Don’t Do’s When Doing-It-Yourself

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These are basic, common-sense things – but sometimes, some of us don’t do the proper, safe – or right – thing.

Don’t let it be you… .

Getting rid of worn-out tires

The best home for an old tire is not as far as you can throw the thing into the woods behind your neighbor’s house.

Old tires, like old oil, should be recycled. Left stacked in huge piles, they can become a fire hazard as well as a threat to public health – your health – as they break down. Old tires letf outside in the rain and wet also provide an ideal home for malaria-bearing mosquitos.

Most tire shops will accept used tire carcasses for free (or for a small “hazardous materials disposal” fee; typically less than $10 for a set of four tires).

Oil & filter changes

Don’t be a dick and pour used motor oil down the storm sewer; it’s in the same moral class as clubbing baby seals to death.

Pour the used oil in a secure plastic container with a tight lid. Gallon-sized plastic milk jugs work well (once the oil’s cold!) and are easy to carry. Use a funnel to help limit spills.

Don’t mix other chemicals/liquids (such as solvents or anti-freeze, etc.) with the used oil. It creates problems for recyclers and could cause more serious problems, depending on who ends up with the used oil (see next item).

Take the used oil to a service station that accepts used motor oil for recycling. Or give it to someone who uses an oil-fired stove for heating. Many commercial shops use oil-fueled burners and will be happy to take your old oil. It’s free fuel to them. (In this case, be sure you’re just giving them just old oil – not oil mixed with some old gas.)

Used-up batteries

Don’t use them for target practice.

Car batteries contain lead and sulfuric acid – two very caustic and potential dangerous substances that need to be properly handled.

Also, don’t forget the electricity. As a precaution, remove your wedding ring or any similar metal jewelry on your hands before you start trying to undo cables and pull the (heavy/unwieldy) battery out of the often very-tight little corner it’s tucked into. If you don’t and the ring – made of conductive metal – touches the wrong part of the battery and the wrong part of the car at the same moment as you’re trying to pull it out (or install it) you could end up having a very unhappy day.

Likewise, do not smoke near a battery – ever. Especially an old/nasty/leaky one. Hydrogen gas may be present and if you remember the Hindenburg, you’ll know why smoking around hydrogen gas is a bad idea.

Once you have the old battery out, take it with you to the auto parts store where you’re going to buy the new one. Usually, you’ll get a small refund – called a “core charge” – in return for the dead unit, which will be turned in for recycling.

Watch out for brake fluid

It’s a great paint stripper. If any drips onto painted portions of your car, stop whatever you’re doing and immediately clean it up. Seconds count. Keep clean rags and a can of aerosol automotive cleaner/detailer (Honda makes a great product) handy. Better yet, put heavy rags underneath things like the master cylinder and over fenders and so on to avoid brake fluid getting on anything important to begin with.

Engine coolant

If you’re doing a flush n’ fill or changing out a water pump – and have pets – keep in mind that ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is apparently tasty to them. And very poisonous. Your dog or cat might die if it laps up some of the coolant that spilled on the ground while you’re working and not paying attention to them.

Best bet is to keep as much of the coolant from spilling onto the ground as you can by using a large diameter catch basin underneath whatever you’re working on. And keep the pets inside or someplace else while you’re working – and until you’re done. That means until you’ve mopped up – and hosed down – whatever you did spill.

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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