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ECAR Fact Sheet for North Carolina
Transmission Fluid, Power Steering Fluid and Gear Oil

Self-Audit Checklist
Best Management Practices
Related ECAR Fact Sheets
Other Relevant Resources


The following fact sheet was prepared by the ECAR Center staff. Once prepared, each ECAR Center fact sheet undergoes a review process with the applicable state environmental agency(ies). You can check on the status of the review process here. Please read the disclaimer on the status page. While we have tried to present a summary of the essential information on this topic, you should be aware that other items, such as local regulations, may apply to you.

What You Need to Know

Fluids, like gear oil, power steering fluid and transmission fluid, are not inherently hazardous, but if they contain certain additives, or if they have become contaminated with other solvents, they can fall under the hazardous waste rules.

You can avoid the burden of treating fluids as a hazardous waste:

  • If you do not contaminate them with other fluids, and
  • If you handle and store them properly, and recycle them with your used oil.

Transmission fluid is difficult to remove and spills are a very common occurrence. Up to eight quarts of fluid can be drained from a car's transmission. Extra care must be taken to properly drain transmissions so that spills do not occur.

This fact sheet will tell you what you need to do to avoid problems with fluids.


Gear oil, power steering fluid and transmission fluid are not regulated as a hazardous waste if they are recycled. These crude-based petroleum products can be managed like or with your used oil ONLY IF they have not been mixed with or contaminated by hazardous wastes such as solvents, brake cleaner or carburetor cleaner. Do not dispose of crude-based petroleum products in a storm drain, septic tank, dry well, sewer system or dumpster. Refer to the Used Oil Fact Sheet.

If the fluids have been contaminated by other solvents, you must follow the hazardous waste requirements for storage and disposal. See the ECAR Hazardous Waste Fact Sheet.

For management and disposal/recycle of contaminated fluids, you must:

  1. Have a sample of the used fluid analyzed by a laboratory to find out if it is hazardous. If it is non-hazardous, it can be shipped off-site for disposal by a licensed hauler. If it is hazardous, then special hazardous waste rules apply.
  2. Assume that the fluid is hazardous and manage and dispose/recycle it as such. This approach avoids laboratory testing costs.

Transmission filters should be handled like used oil filters. This means that transmission filters are exempt from the state hazardous waste requirements if they are they are managed by one of the following methods:

  • Puncturing the filter antidrain back-valve contained in most automotive oil filters or the filter dome, and then hot draining; the antidrain back-valve consists of a rubber flap that creates a vacuum to prevent oil from draining back into the engine.
  • Hot draining and crushing.
  • Dismantling and hot draining.
  • Any other equivalent draining method that will remove the used oil such as pressurized air draining.

After proper draining, filters can be recycled or disposed of in a landfill or hazardous waste facility.

Spills. If a spill occurs, you must perform the following cleanup steps:

  1. Stop the release. If a pipe is leaking, shut off the flow to the pipe

  2. Contain the released used oil using the appropriate sorbent materials such as pads or granular sorbents

  3. Clean up and properly manage the released used oil and other materials; and
  4. If necessary, repair or replace any leaking used oil storage containers or tanks prior to returning them to service.
  5. For reportable spills or leaks, call 1-800-662-7956.

Links to the Regulations. Use the following links to view the regulations pertaining to used fluid management.

North Carolina Standards for Used Oil Management

Federal EPA Standards for the Management of Used Oil

Self-Audit Checklist

When an inspector comes to your facility, there are certain things he or she checks to see if you are in compliance with environmental regulations. It makes good sense for you to perform a "self-audit" and catch and correct problems before they result in penalties. Also, there are some compliance incentives associated with self-audits (see Audit Policy Page).

For a self-audit checklist for these fluids, follow the steps on the ECAR Used Oil Fact Sheet.

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Most regulations tell you what you have to do to be in compliance, but they don't explain how to do it. That's where "best management practices" come into play. BMPs are proven methods that help you to get into compliance and stay there.

The following BMPs are recommended for management and recycle of used transmission fluid/gear oil:

  • Manage transmission fluids like you manage used oil.
  • Do not dispose of transmission fluid in a storm drain, septic tank, dry well, sewer system or dumpster.
  • Remove fluid from transmission filters by using proper draining methods.
  • Keep drained filters in a container marked "Used Transmission Filters."
  • Do not put undrained filters in the dumpster.


  1. For general questions, contact the North Carolina Hazardous Waste Section at 919-508-8400.
  2. To report a spill or leak, call 1-800-662-7956.
  3. To report an environmental incident or complaint, contact the nearest DENR Regional Office.

Related ECAR Fact Sheets

  1. Used Oil

Other Relevant Resources

  1. North Carolina DENR Fact Sheet on Used Motor Oil


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