Your Car’s Tailpipe Isn’t the Only Source of Auto Pollution
The phrase “auto pollution” often brings to mind an old car with smoke billowing out the tailpipe. In reality, old cars are only part of the problem. There are many ways all cars contribute pollution to our watershed – and they can be prevented! Washing, changing oil, leaking fluids and engine cleaning all contribute to the pollution problem. Auto fluids and particles from brake pad and tire wear build up on our driveways, streets and parking lots every day. During rainstorms, rainwater carries the oil, antifreeze, brake pad dust and other pollutants into the storm drain system and flows directly to local creeks and San Francisco Bay, where it can harm plants and animals that live there. Oil and grease can clog fish gills and block oxygen from entering the water. Pollutants from cars are toxic to the internal systems of fish and animals, and can also break down the oil on bird feathers making it more difficult for them to float and repel water.
How You Can Help Reduce Auto Pollution
Keep car wash water out of storm drains – Washing your car in the driveway, street or carport can carry detergents, oil, brake dust, metals and other chemicals to the storm drain that leads directly to local creeks and the Bay. Wash your car in an unpaved area or better yet, take it to a commercial car wash. Clean brake dust off wheels with paper towels and dispose of the towels in the trash.
Click here to download the Watershed Watch Discount Card to get discounts at local car washes.
Fix fluid leaks immediately – If you see a build up of fluids on your parking spot, place a plastic tarp or drip pan underneath your car until you repair the leak. Dispose of the fluid and plastic tarp/drip pan at your local Household Hazardous Waste collection center.
Change your oil on time – The longer engine oil is used, the thinner it gets. Leaks are more likely and exhaust emissions are increased.
Do it yourselfers, do it right – If you change your own oil or other automotive fluids, drain fluid into a drain pan. Use a funnel to pour fluid into a plastic container and recycle the used fluids with your local curbside recycling pickup, or through the Household Hazardous Waste collection center. Never drain or pour any auto fluid onto the street or into a storm drain.
Clean engines properly – Engine cleaners contain degreasers that contain highly toxic solvents that are dangerous to work with and harmful to our watershed. Read labels carefully before you buy. Avoid products containing naphtha, nonylphenol ethozylate, trichloroethane or trichloroethylene. Try limonene, a citrus-based solvent. Use rags instead of water to clean your engine. Don’t allow wash water to go onto pavement, or into the storm drain or street.
Carpool or use alternative forms of transportation when possible.