My Car Quest

May 20, 2024

Asbestos In Older Cars – How To Protect Yourself

by Virgil Anderson –

Asbestos is a scary word for people who know how dangerous it can be. Exposure to this natural mineral can, over many decades, lead to serious illnesses.

People who worked around asbestos without appropriate protective gear often get a mesothelioma diagnosis years later. This type of cancer affects tissues in the chest cavity and is most often fatal. One industry in which asbestos was used years ago, and in is still in use in some applications, is the automotive industry. Read about Mesothelioma Symptoms at this link.

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Where Was Asbestos Used in Cars?

There are now restrictions on where and how asbestos can be used, but before the 1970s many industries used this material extensively. It was used to resist heat, fire, and electricity, and to provide strength without adding much weight.

In older cars you may find asbestos inside hood liners, for example, because it protected the hood from engine heat. Here are some other places you may see asbestos in your older car:

· Clutches contained asbestos to prevent overheating from friction.
· For the same reason, asbestos was used in brake pads, shoes, linings, and rotors.
· Gaskets used in engine parts and hoses contained asbestos to make them more durable.
· Heat seals in engines used asbestos.
· Asbestos may be inside piston rings as packing material.
· Some fiberglass and plastic compounds used in car body parts contained asbestos for strength.
· Any insulating material in an older car may contain asbestos.

It is also important to know that in the U.S. asbestos has not been banned from several applications in cars. So, even in new cars there may be asbestos in drum brake linings, gaskets, disk brake pads, and clutch facings.

How Asbestos in Older Cars Can Harm You

Asbestos is a natural material made up of small fibers that can come loose and be inhaled. When inhaled, the fibers may lodge in tissues in the body, most often in and around the lungs, and cause damage. Accumulated damage from those fibers may cause illnesses like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

The danger in working with older cars comes from disturbing any asbestos and causing the fibers to become airborne. If you disturb those fibers and breathe them in, you could be at risk of getting sick later. Tearing out, taking apart, removing, or changing any of the parts of an older car that contain asbestos puts you at risk.

You can work safely with your older car, but you should assume that many of these parts have asbestos and you should treat them accordingly. That means wearing protective gear when working with them. Where coveralls, gloves, and a respirator and work outside or in an indoor area with good ventilation.

Treat the protective gear as contaminated and don’t let anyone wash them for you without protection. You should also wet any components that may contain asbestos and are dusty. This will keep the dust down until you can safely contain it.

Working with old cars is a great hobby, but not if it compromises your health. The risk of exposure to asbestos is minimal if you take good precautions. Be aware of the risks, know how to protect yourself, and you can continue to enjoy a passion for tinkering with old cars.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

The Author: Virgil Anderson was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Virgil’s exposure came from working in demolition and excavating since high school.

When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma he needed immediate medical attention. He found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with mesothelioma cancer but nobody got back to him.

Then he found Even though he contacted them on a Sunday one of their patient advocates gave him a call back within minutes. They gave him a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to him.

As a result of their website, he is now being treated at the national cancer institute and the patient advocates have even provided him with financial assistance so he could afford a place to live during his chemotherapy. If he had not reached out to this website he would likely be homeless and more importantly in Hospice waiting to die. These people gave him his only chance at survival.



Asbestos In Older Cars – How To Protect Yourself
Article Name
Asbestos In Older Cars – How To Protect Yourself
People who worked around asbestos without appropriate protective gear often get a mesothelioma diagnosis years later.


  1. There are special Tyvek full body disposable suits that should be worn when working around asbestos. These can be thrown out, along with used respirator filters when you finish the job. These suits should be treated as contaminated and thrown out with the used respirator filter cartridges in double sealed plastic garbage bags. There is no need to use your regular clothing around asbestos, as it cannot be washed (you’ll contaminate your washer and dryer) and must be thrown out, an expensive proposition. Also, any older house with insulation around its hot water and/or steam pipes may contain asbestos or asbestos-impregnated insulation, so be careful performing any plumbing repairs in your house near these areas, and always use personal protective gear and glovebags if such insulation must be removed (most states require licensed asbestos handlers to do such work and handle the disposal of the insulation). I worked in the asbestos removal industry for several years in the 1980’s supervising the removal of asbestos from high-rise office buildings in Manhattan, and although I am by no means an expert, you want to take all necessary precautions when working around a hazardous substance. I hope and pray that Mr. Anderson has a full and speedy recovery as soon as possible, and thanks for warning everybody about the dangers of asbestos.

  2. Lennox McNeely says

    Steve McQueen, who died from mesothelioma cancer blamed his death on exposure to Asbestos. McQueen believed that asbestos used in Movie sound stages or asbestos used in race car protective suits and helmets could have been responsible he maintained he felt the source of the disease was likely from massive exposure to cleaning pipes on a troop ship while in the Marines. R.I.P. Steve

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