its unfortunate that it has to go somewhere, or that it ever had to be created in the first place. I'm trying to grow food in the most pristine environment possible. I hope that any toxins that inventiable leek from the shop are sequestered and carbon, becoming inert, and don't enter my food.
 
Michael Longfield
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I have come across a safe(according to the internet) antifreeze alternative. Supposedly "Ethylene Glycol - bad for environment. Propylene glycol - not bad for the environment."

http://www.amazon.com/Old-World-SEP003-Antifreeze-Coolant-Propylene/dp/B000CCM5JA
 
Michael Longfield
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Biodegradable transmission and hydraulic oil....

https://www.deere.ca/en_CA/docs/turf/e-cut_hybrid_mowers/environmentally_responsible_fluids/BioHyGardIIBrochure.pdf
 
frank li
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Remember whale oil trans fluid? There are alternatives. I have an issue with trans fluid, antifreeze and brake fluid. The fuel and oil are easier to find suitable replacements to switch to. And we have been using propylene glycol based antifreeze for about 12-15 years. I will not eat food containing propylene glycol though. I feel better about this, an improvement.

I too share a certain terror for vehicle maintenance. Used to love it, stressfull to avoid spills and smarm on everything, and was always responsible with discards, but nowadays I look at our vehicles and am glad tlfor the utility and morally crushed about the knowledge of what it actually is and does. I go into fits trying to first, not contaminate our property and tools, then to not contaminate myself.

Same with installing solar...electric wiring has uber toxic C-8,( thanks dupont/3M) and other chemicals. The anticorrosion compounds are neurotoxic and cause disfunctions, the em fields are polution too. Sealants for penetrations are problematic, lock-tite...yuck-tite, fiber glass...the nex asbestos catastrophy, not kidding.

My wife told me that i was getting contaminated with hazardous materials because even though i am a renewable energy installer, " you are still playing with the same toys" I will never forget that day, I still love what I do, what could be greener industry wise, right? Wrong, be care-full!

We have removed all chemical sealants, adhesives, paints, lubricants, etc., and replaced household and tool lubricants to organic veggie oil, and a "biodegradable" light oil.

Our electric and gas chainsaws bar lube gets soybean oil for warm weather and canola oil for cold. Works greatband smells great, compostable sawdust and fireplace ash!! Chainsaws and food dishes around here perform well on Spectrum and Eden Organics! Plus we dont touch toxic oils when feeding the stove and cooking.

There will be an Ego or GreenWorks saw here in the fall if we can swing it.

Do not use industrial paper to start fires...dioxin ashes! Our recycling stream is heavily contaminated with hazmat, mainly metals, bpa's and dioxin from bleach...something to think about while/if you use toilet paper and paper towels. The sight of bacon on paper towel while visiting other homes makes me cringe. Come and get breakfast kids...we are in trouble. Germany and Russia not import our used or new paper and chicken, dioxin.

Brake fluid is NASTY, and mechanical brakes are not suitable for most peoples use. There are few alternatives and not near the performance, stopping that mass is important. I look for motorcycles with mechanical brakes for electric conversion, which brings to my mind the fact that it is not enough to find better fluids, as another commenter said, 'it has to survive harsh conditions' the machine that requires the toxics is a more direct target.

Modern engine driven vehicles are a rube goldberg nightmare as far as machines go. All of the machines and energy involved in getting fuel to the station is bad enough, then you put fuel in a complex machine network..the gas tank, then another complex machine then sone few more and it might arrive at the injectors, then....it turns fresh air into hot unusable stuff eats tires and requires toxic fluids... they ALL leak, seep or evaporate these.

Electric cars are a huge improvement in this scenario, even with transmissions and brakes present. The anti-freeze is not subject to extremes so real food grade propylene glycol or mineral oil could be used (glycol from corn and beets for solar too, Likely a gmo product though.)

With the money and resources we have invested as a species in the last 100 years we should have nasa grade vehicles that will not leak their non-toxic for a hundred years and are passed on through generation with modular upgrades or be smart and disiplined enough to abandon the tech altogether.

http://www.trexa.com/






 
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