Most manufacturers recommend replacing the transmission fluid (ATF) after every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
But how do you dispose of the transmission fluid after replacing it?
If you don’t want to pour it down the drain, you can do a few things with it.
We explore the options you have when disposing of transmission fluid and how to go about it safely.
How to Dispose of Transmission Fluid Safely
While it’s essential to replace your transmission fluid frequently, it’s equally important to know how to dispose of the remaining portion safely.
The following options should work for you.
Recycle the Fluid
The first thing you’ll need to do is find an automotive recycling center near your location that offers this service.
These centers will mostly accept used oil, but you must inquire about other fluids before going.
Most importantly, make sure they offer environmentally friendly disposal methods to avoid harming the environment.
Burn Off the Oil-Based Fluids
If you have a large amount of oil-based transmission fluid to dispose of, your best bet would be to burn it off. This process is very safe and straightforward as well if done correctly.
You’ll need an oil drum or other metal container with a locking top that can hold the used fluid safely without leakage. Make sure there are no flames nearby that could spark a fire.
Once the container is secure, use an electric or propane burner to heat the oil until it’s completely dry and brown.
It will take about two hours for all of your fluid to burn off, so ensure you have sufficient time before starting this process.
When finished, leave the lid open so fumes can escape and the container will cool down.
For smaller amounts, pouring out hot transmission fluid into a disposable aluminum pan may be more convenient and safe enough if done correctly.
Remember not to pour this combustible liquid into a plastic container or onto the ground if you choose this option!
Keep the Excess Fluid for Reuse
Some car fluids are perfectly reusable, and there’s no need to throw the excess away when you can store it up for future use.
Ensure you put it in a sealed container and mark it to avoid accidentally disposing of it with other hazardous waste items.
The best way to store your fluid is in a leak-proof container with a screw-top cap.
You can use bottles or jars that you would otherwise recycle, so there’s no need to purchase anything new if it isn’t needed.
Understanding Transmission Fluid: How Does it Work?
Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your car. It keeps the gears lubricated so that you can shift gears properly.
The fluid is found in a sealed system. It is typically colored green or red to distinguish it from other fluids like engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and antifreeze.
The fluid fulfills special transmission requirements like brake band friction, torque conversion, gear lubrication, and valve operation.
How to Work with Transmission Fluid Safely
First, make sure that your car is off before you start working on anything related to the transmission fluid. You don’t want to trigger fires as the transmission fluid is combustible.
If you’re working under the hood of your car, ensure that it’s in park gear. You should also set the emergency brake to ensure the vehicle doesn’t move while you’re still underneath.
Next, get some gloves to protect your hands while you work.
Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from any bits or pieces of metal getting into them when you’re working under the hood.
Now it’s time to pick the right tool you’ll be using for this job. A funnel is a good choice because it will help keep any mess or spillage from getting out of hand.
Adding the Transmission Fluid into Your Car System
First, park your car on level ground and start the engine to get accurate transmission readings.
Once done, raise the hood and locate the automatic transmission fluid pipe. Use a dipstick to check the condition of the ATF before you proceed to add new fluid.
When you’re ready, start pouring the transmission fluid into your car using the funnel you’d set aside.
Make sure you’re doing it slowly and carefully to give yourself maximum results with minimal spills or messes.
Once everything is in, you can put all of your tools back where they belong before hopping inside your vehicle for a test drive.
Your car will most likely be quite loud, but that’s okay because this is a normal part of the process, and it means that you’ve done everything correctly.
The next step would be to check your transmission fluid levels.
You can do this by looking at the dipstick inside the car’s hood or by checking with a dealer for more accurate results.
Why You Should Dispose of Transmission Fluid Correctly
While transmission fluid is not hazardous by itself, it can leak and harm the environment if disposed of incorrectly.
Here are some of the key reasons why you should dispose of transmission fluid correctly.
It can be Hazardous when Mixed with Solvents
Transmission fluid will quickly turn hazardous when it mixes with a solvent or when you dump it in a landfill.
The chemical composition of transmission fluid will break down when mixed with solvents, making it a threat to the environment.
To avoid all these from happening, you’d want to dispose of transmission fluid the right way.
Harmful to Animals and Plants
If transmission fluid enters a water source, it can be harmful to both animals and plants.
It is common knowledge that if you pour antifreeze down your drain or dump oil in a body of water, fish will die in masses, causing an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Transmission fluids can equally cause the death of fish in water bodies and land animals that drink water contaminated with the fluid.
Some animals can even die due to stepping in the diluted transmission fluid.
In some instances, it becomes difficult for the animal to digest food tainted with this liquid, impairing their digestive system and health over time.
It’s a Requirement by the County Authorities
Even if you feel the fluid harms no people, animals, or plants, disposing of the fluid inappropriately can attract a fine or jail term.
The county authorities in your area might have imposed a law against disposing of transmission fluid in an unregulated manner.
In some places, it isn’t illegal to dump transmission fluid in a secluded area as long as that area is not accessible by anyone else or animals.
For example, if you drive into a remote forest and douse your old transmission oil there for nature to consume, make sure nobody can access this place easily.
Therefore, it is vital to check with your local authorities to find out the acceptable disposal process in your state.
It’s Cheaper to Dispose of Correctly
All the expenses that come with righting the wrongs caused by the inappropriate disposal of transmission fluid can be overwhelming.
For example, you may have to pay fines for polluting the environment or, even worse, spend time in jail.
The cost of getting rid of transmission fluid is not much, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
It might seem like a good idea to take your old tranny fluid and dump it somewhere deep inside the woods, but that is not always cheap in the long run.
How to Dispose of Transmission Fluid: FAQs
Some of the main questions people ask about the disposal of transmission fluid include:
How Do You Transport Transmission Fluid for Disposal?
You can transport your old transmission fluid by pouring it into a tightly sealed container and packing the container(s) into a cool, dry place in your car.
Is It Okay to Dump Transmission Fluid on the Ground?
It is not a good idea to pour transmission fluid onto the ground or into a sewer system.
Doing this can cause reactions with solvents to form hazardous reactions in the environment.
Can You Flush Used Transmission Fluid Down the Toilet?
It’s never safe to put fluids of any kind down your drain because they can cause problems with home plumbing and damage municipal wastewater treatment systems.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Old Transmission Fluid?
The costs vary greatly.
You should expect to pay anything between $80 and $250 depending on the type of your car and if there are any mechanical issues caused by the ATF overstaying in the car’s system.
How Do I Know When My Car Needs Its Transmission Fluid Changed?
You can look out for puddles under your car, a warning light, a revving engine anytime the vehicle is negotiating a corner, and a roaring sound as you negotiate a corner or accelerate.
Also, your car might need transmission fluid change if you note a slight smell or a chattering noise when driving.
Either way, you should visit a garage to ascertain the cause of the problem since it can be caused by many issues such as suspension or engine problems.
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