Wrenchin’ Wednesday: Recycling plastic jugs for funnels and drain pans

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Invention is the child of necessity — or something like that, right? Say it’s oil change time, you’ve bought few quarts of oil and have that clean new filter still bouncing around in its delicate square box when you realize that the plastic drain pan you just slid underneath the oil pan has a crack in it. Big oof, as they say. Maintenance is one of those things that will make or break a daily driver, especially one that’s moving every dial on the odometer regularly. Plus, right now is the only time during the weekend to get the work done. So, what do you do?

This actually happened to me a few weeks ago, one of those cheap plastic drain pans you get on special from the parts store had somehow split down the side, rendering it useless. The cap to my other drain pain had gone missing during a move, so I dug out some of these from recycling and went to work. For Wrenchin’ Wednesday, we’ll do a dramatic reenactment of the solution and how you can re-use old plastic jugs as useful tools.

Phillip Thomas

Coolant, ATF, motor oil, and many other fluids come in these narrow gallon containers, which are perfect for converting into small drain pans. The disadvantage here is that they only hold about 4 quarts, so you may need to make two of them or figure a way to drain the caught fluid into another container (I found a 20-gallon drum on Craigslist for recycling oils), but it’ll work in a pinch.

Phillip Thomas
Phillip Thomas

The trick part of this is that the original cap makes for a perfect drain plug. This makes pouring off the captured fluid relatively easy. Of course, now it’s time to pour oil back into the motor, so what makes life easier here? Funnels, and thankfully those little quart bottles are ideal donors.

Phillip Thomas

A quick pass around the equator of one and an impromptu funnel appears. The cap here also acts like a drain plug, so it makes getting the funnel cleanly away from the engine no sweat by capping it before it can dribble all over the core support.

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