How To Safely Dispose Of The Brake Fluid?

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dispose a brake fluid

Hazardous waste should never be disposed of along with regular home garbage as doing so is a crime against the environment and is also against the law. It must be remembered that used or old brake oil is a hazardous waste.

This article may help you since it discusses different issues related to the topic of brake fluid:

What is brake fluid?

If your motorcycle has a disc brake/s, then it needs brake fluid. You may have a disc brake only on the front wheel or both the front and rear wheels of the motorcycle. The brake fluid does the job of transferring your hand or leg pressure on the brake lever/pedal to the brake pads on the disc brake.

You can find a small brake fluid reservoir on the right side of your handlebar (near the front brake lever) for the front disc brake and another small brake fluid reservoir near the foot brake pedal, for the rear disc brake. The reservoirs are filled with brake fluid to the marked level.

When you press the front brake lever or rear brake pedal, it actuates a small piston that pushes the brake fluid through the brake line. The brake fluid flows through the line and pushes the bigger size piston/s near the disc brake, which then pushes the brake pad onto the disc to brake and stop the motorcycle.

The size of the piston near the disc brake is larger than the size of the piston near the brake lever/pedal, and due to this difference in size, the pressure applied by your hand or foot is amplified when it reaches the disc.

The brake fluid used in modern motorcycles with disc brakes (can be with ABS) can either be DOT 3 or DOT 4 and some motorcycles may even use DOT 5.1. Here, DOT stands for Department of Transportation.

The DOT 3 primarily contains glycol ether and DOT 4 and DOT 5.1 primarily contain glycol ether/borate ether. DOT 3, 4, and 5.1 brake fluid can absorb moisture from the atmosphere and hence are hygroscopic.

For efficient and consistent brake operation, the brake fluid should maintain constant viscosity over the temperature range and also with low moisture content.

Brake fluid is toxic if consumed, hence take care to keep it away from the hands of children and pets.

Why is there the need for safe dispose of the brake fluid?

Brake fluid is toxic when consumed, and it is inflammable. These characteristics make brake fluid a hazardous waste and hence you cannot just dispose of it by throwing it on the field or flushing it down the drain. There are strong reasons for not doing so:

The brake fluid can get mixed with groundwater sources and harm people, animals, and birds who consume such polluted water.

You are committing a crime against the environment by incorrectly disposing of hazardous waste such as used or old brake fluid.

The third and important thing is that the federal and local government laws have made it mandatory to ensure the safe disposal of hazardous wastes. Anybody breaking this law can be prosecuted. For more details, you may visit EPA stands for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

What are the different ways of brake fluid disposal?

There are three ways for the disposal of used or old brake fluid.

  • Recycling of brake fluid.
  • Waste disposal center or waste management facility
  • Disposal of brake fluid at home

1. Recycling of brake fluid

Most of the automotive oils and fluids, including brake fluid, can be recycled. You can follow the steps below:

  • After bleeding the disc brake of your motorcycle, you might have collected the used brake fluid in a bottle or jar. However, you cannot carry it to the recycling center.
  • If that is the case, transfer the used brake oil from the bottle into a standard container and use a filter to remove any foreign or metal particles. Seal the lid securely.
  • Find a recycling center or a recycling collection center near you and verify if they collect used brake fluid. You can confirm regarding the container also.
  • Few Auto Zone (auto parts shops) where they sell brake fluid will also have a collection center for recycling. You can also enquire with your mechanic.
  • Many environment activist groups arrange collection camps for the collection of used automotive oils. You can make use of such activities in your area.
  • Once you decide on a facility, check the timings for dropping the used brake fluid.
  • Transport the used brake fluid to the collection center. Normally they will not charge you. Drop the used brake oil into the recycle tank, take the can, and now you are free to go.

2. Waste disposal center or waste management facility center.

  • Unlike recycling centers, waste disposal centers do not reclaim the usable fluid from the used brake fluid. Instead, they simply dispose of the brake fluid by following the systematic procedure to make it non-hazardous to the environment.
  • Your town may have a waste disposal center, verify with them and confirm if they take used brake fluid for disposal. Enquire the timings with the office.
  • Carry the used brake fluid in a securely closed container and deliver it to the waste disposal center. This service can be free or chargeable.
  • If the brake fluid available for disposal is in very small quantity, you may try disposal at home. This method is suggested by many on the internet. However, before following this method, discuss it with your mechanic and make sure it is legal to do so in your area.
  • You will need kitty litter, a pan, and a garbage bag that can be sealed.
  • Place the fresh and clean kitty litter in a pan and pour the used brake fluid onto it. You can use a flat bottom metal pan and a sufficient quantity of fresh kitty litter.
  • Leave the pan without any cover for 3 to 4 days.
  • Consuming used brake fluid is toxic. Therefore, make it is safely away from children, pets, and other animals or birds. Also, it should be kept away from any source of heat or flame since it is inflammable.
  • The used brake fluid will be absorbed by the kitty litter and since the brake fluid is alcohol-based, it gets evaporated.
  • Examine the tray by shaking it, and if you do not find any traces of brake fluid, pack the kitty litter in the garbage bag, seal it, and dispose of it along with the other garbage.

3. Another alternative

If you are a busy person and do not have free time to find a recycling or disposal center and to deliver the used brake fluid, you can try another method. Discuss your problem with the service center where you normally get your motorcycle serviced. Since the servicing center does the job of replacing the brake fluid during their course of work, they will be having plenty of old brake fluid for disposal and they also know how to dispose of it legally. If they agree, you can hand over your used brake oil to them and pay the charges.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1What happens if I flush the used brake fluid down the toilet?
 Remember, the brake fluid is alcohol-based and inflammable. Hence, it can lead to fire hazards.
2What happens if I pour the used brake fluid on the ground or into the drain?
 Used brake oil is a hazardous waste and also has contaminants. If it finds its way into the groundwater, the groundwater becomes harmful for people and animals who consume it.
It may affect the fertility of the ground when it absorbs the used brake oil.
Finally, you may face legal proceedings against you for breaking the law of the land.
3Is brake fluid toxic?
 Brake fluid can be toxic if consumed by humans or animals. Hence, keep it away from the reach of children and pets.
4What precaution I can take to reduce the accumulation of brake fluid?
 Well, you cannot reduce the quantity of used brake oil since when you want to replace the brake fluid, old brake fluid has to be bled and disposed of.
However, when you are purchasing new brake fluid, you can purchase only the required quantity so that there is no unused brake oil left. This is essential because unused brake oil stored for more time absorbs moisture from the air and becomes bad. This adds to your disposal burden.
5If the brake fluid spills out how can I clean it?
 The best option is to pour kitty litter over it. Once the kitty litter absorbs the brake fluid, scrape it out onto a metallic pan and allow it to dry in a safe place (away from children, pets, and heat). Once the brake fluid evaporates out completely place the dried kitty litter in a bag, seal it and dispose of it with the garbage.
6Can I just top up the old brake fluid with the new brake fluid?
 Brake fluid tends to absorb moisture from the air over time and it may also contain contaminants like dust and metal particles. So, it is not advisable to mix old brake oil with the new one. The working of brakes is a question of your safety and cannot be compromised.
7How can I know when it is time to change the brake oil in my motorcycle?
 The best thing is to follow the timetable given in your owner’s manual. Also, if you observe any unusual difference in braking sound, take the help of your mechanic to check it.
8Will they pay for my used brake oil when I deliver it to a recycling center?
 Normally, no. However, there may be some centers that pay you. You may have to search and find them. However, such centers may have conditions about the quality of used oil being taken by them.
The best thing when you recycle your used brake oil is that you will feel good about it. This can be worth more than the little extra money.
9Can I drop the used brake oil at an Auto Zone?
 Yes, some Auto Zones have this facility. You can contact the Auto Zone near your residence and find out.

Protecting the environment is the responsibility of every human being on this earth. Disposing of hazardous waste like old /used brake oil correctly is important for the protection of the environment.