Vehicle Maintenance and Repair

How Does Vehicle Maintenance Affect Stormwater?

  • Motor oil and other hazardous chemicals leak from our vehicles and are washed into storm drains and eventually into our rivers, the source of our drinking water.
  • Just one quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water.
  • Dirty water from outdoor car-washing drains into our waterways, carrying pollutants such as grease, oils, phosphates and heavy metals, all of which are unhealthy for people and fish.


Vehicle Maintenance

  • Maintain motorized equipment and vehicles regularly. Check for and fix any leaks.
  • Use drip pans to collect leaks and spills during maintenance activities.
  • Utilize environmentally-friendly automotive fluids in your vehicle fleet that will prevent pollution when they are disposed, such as low-toxic solvents and non-toxic antifreeze.
  • When changing oil on-site, loosen the old oil filter, spin it off and drain as much oil as possible into the drip pan.
  • Pour used oil into a clean, empty plastic container with a tight lid and do not mix it with any other substances. Take used oil to a proper disposal location. Many auto supply stores, car care centers, and gas stations will accept used oil. Use the resources below to find a disposal site.
  • DO NOT pour motor oil or any other automotive fluids into a stormwater drain, onto the street, into your yard, into the drain or into the garbage.
  • Use ground cloths or drip pans under your vehicle if you have leaks or if you are doing engine work. Clean up spills immediately and properly dispose of clean-up materials.
  • Use drain mats to cover storm drains in case of a spill.
  • Store cracked batteries in leak-proof containers to prevent contamination.
  • Consider developing a Green Fleet to reduce fuel consumption and prevent pollution.
  • Automotive repair facilities should follow the Automotive Repair stormwater tips to ensure that they are following watershed-friendly operational policies.

Vehicle Washing

  • Wash vehicles at a commercial car wash to avoid stormwater runoff pollution.
  • If vehicles are washed on-site, designate an area for vehicle washing that has been bermed up to contain polluted wash water and dispose of it into the sewer.
  • If vehicles are not washed in a contained space, wash vehicles on gravel, grass or another permeable surface, so the ground can filter the water naturally.
  • Utilize water control devices in your vehicle washing system, such as: recycling systems; pretreatment or sewer discharge systems; limited recycling systems; wash pits (portable vinyl wash pads); vacuum sludge filtering systems; wet-dry vacuums; sump pumps; drain covers; portable dams; vacu-brooms; oil absorbent pads; booms, pillows and tubes; plastic sheeting; filter tubs; buckets; pans; and squeegees.
  • Use soap sparingly. Use non-phosphate detergents. Phosphates are nutrients that can cause problems for nearby waterways.
  • Use minimum amounts of water to avoid producing excessive runoff and detergent residues. Use a hose that is high pressure, low volume. Use a hose with a nozzle that automatically turns off when left unattended or one that has a pistol grip or trigger nozzle to save water. Wash one section of the vehicle at a time and rinse it quickly.
  • When done, empty bucket of soapy water into a sink or toilet, not the street.
  • When holding a charity car wash event, block off the storm drain or use an insert with a vacuum pump to catch wash water and empty it into the sink, not the street.

Engine Cleaning

  • When cleaning engines using chemical additives like soaps, solvents or degreasers, cleaning must be performed at a facility that has the equipment to properly process the contaminated wastewater runoff, or using a leak-proof ground cover device that will catch and contain all contaminated wastewater runoff for later disposal.
  • Wastewater from cleaning equipment must be discharged into a sink, toilet or other drain connected to the sanitary sewer.


For More Information:
Green Fleet Policy
Philadelphia Streets Guide to Proper Motor Oil Disposal

Locations for Disposal of Motor Oil and Other Hazardous Chemicals:
Call Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: 1-800-346-4242 for the nearest collection site.
Call Philadelphia Streets Department for the next Hazardous Waste Drop-off Event: 212-686-5560

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