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Asbestos dangers in older vehicles

Mechanics and DIY enthusiasts may not be taking proper precautions when repairing older vehicles, especially vehicles undergoing restoration that may have been laid up for some considerable time. Asbestos is no longer used in brake linings etc, however many older vehicles still contain components that have not been changed since legislation in 1998.

A large number of people are not aware of the special procedures necessary when replacing or repairing brake components, they incorrectly believe that vehicle brakes no longer contain asbestos. Yet millions of older cars and trucks with asbestos brakes remain on our roads, and some older parts containing asbestos are readily available at auto jumbles and even on web sites such as eBay etc.

Classic cars not only contain asbestos in their braking components, but also traces can be found in cylinder heads, clutch components and in some cases parts of the vehicle trim. Vehicle restorers need to extra careful especially if the vehicle has been off the road for many years, the likelyhood of coming across asbestos while carrying out repairs is far greater, many of the dangerous components would not have been replaced. Further more it is illegal to install asbestos brake linings in any vehicle, something to think about when you are next offered a set of old stock brake shoes or pads.

Why your brakes may contain traces of asbestos?

When brakes are applied, the brake shoe presses against the drum. As an asbestos­containing brake wears, the drums fill with brake dust. When drums are repaired or replaced, asbestos dust is released. Vacuuming the brake residue with a regular home vacuum may only help to spread fine particles of asbestos. There are health and safety guidelines for removal of asbestos; however, there is no known medically safe level of asbestos exposure.

For further information on asbestos and the associated risks go to www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

© Darren Gilling 2006