Brakes are one of the most important systems in your car. To keep your brakes functioning correctly, it is essential to keep the brake fluid full. If your brakes do not have sufficient fluid, or if that fluid is in poor condition, your brakes will not help you stop.
Since most people have their brakes serviced by a dealership or private company, recycling brake fluid is probably not at the top of your mind. But what if you need to top up the fluid yourself and end up with extra in the bottle? It is important to recycle brake fluid. It is flammable, which means it cannot go in your trash, and it typically contains hazardous materials if it comes straight out of your car. Luckily, there are good ways to put this potentially harmful substance back to good use.
What is brake fluid?
Brake fluid is a liquid that is essential in making a vehicle’s brakes operate correctly. It serves as a medium to help transfer the pressure from a driver’s foot through the car and to the brake pedal.
There are several different types of brake fluid. Depending on which type you purchase, the main component can be glycol ether, borate ester or a silicone-based material. For more details about how brake fluid works and what it is made of, check out the website for Stop Tech
, a company that provides high performance braking systems.
Brake fluid will wear out over time, or it may leak out of the car. Either way, it is very important to replace brake fluid when it stops functioning at peak performance or gets low. It is also important to note that brake fluid evaporates quickly because it is alcohol based. If you plan to purchase it and put it in your car yourself, use it as soon as you open the bottle.
Why is it important to recycle brake fluid?
If you end up with leftover brake fluid, or if you drain the old liquid from your car, resist the temptation to dump it down the toilet or into the nearest storm drain. Brake fluid on its own is not considered a toxic substance. However, brake fluid can easily get contaminated with dangerous solvents that can poison people and animals. As it sits in your car or truck, it often absorbs heavy metals such as copper and zinc. Even if your brake fluid is not contaminated, it is very important to deal with it responsibly. Since it contains alcohol, it can catch on fire and injure you, your property and/or sanitation workers.
The way you deal with unwanted brake fluid depends on whether it is contaminated. Uncontaminated brake fluid is not considered hazardous and can be recycled. Brake fluid contaminated with a hazardous substance is considered hazardous material and must be disposed of at a household hazardous waste facility.
How to recycle brake fluid
Hazardous waste and flammable materials can be taken to your local household hazardous waste center. Almost every county should have such a facility, so check with your local waste management district to determine where yours is and what its policies are. In El Paso, Texas, the household hazardous waste facility is co-located with other recycling services and is open every day. The service is free, but donations to the local food bank are encouraged. In Columbia, Missouri, the household hazardous waste facility is only open two Saturdays a month.
Certain communities arrange for special hazardous waste collection days instead of or in addition to regular facilities. The town of Belton, Missouri, holds free collection events throughout the year. The number of vehicles that can drive through each event is limited to 240, so it makes sense to arrive as early as possible. Jacksonville, Florida, holds seven special collection events throughout the year in addition to directing people to their permanent household hazardous waste facility.
Your old brake fluid will likely end up being combined with other automotive fluids, such as motor oil, and used as fuel.
Here is one more thing to think about: Reducing waste is always better than recycling it. Buy only as much brake fluid as you need, and purchase it only when you are certain you will use it.
Tip: You can search for the nearest brake fluid recycling facility on our RecycleNation search engine.
How to transport brake fluid
When you transport brake fluid to your local household hazardous waste facility, it is important to handle it properly. You do not want to risk the bottles falling over and contaminating your car.
Place all bottles of brake fluid upright and in a leak-proof container. Place a lid on the container if at all possible. If brake fluid does spill, clean it up with kitty litter. Place the soiled kitty litter in a pan and leave it for a couple days to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Once it is completely dry, the kitty litter can be taken to a household hazardous waste facility or placed in the trash.