Running a Mechanic Shop out of Your Garage? How Can You Maintain Your Plumbing?

If you're a mechanic by trade, you may find you can easily spend as much time repairing friends' and neighbors' vehicles after hours as you spend working on customers' vehicles during the day. After your positive reputation spreads throughout the community and you begin picking up more and more referrals, you may at some point tire of working on a boss's schedule and want to strike out on your own, working on vehicles from the convenience of your own garage. By installing a rotary lift or two and beefing up your tool collection, you should have the ability to perform many vehicle repairs and improvements without the oversight of a formal garage or dealership. However, an auto repair shop can be rough on any plumbing system, particularly one intended for residential use. Read on to learn more about what you can do to keep your plumbing in good shape while beginning this new business venture.

What should you do to maintain the plumbing in your garage when working on multiple vehicles?

Repairing vehicles often requires the flushing and replacement of a variety of fluids, from windshield washer fluid to brake fluid to coolant. Many of these substances (like oil) are required to be recycled or disposed of in a special hazardous waste container rather than flushed into the public water supply, so you shouldn't be too concerned about their effect on your garage's drains or plumbing system. However, any auto shop will suffer some inadvertent spills, and you may find that trace amounts of everything from differential fluid to transmission fluid works its way into your pipes. You'll also generate more water and debris down your garage's drain than before, as you'll need to hose out your bays regularly to avoid allowing acids or other corrosive liquids to seep into the concrete and damage your garage's foundation.  

To keep your plumbing working well with this additional wear and tear, you'll need to be vigilant about keeping the fluids you drain from vehicles in enclosed or spill-proof containers. Although it can be tempting to hose down a dirty bay directly into the closest drain, using a broom to sweep up any metal fragments, chunks of solidified oil, or other debris before using the hose will go a long way toward preventing your pipes from becoming narrowed or entirely blocked. You may also want to periodically use a drain-cleaning fluid to clear out any small clogs before they turn into bigger problems. If your drains are causing you extra trouble, contact a company like Sullivan Super Service for help.

What should you do to maintain the plumbing in the rest of your home? 

If your home has a septic tank, you'll want to be even more careful about making sure oil and other fluids don't make their way into your drains. Septic tanks are designed to operate as their own contained ecosystem, with bacteria and enzymes breaking down solid waste into a much more compact mass and allowing liquid waste to harmlessly enter your drain field. Although every septic tank will need to be pumped of solids periodically, with proper maintenance a septic tank can remain self-contained for years or even decades.

However, adding certain substances to your home's plumbing output can throw off the biological balance of your septic tank, making it more difficult for bacteria to break down the solid waste and causing your tank to fill much more quickly. Failing to have your tank pumped in time could cause a breach, filling your lawn with raw sewage until the tank can be repaired or replaced. Oils and other greasy substances can also create a thick scum on the sides of your septic tank that require more than just pumping to remove. 

You'll need to ensure you stick to a strict pumping schedule to prevent your septic tank from becoming too full. Although it can be fairly simple to compute the frequency with which you need to pump a tank being used for solely residential purposes, adding a mechanic shop to this usage can throw these numbers off slightly. You should still be able to use the recommended cleaning schedule by tank size and household size as a starting guideline, but schedule your tank cleanings to take place even more frequently.