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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

Used Fluids (Brake, Transmission, and Power Steering)

Road Rail Air Water

This section of TERC covers regulations affecting the management and disposal of used brake, transmission and power steering fluids.


Used brake, transmission and power steering fluids fall under U.S. EPA's definition of used oil. In fact, their definition covers nearly any of the petroleum based or synthetic substances that are used in vehicles for lubrication, heat transfer, or hydraulic fluid. One big exception is antifreeze, which is not considered used oil.

EPA treats used oil (including brake, transmission and power steering fluids) differently from most other wastes because it can readily be recycled or burned for energy recovery. In fact, under the Federal Standards for Management of Used Oil (40 CFR 279), EPA presumes that used oil is to be recycled. As such, EPA has streamlined the rules to make it easier and less expensive for businesses to manage this material. However, if used oil is going to be disposed of, then it is not regulated under these "Used Oil Management Standards." Instead, it is regulated like other potentially hazardous wastes (e.g., the generator must make a hazardous waste determination). For more information on hazardous waste rules, see the TERC Hazardous Waste section.

Also, it is important to note that used oil mixed with hazardous waste, such as used solvent, is a hazardous waste and cannot be recycled under the Used Oil Management Standards.

Most states have adopted the federal Used Oil Management Standards. However, some states use slightly different definitions of used oil or have additional rules that may apply to your facility.

For more information on applicable federal and state rules that apply to used brake, transmission and power steering fluids, see the TERC Used Oil section.

Best Practices

Check with your used oil recycling company before combining used crankcase, brake, transmission and power steering oils. Combining these fluids may complicate their recycling process. If the fluids cannot be combined, store each one in separate containers that are clearly labeled.

More Resources

EPA's Used Oil Management Program. General information and links to more resources.