Equipment Spotlight
Fluid Recycling/Evacuation

-View the list of manufacturers at the bottom of the page

There's a lot of work involved to prepare and crush an automobile for recycling. Done properly, batteries are removed, glass is recovered and some recyclers remove wheels, tires and other components for separate, more specialized operations.

Among the chores is a particularly important step - recovery and recycling of various fluids in tanks, systems and reservoirs throughout the vehicle. Whether it's engine coolant, motor oils or refrigerant in the air-conditioning system, everything has to go, and it has to be done in accordance with Federal, state and local laws.

To do things right, auto dismantlers need an impervious surface, such as a concrete pad to drain and recover fluids. In volume operations, a lift, specialized rack or pit is essential for safe, fast access to the vehicle.

Engine Coolant

Most engine coolant - or "anti-freeze" as we know it, contains ethylene glycol (EG), a toxic chemical mixed with water to facilitate the heat exchange process. Newer coolants may also be based on propylene glycol (PG), which is less toxic, but more expensive than EG. Regardless of glycol-type, equipment for recovery of engine coolant can vary widely. Typically, the choices range from a simple, "funnel and barrel" approach, to high-tech, microprocessor controlled stations. Abe Garcia, Marketing Director for Fluid Evacuators, Inc., of Phoenix, Arizona said, "The best methods for recovery of coolants involve purpose-built equipment, and it doesn't have to be complicated. The EPA takes a close look at auto recycling. Benefits from using the right tools include reduced health risks for service techs, fewer risks to the environment and better compliance all the way around."

Coolant recovery is often accomplished by piercing the radiator with a probe and drawing the coolant out into a holding tank under vacuum. Other methods include cutting a hose or opening the drain, access permitting. Once the tank is full, recovered coolant is then transferred to a larger vessel and collected by processors for recycling.

Recovered engine coolants are either distilled, or filtered to separate the water from the glycol. Contaminants such as rust, inhibitors and other chemicals are removed, leaving the base glycol compound. Louis Nichilo, Inside Sales Manager for Finish Thompson, Inc. of Erie, Pennsylvania, makers of coolant recycling equipment said, "Additives are available to mix with the recovered glycol, then distilled water is blended in at the appropriate ratio. The result is a fully recycled engine coolant that performs very well."

Oils, Fluids and Gasoline

Motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, gas…the list goes on. All of these liquids must be removed from a vehicle prior to crushing. Due in part to EPA regulations, this process is becoming easier than ever before.

Iron Ax, Inc., of Wadley, Georgia, saw an opportunity and developed a single piece of equipment capable of collecting nearly all types of automotive fluids. The "Enviro-Rack" allows high volume auto recyclers to collect fluids quickly, safely and with maximum containment. It is the auto recycling industry's first dedicated rack for the purpose of recovering fluids. According to John Kitchens, Vice President, Iron Ax, "EPA fines in some states can run as much as $30,000 or more for a single violation. We developed the rack to reduce that risk. It gives customers an option that speeds up the process and keeps everything off the ground," he said.

Aside from emptying the on-board bulk containers, there is no other maintenance associated with the rack.

The most widespread method for general fluid recovery involves separate pieces of equipment for each type, such as those from Fluid Evacuators. Abe Garcia points out, "One of the most important considerations is to avoid cross-contamination of the contents. Most auto recyclers don't perform recycling of fluids on site and most processors won't accept co-mingled materials. Keeping things clean assures the auto recycler of getting paid for the fluids he recovers," he said.

When the recovery tanks on fluid collectors are full, recovered fluids are transferred to larger, bulk containers typically provided by fluid recyclers or processors. The transfer is accomplished by pressurizing the tank with shop air to about 15 psi, moving the fluid to the larger, bulk container.

Recovery of gasoline requires additional safeguards, due to its volatility. Specialized equipment from producers such as W.E.N. Industries allows auto recyclers to recover gasoline and filter it before re-dispensing for use.


Nearly every vehicle on the road today is air-conditioned. Draining the refrigerant in automotive air-conditioning systems requires both specialized training and equipment. Marc Rosone, Marketing Manager - Fluid Products for Owatonna, Minnesota-based Robinair, said, "Anyone that services an automotive air-conditioning system today must pass a test administered by the EPA. Without EPA certification, you're not in the business," he said. The training, known as "609 Certification," prepares service technicians for handling refrigerants classified as hazardous to the environment.

Refrigerant can be either a gas or a liquid, depending on pressures and temperatures inside the air-conditioning system. Service techs must tap the system through "access fittings" built in to the air-conditioning lines of the vehicle. Once attached, refrigerant is drawn from the vehicle through hoses into a "recovery station." Most refrigerant recovery stations are portable, microprocessor-controlled units that require minimal input from the operator.

Refrigerants, like coolant, can be recycled as well. Most recycling stations remove impurities by pumping the recovered refrigerant through a series of filters. The recycled refrigerant can then be pumped into approved containers and reused accordingly.

Marc Rosone, of Robinair notes, "The EPA maintains strict standards for refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment, as well for recycled refrigerants. Any equipment used for refrigerant recovery and recycling must be UL or ETL certified," he said.

Fluid Recycling/Evacuation Manufacturers
Company Name
Contact Person
Phone Number
BG Products, Inc. Scott Mossman 316-265-2686
Clore Automotive   800-328-2921
Finish Thompson, Inc. Lou Nichilo 800-934-9384
Fluid Evacuators, Inc. Abe Garcia 800-525-5823
FPPF Chemical Co. Tony Tucci 800-735-3773
Hi-Tech Industries, Inc. John Randall 800-553-0509
Iron Ax, Inc. John Kitchens 877-247-6629
Lincoln/Pentair Keith Rohan 314-679-4200
National-Spencer, Inc. Tom Simon 800-231-1525
R&D/Fountain Industries Stan Axsmith 800-328-3594
Robinair Division/SPX Marc Roson 800-628-6496
Seda Environmental LLC Doug Handy 727-545-8879
Smith Automation H.C. Smith 805-582-9271
Snap-On Diagnostics   877-762-7661
Todd Enterprises Tom Irons 401-467-2750
Toxguard Fluid Tech Bill Kughn 714-698-3400
W.E.N. Industries, Inc. Warren Neil 800-326-0469