Guide The Massachusetts Clean Auto Repair (MassCAR) Guide

The Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance and Technology (OTA) created the Massachusetts Clean Auto Repair (MassCAR) program to provide environmental training and resources for auto body and repair shops.

Table of Contents

The Complete MassCAR Guide and Checklist

The MassCAR program provides environmental training and resources for auto body and repair shops. The program is designed to help you:

  • Understand and achieve compliance with environmental, health and safety (EHS) requirements
  • Learn about and implement pollution prevention and other best management practices

MassCAR consists of an environmental and compliance guidance document that can be downloaded in whole or as individual factsheets.

The Complete MassCAR Guide 2016

The complete MassCAR guidance includes the checklist and the environmental achievement statement.

MassCAR Checklist

The MassCAR Checklist is a downloadable summary of actions you can take to ensure that you stay organized and in compliance with state and federal regulations.

MassCAR Environmental Achievement Statement

The MassCAR Environmental Achievement Statement is a downloadable self-certification document that you can use to advertise and celebrate your environmental practices.

Additional Resources for The Complete MassCAR Guide and Checklist

General Auto Body and Repair Factsheets from the MassCAR Guide

Permits and Inspection Readiness

In order to operate an auto shop, certain local, state, and federal permits and licenses are required. Some of these are based on the activities and services performed within your shop, and some are potential local requirements that must be adhered to by any business wishing to operate in your chosen city or town.


Common Hazardous Wastes

This fact sheet will help you identify which wastes may need to be handled as hazardous or require other special disposal outside of the standard municipal solid waste stream. The lists are a guide and not considered to be a complete representation of every hazardous material your workers may use.


Hazardous Waste Management

Proper hazardous waste storage and management can help your shop pass inspections with ease, save time and money by avoiding fines, keep your shop safe, reduce health risks for your workers, and protect your community’s environment. The following information is an explanation of the regulations concerning hazardous waste transportation and disposal divided into sections based on what you and your workers may find in auto body shops and auto repair shops.


Spill Prevention

Spill prevention is a best practice for environmental compliance and shop safety. When spills do occur, it is important to clean them up immediately to prevent environmental releases and injuries to workers who may slip on greasy floors or inhale harmful vapors.


Vehicle Fluid Evacuation Caddies

Fluid collection caddies can significantly improve the ease and effectiveness of directly transferring fluid from a vehicle to a hazardous waste drum.  All caddies and collection drums must be labeled with the type of fluid they are collecting.


Waste Oil Management

Most shops generate waste oil and must have procedures to handle that waste properly. Waste oil is regulated as hazardous waste in Massachusetts. In addition to providing information on waste oil regulations, this fact sheet also describes the option of using waste oil for heat.


Wastewater Regulations and Best Practices

This fact sheet presents legal requirements for discharging auto shop wastewater as well as some wastewater management best practices. It is very important to note that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) prohibits discharge of IWW to septic systems. Dumping or discharges directly to the ground are also prohibited without a groundwater discharge permit from MassDEP, which can very difficult to obtain. The specific regulatory requirements depend on the ultimate fate of your wastewater.


Understanding OSHA Requirements for Auto Shops

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a Federal agency whose mission is to protect workers on the job through regulations, inspections, education, and assistance. OSHA regulates and provides guidance on topics such as personal exposure limits (PEL) to hazardous materials or chemicals, personal protective equipment (PPE), machine and electrical safety, fire prevention and contingency planning, and hazard communication. This fact sheet provides an overview of OSHA requirements and safety topics relevant to auto shops. Visit the OSHA Auto Repair and Refinishing webpage for more information.

Auto Body Factsheets from the MassCAR Guide

Vacuum Sanding

Many auto shops use conventional disc sanders. The dust generated by these devices can carry toxic chemicals that get into shop air, and into the lungs of workers. Dust can also ruin fresh paint jobs. Dust waste must eventually be swept from the floor, collected, and disposed of as hazardous wastes, which costs money.

Vacuum sanders can solve these problems by removing more than 90 percent of dust generated during sanding operations.


Water-Based Paint

Water-based (waterborne) paints are currently being used in New England and all over the United States. Switching from solvent-based to waterborne paints can make your shop a healthier place. By avoiding solvents, you will have less toxics and flammables in your shop. Many shops in Massachusetts have already made this switch with improved paint performance.


Water-Based Gun Washing

Auto body shops have traditionally used solvents and paint thinner to clean their spray guns. However, using these solvents presents health risks to workers and the community. Health risks are higher for workers who are directly exposed to the chemicals while working in an enclosed space. A number of alternative gun-cleaning options are on the market that can make shops safer and save owners money by reducing hazardous waste.


Paint Mixing Room Guidelines and Best Practices

Even when ventilated, workers are exposed to some level of toxic chemicals while in the closed and confined area of the paint mixing room. Shop owners can protect the health and wellbeing of their workers by following several best practices for paint mixing rooms.


Safe Welding Practices

Welding fumes contain both metals and gases that can be harmful to workers. Welding can create highly toxic hexavalent chromium fumes that can damage the eyes, skin, throat and lungs. Long-term exposure can cause cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or Manganism (“welder’s disease”). Shop owners must implement safety equipment and procedure to ensure that workers can perform their jobs as safely as possible.


Solvent Recycling Systems

By using a solvent recycling unit, auto body shops can reuse spent solvent and save money on purchasing new solvent as well as hazardous waste disposal costs.


Federal And State Auto Body Air Regulations

This guide provides an overview of the regulations, but it is a good idea to review the original regulations or ask OTA for help to ensure that you are in compliance. Links to these regulations are provided in this document.


Less Toxic Alternatives

Auto body products contain many toxic chemicals. Fortunately, manufacturers continue to research and develop less toxic alternatives, such as water-based paint and gun wash solution.

Many Massachusetts auto body shops are adopting less toxic chemicals and practices that are effective in both cost and performance. These changes reduce worker exposures to toxic chemicals and can even save shops money. This fact sheet describes four specific ways that auto shops can transition to using less toxic alternatives.


Fact Sheets for Auto Repair Shops from the MassCAR Guide

Water-Based Brake Cleaning

Perchloroethylene (perc) is a harmful chemical that can often be found in aerosol brake and parts cleaners and has been linked to cancer in humans. In addition, brakes and clutches still sometimes contain asbestos. Consider switching to a water-based (aqueous) brake cleaning system to help reduce worker exposure to both toxic chemicals and asbestos.


Water-Based Parts Cleaning

Shops that use these solvents to clean auto parts expose workers and the neighborhood environment to highly volatile and toxic chemicals. Consider switching to a water-based (aqueous) parts cleaning system to help reduce worker exposure to toxic chemicals.


Adhesive and Lead-Free Wheel Weights

Wheel weights attached to tire rims during wheel balancing maintenance are commonly made of lead. Lead exposure can affect every organ in your body, and is most recognized for causing permanent damage to the brain. Lead wheel weights used in tire balancing at auto shops remain one of the largest ongoing uses and releases of lead into the environment in the United States. Lead wheel weights significantly contribute to lead pollution when they fall off cars and end up in storm drains or on the street. Luckily, there are readily available safer alternatives such as zinc alloy or steel.


Oil Filter Crushers

MassDEP requires that oil filters must either be drained for at least 12 hours or be handled as hazardous waste. Using an oil filter crusher improves the efficient collection of waste oil by draining spent filter oil in a matter of seconds. When using an oil filter crusher, the remaining crushed filters no longer qualify as hazardous waste and can be recycled as scrap metal. Using an oil filter crusher can turn your previous hazardous waste costs and woes into an opportunity for recycling.


Antifreeze Recycling

Antifreeze (coolant) commonly contains ethylene glycol – an environmentally regulated chemical. The safer alternative, propylene glycol, is not considered toxic but can become contaminated with other regulated substances such as cadmium and chromium during use in the vehicle. Your shop can save money by investing in technology to recover and reuse antifreeze onsite or by sending antifreeze off-site to be recycled. By doing so, you can avoid both costs associated of purchasing 100 percent virgin antifreeze as well as managing used antifreeze as hazardous waste. It is important to note that use of recycled antifreeze must conform to requirements of vehicle warranties.


Refrigerant Recycling Systems

All shops that provide air conditioning services must have an EPA-approved refrigerant recovery system. If your shop does a high volume of air conditioning work, you might be able to save money and waste by investing in a unit that both recovers and repurposes the refrigerant for continued use.


High Voltage Safety with Hybrids and Electric Vehicles

The number of hybrid and electric vehicles have been increasing on the road and in repair shops. Because of the high battery voltage, workers must be trained on how to safely service these types of vehicles. This fact sheet is intended to make it easier for mechanics to protect themselves and others while working on hybrids as well as find more information.

The MassCAR Training Curriculum

To request a free training on the content of the MassCAR guide, contact OTA. The training curriculum has been made publicly available below. The presentations are also available in an editable slide format on request if you would like to incorporate them into your own training or curriculum.


Auto Shop Case Studies

912 Auto Center

This shop switched from primarily solvent-based painting and paint gun washing to primarily water-based painting and paint gun washing systems. Operating costs have been reduced and productivity improved as a result of the changes.

Allston Collision Center

The shop switched to water-based paints, installed a solvent recycling machine, and began an extensive recycling program. The owners have since been celebrated for their environmental consciousness and received the Green Business Award in 2010 from the Mayor of Boston, as well as being featured on Channel 5’s Going Green program.

Mike's Auto Body

This shop switched to lead-free wheel weights and methods for paint gun washing, brake and wheel cleaning, and general degreasing.

Image credits:  Shutterstock


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