Auto Shop Greens Up

TRAVERSE CITY – Green is the new black at area automotive service shops, several of whose environmental footprints are a little lighter after launching new processes along with other friendly nods to Mother Nature.

At Marathon Automotive's recently expanded location, almost two-dozen large windows provide natural light and keep the interior bright and welcoming. The work area has several large south-facing windows, rarely seen in an auto shop.

"The natural light helps reduce electric use and conserve energy," said Schofield, who designed the space.

Not only is Marathon's design green leaning, but its functionality is environmentally friendly as well. The building's heat comes from two large furnaces that burn waste oil from the dozens of oil changes that Marathon's technicians perform for customers each month.

"We've been burning waste oil for several years," said Schofield. "The furnace is high tech and it burns cleaner than fuel oil burned at a home. It burns at a much higher temperature and is much cleaner."

Marathon also recycles hundreds of tires and batteries each month, he said.

Kinney's Complete Auto Repair and Four Wheel Drive Center also heats its shop with waste oil.

"We've been doing it for about 20 years," said manager Matt Kinney. "Even when we were downtown, before we moved to our new location in Grawn."

Two stoves burn waste oil, heating Kinney's 40 x 80-foot work area. Kinney's also invites customers to bring their own waste oil in for disposal.

Marathon and Kinney's are two of many northern Michigan auto repair facilities that are recycling, reusing and refurbishing in an effort to save money and protect the environment at the same time.

Oil, batteries, and tires aren't the only items getting a green makeover, however. This year, Schofield installed a touchless water dispenser with a high tech filtering system to help reduce the number of plastic drink bottles around the shop. Each employee was given a glass water bottle to refill at the dispenser.

"We would go through about 300 bottles in a couple of weeks," said Schofield. "This system is going to keep a lot of plastic bottles out of landfills and it's providing better tasting water."

While some shops are filtering water, others are filtering – and refiltering – used motor oil.

A few years ago, Cherry Capital Cadillac Subaru and Traverse Motors Toyota Nissan Volkswagen Volvo Audi became the first dealerships in the state to offer re-refined oil to customers.

The process, called ProGuard ECO, uses dirty used oil that is first cleaned of contaminants such as water, dirt, fuel, heavy metals, antifreeze and used additives through vacuum distillation.

The oil is then infused with hydrogen under pressurized high heat, producing a very high quality, near-synthetic quality base stock.

"This process truly minimizes the environmental footprint of passenger car motor oil," said Paul Lyden, vice president of Lyden Oil, the Ohio-based petroleum company that makes and distributes ProGuard ECO.

"This is the next thing in motor oil – it's called cleaning up your act, and it's required in the state of California, as well as used in military fleet vehicles," said Cherry Capital Cadillac Suburu parts department manager Jim Moloci. "In fact, the process is so efficient, your grandchildren could be using the same oil you use now in your car." BN