POINTLESS thread: My local shade tree mechanic (and neighbor) is a nice guy but I wouldn't trust

My local shade tree mechanic (and neighbor) is a nice guy but I wouldn’t trust my car with him. I’m friendly with the guy, and on hot summer days, I’ll usually bring him a beer or a coke and he’s appreciative and I appreciate that he is appreciative.


I have observed him draining the coolant and just leaving it on the street while it flows into the sewer system. Green stuff.

I have also observed him tape up a customer’s torn ignition coil pack with electrical tape. I think you’re supposed to replace it.

I suggest next time you see him draining coolant in the street you call the fire department and have them send a team to stop and clean up the spill. Purposely draining coolant down the storm drain is idiocy.

Yeah, I thought about that. What he’s doing to the environment is terrible.

I’m quite conflicted.

What is there to be conflicted about? I don’t know about your local statutes, but where I live it is illegal to dump coolant on the ground or down the storm drain. If someone was standing in the lake/river/bay dumping gallon jugs of antifreeze in the water would you be conflicted? If someone was dumping used motor oil on the ground at the park would you be conflicted?


Your neighbor is a hack and polluting the environment

No doubt about it

I advise you to not badmouth him to your neighbors . . . because they’re also HIS neighbors, and it may get back to him

You have to live next to the guy

Be nice to him, drink a beer with him if you want to, but don’t let him touch your car, or any friend’s car

The guy is a real hack and it’s up to you as to whether or not to turn him in. Running anti-freeze into a sewer system generally means someone is up the creek if caught doing so.

Quite a few years ago a friend of mine did this by accident and the city code people were all over him because of roughly a gallon of coolant down the drain.
The city just happened to be doing sewer line testing a week or so later and apparently their equipment detected traces of anti-freeze in the lines. They narrowed it right down to his garage and specific stall.

He’s lucky that he got off with a written warning and was advised that if it happened again there was going to be a large fine and potential jail time.

OP: The more immediate concern about leaving antifreeze in puddles on the street is that it is an attractive toxin to animals and kids–they are attracted to the sweet taste and drink it and get ill.

You should at least ask him to hose down the puddles of coolant! Be non-combative, maybe “I know accidents happen…but would you mind hosing down after you finish? I’d just hate it if Fluffy or Junior got into that. Thanks!”

(By mentioning children, you make it hard for him to argue without looking bad. Also, you’re being polite, making a reasonable request, but there’s at least an implication that he’s being watched, hopefully causing him to alter his behavior…or at least not be so blatant about it.)

And coolant often kills animals and pets if they drink it.

On top of the other issues raised, Coolant is very slippery. If your street is busy at all and someone tries to stop and finds themselves in a puddle of coolant, they’re not going to.

Have you tried talking directly to him about his draining coolant into the sewer? Perhaps over a coke?

As already stated, direct confrontation is the best thing here. Perhaps bring him some empty gallon jugs with caps. Plenty of mechanic shops will take old coolant for recycling.

I don’t even think your neighbor qualifies as a “shade tree” mechanic. I think a neighborhood menace is a better title for him. You can tell him that missileman said so.

I normally do not have any reservations about confrontations when it comes to infringing on my rights or health. The real possibility of ending up with an enemy for a neighbor (for years to come) would make me take a different approach and one I have used before under different circumstances.

In this case I would not say one thing about it to him. Rather, I would drop an anonymous dime on him to the local enforcement agency the next time you witness it. When he mentions having been caught, you can side with the authorities without being identified as a snitch. “Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that because…” Look at this way, if you talk to him, it’s unlikely to alter his behavior. After that, if he gets caught, it will always look like you were the one that dropped the dime on him whether you did or not. Then you have an enemy right nearby. The alternative approach gets the results you want and keeps the peace…

As much as I have a strong preference for people handling themselves among themselves, I’d have to say that what TwinTurbo said mirrors my own take on what to do in this situation, and for the same reasons. If this was a reasonable person with true regard for others around him, then he wouldn’t be doing things that way to begin with. You’re unlikely to be able to “fix” it in any neighborly way.

We should differentiate between “storm drains” and “sewer lines”. The storm drains from the street go directly into the rivers or holding ponds without treatment. For years this wasn’t to be done because of the danger to animals drinking the sweet antifreeze. Less important was the pollution aspect. The sewer lines from home plumbing systems go to a sewage treatment plant before being released into the rivers. For years the instructions were to dump antifreeze into the sewer. This has lost favor now due to the additional treatment load it puts on the plants and also because antifreeze recycling has become more popular. So at any rate the guy just might not be aware of the changing times. You might simply want to find out how they are to be reclaimed in your area and tell him and offer to take it to the recycling facility when you drop your old oil off.

I agree, times change and sometimes people just don’t keep up with all the new thousands of pages of regulations adopted every year. It wasn’t that long ago that oil was just dumped on the gravel driveway to keep the dust down too. And we used to play with the mercury in thermometers and thought nothing of blowing the asbestos off of brake systems or dumping asbestos into lake Superior where the water was drawn for drinking.

All the more reason to hasten the onset of the Electric revolution(what if an EMP puts the grid down?{somewhat likely}-back to motor oil and antifreeze,actually I dont think the antifreeze is all that bad,but it is toxic and it can be disposed of responsibly,what I used to do with mine was to save for winterizing a hunting camp and give to people with wheezy machines they had to use in the winter(have had pretty serious conflicts with a neighbor who has a smolder pit down over the hill from me(he used to burn shingles plastic all kinds of nasty junk,enhanced with used oil,guess where the smoke went-Kevin

“sometimes people just don’t keep up with all the new thousands of pages of regulations adopted every year”

Bing, I think it’s odd to imply that people who don’t dump poisonous and toxic stuff down drains (sewer, storm or otherwise) refrain from doing it because they have referred to the latest regulations. Anyone dumping antifreeze like that has to be completely blind to a lot more than regulations.

Forty years ago dumping waste oil, anti-freeze, etc., on the ground or into storm drains was common and never given a second thought by the public or authorities here. And although I never purposely dumped such waste I have often let it spill without much concern when a leak occurred. But after seeing the results of a shop dumping transmission fluid out a drain into a creek for 30 years I had a change of heart. I had hoped to buy the transmission shop from the owner’s widow but the place was a wasteland. Banks wouldn’t consider financing the property and even if I had paid cash for the property the cost to dig up and incinerate hundreds of tons of oily dirt would have cost more than the asking price. The property remains unsold and the creek is coming back to life little by little.

I wouldn’t advise a confrontation with the neighbor but instead agree that reporting the dumping to state and local environmental agencies would be in the best interest of the neighborhood. Some of us are slower catching on but eventually see the light. Let the authorities show him the light.

In many older cities the aroma drains and sewers are not separate (San Francisco being one.) in some cities it is only the older neighborhoods. If they’re combined it all has or go through the wastewater treatment plant. Which has to be made a lot larger to deal with heavy rains (sewage being more predictable.) Tremont plants are not really designed to remove stuff like coolant from waste water. They are mostly concerned with biological hazards. Tertiary treatment plants (not that common) remove/neutralize a broad range of chemicals.

Dont see why you considered this a pointless thread,these things people used to dump are now valuble,a few years back you couldnt hardly pay someone to take old petrochemicals,now you can use anything from stale gas to 90 weight in these atomizer waste oil heaters,I always favored incineration of waste lubricants in the old days,but some people liked to just scoop a hole out and cover up the waste oil after the oil changes and some cats would throw old batteries in the river when the water was up,The Federal govt rendered thousands of acres of land contaminated by thier Nuclear and weapon testing programs in the mid 20th century,I used to favor Nuclear power,but now I understand that given the zeitgeist and the greed,it is unworkable as currently deployed(we have a nuclear reactor right on a fault line,not so far from where I live(some joker told told me it was intentionally made there,so if it melted down it go subterranian and not cause furthur problems) indeed,the worst problem facing the world now is to many people and to many cars-Kevin