transmissionfluid.jpg Transmissions are found in all types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats and motor coaches. If you are preparing to change your transmission fluid yourself, make sure you do two things. First, ensure your container is big enough to catch everything that will come out of your car. A transmission can hold up to three gallons of fluid at a time. If your container is not big enough, that can leave you spending more time cleaning up transmission fluid than you spent changing it. You should also look into places where you can recycle your transmission fluid. You will not be able to place it out on your curb, which means you need to take it to a recycling center. But transmission fluid, like most automotive liquids, is highly recyclable. Chances are someone in your community will be willing to take it off your hands.

What is transmission fluid?

Like motor oil, transmission fluid acts as a lubricant to keep the parts moving properly. It also helps cool the transmission and make the gears shift smoothly. It has a slick feel and is typically red or green in color. That colored additive may turn brown or black when the transmission fluid gets too dirty. That signals it is time to change it. How often you change your transmission fluid depends on whether your car has an automatic or manual transmission, the type of car and the type of driving you do. The transmission fluid in a manual transmission may wear out faster. Driving in stop-and-go traffic in the city can cause transmission fluid to deteriorate, as can towing heavy loads.

Why should you recycle transmission fluid?

Transmission fluid can be made from petroleum products, or it can be created from synthetic materials. Either way, it contains several chemicals that can damage the environment. There are anti-foaming agents to keep it from getting too bubbly, anti-rust agents to prevent damage to your transmission and lubricants to help keep the machine functioning smoothly. While these chemicals are great for keeping your transmission working, they are not so great for the environment. Transmission fluid is not biodegradable. If it is made from petroleum products, it is highly flammable. It is never a good idea to dispose of flammable substances by putting them in the trash. That can cause a house fire or seriously injure sanitation workers.

Can transmission fluid actually be recycled?

Yes. The Environmental Protection Agency considers transmission fluid (along with motor oil, brake fluid and power steering fluid) waste oil products. All can be recycled into new fluids, or burned to generate energy (which is not really recycling, but is certainly better than dumping it in a landfill).

How to recycle transmission fluid

The easiest place to recycle transmission fluid may be your local household hazardous waste facility. That is true even though transmission fluid is not necessarily considered hazardous waste. Since transmission fluid is almost always recycled, it is often considered a recyclable product. It becomes hazardous waste only when it is mixed with a dangerous substance like a solvent, or if someone tries to dump it in a landfill. Household hazardous waste centers are specialized facilities accept dangerous materials that cannot be thrown in the trash. Other automotive fluids, pesticides and herbicides, paint thinners and solvents, pool chemicals and fluorescent lights (which contain mercury) are examples of items that need to go to household hazardous waste centers. Your city or county waste management agency is the best place to learn about your local household hazardous waste program. Make sure you check their hours before you go. Some communities, such as Noblesville (IN) and Martinez (CA), have facilities that are open almost every day. In other places, such as Kalamazoo (MI) and Duluth (MN), the household hazardous waste drop-off centers are open much more sporadically. It is a good idea to review exactly what the household hazardous waste center accepts. This can differ from place to place. Also, check to see if the center charges fees or has any special policies. Keep in mind the fees for households and businesses may be very different. Some automotive stores may also accept transmission fluid. Check with places like Firestone Auto Care, AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts. You should not, under any circumstances, dispose of transmission fluid by pouring it in a sink, toilet, storm drain or your backyard. It will contaminate waterway and your property, and can lead to fires. It is also important not to mix transmission fluid with other automotive fluids such as motor oil, brake fluid or antifreeze (unless explicitly told to do so by a recycler). On their own, all these fluids can be handled with relative ease. Together, they can become hazardous waste and will likely need to be destroyed.

How to recycle transmission filters

When you replace your transmission fluid, you likely replace your transmission filter at the same time. Since it has been contaminated with transmission fluid, it cannot go in your trash. Rather, you should treat it the same way you would treat an oil filter. The website E-Car has more details on how to correctly dispose of used transmission filters.

How to transport transmission fluid for recycling

Also, when you go to transport your transmission fluids, handle them with great care. You do not want them to spill all over your car and contaminate it. Place all transmission fluid in a leak-proof container, then seal the lid tightly. All the bottles and jugs should be put in a large receptacle in case one of the containers leaks. Make sure the containers of transmission fluid are upright, and drive carefully so they do not tip over.