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Automotive Fluid Safety Cheat Sheet



We’ve met very few car enthusiasts clued into the specifics of the fluids they use regularly. By referencing a selection of products’ Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), we’ve composed this quick overview to at least raise awareness. This information is meant to be a quick “first shot” for personal use and is generalized data. Some products may have specific ingredients with their own unique hazards, so don’t take the following as the last word. You can perform simple internet searches to find an MSDS for a specific products.

Disposal of all of these products is handled locally in different ways. Unless specified below, none of them are safe for emptying into the environment, including sewer systems via your shop toilet! Every city or county should have a waste management division or extension office that can direct you to the proper people to talk to.

Gasoline

Major Ingredients by Volume: Hexane and other isomers, toluene, xylene, octane

Severe Hazards: Obvious extreme flammability, especially fumes. Contains benzene and toluene which are a cancer (and potentially reproductive) hazard. Severe eye irritatant: Wash eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention if irritation continues. Prolonged contact with skin may cause moderate irritation - wash with soap and water thoroughly. Ingestion: Do NOT induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical attention.

General Usage Notes: Use in well ventilated areas only.
Storage Notes: Store in tightly closed containers in cool, dry, isolated and well ventilated area away from heat, sources of ignition and incompatible materials. After handling this product, wash hands before eating, drinking, smoking or using toilet facilities.

Coolant and Antifreeze

Major Ingredients by Volume: Ethylene Glycol

Severe Hazards: Ingestion or eye contact (much less severe than ingestion). Seek immediate medical attention if ingested.

General Usage Notes: For splashes or other contact with the skin, wash skin with soap and water thoroughly as soon as possible.

Storage Notes: Store in closed container. Sweet taste and smell of product can draw animals which will likely die from ingestion.

Brake Fluid

Major Ingredients by Volume: Glycol Ethers, various -ethylene glycols

Severe Hazards: Ingestion: Seek immediate medical attention if ingested. Lethal dose is only 4 ounces. Do NOT induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs spontaneously, keep head below hips to prevent aspiration of liquid into lungs. Eye contact: If eye contact is made, wash eyes for a full 30 minutes with water then seek further medical attention. Severe eye irritant.

General Usage Notes: For splashes or other contact with the skin, wash skin with soap and water thoroughly as soon as possible.

Storage Notes: Store in closed container.

Disposal: Kept uncontaminated, treat as oil for disposal. If contaminated with brake cleaner, etc, it is a hazardous material and should be disposed of differently. Check local laws.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Major Ingredients by Volume: Methanol (up to 35%)

Severe Hazards: Slight eye irritant: Wash thoroughly with water for 15 minutes. If ingested could cause blindness or fatality: Induce vomiting, then give two teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of water; call a physician. For skin contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water.

General Usage Notes: Methanol is corrosive to metals.

Storage Notes: Store in closed container.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

Major Ingredients by Volume: Highly refined mineral oil, but varies

Severe Hazards: Generally no severe eye or skin irritation expected if exposed. If ingested in significant amounts, seek medical help as a precaution. You’re probably smart to flush your eyes or skin quite a bit if contact is made as some ATFs have additives in small amounts that are irritants.

General Usage Notes: None

Storage Notes: Store in closed container.

Power Steering Fluid

Varies between similarities of Brake Fluid and Automatic Transmission Fluid.

Synthetic and “Dino” Motor/Gear Oil

Major Ingredients by Volume: Base oil, highly refined

Severe Hazards: Nothing too severe here. Eye irritation: Flush with water for 15 minutes and seek medical help if irritation persists. Ingestion: large amounts = seek medical help, small amounts = may cause gastrointestinal irritation and/or diarrhea. In either case, do NOT induce vomiting unless instructed by a medical professional. Skin contact: Wash area thoroughly with soap and water. Remove and wash any affected clothing before reuse.

General Usage Notes: Used engine oil may contain hazardous components which have the potential to cause skin cancer. Frequent or prolonged contact with all types and makes of used engine oil must therefore be avoided and a high standard of personal hygiene maintained.
Storage Notes: Keep container tightly closed. Keep container in a cool, well-ventilated area.
 
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