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Asbestos safety in vehicles

Asbestos was common in vehicle and boat parts because it can withstand heat under high pressure and friction. 

Asbestos can be found in vehicles and boats built before 2003. Even some new vehicles, boats and parts imported from overseas can contain asbestos.  

There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos. Anyone who works on or around older cars, trucks, boats, trains, ferries and other vehicles can be exposed to asbestos when replacing parts, sanding or cleaning out fine dust.  

Do an Asbestos Check

Use the Asbestos Checker to see where asbestos can be in a vehicle or boat.
Close up of asbestos brake pads

Asbestos in cars and other vehicles  

Vehicles made in Australia or imported before 2003 may contain asbestos. This includes: 

  • cars and trucks 

  • motorbikes and quad bikes 

  • buses 

  • ferries  

  • houseboats 

  • sailing boats 

  • jet skis 

  • farm and agricultural equipment 

  • heavy equipment like front-end loaders and excavators.

Not all countries have banned asbestos. Vehicles or parts imported from overseas after 2003 may still contain asbestos.  

It is illegal to bring products containing asbestos into Australia. If you are buying parts from an international supplier, it is your responsibility to check they do not contain asbestos.  

Where is asbestos found in cars or vehicles? 

If you work on or around vehicles and machinery, you may be exposed to asbestos in:  

  • brake pads and linings 

  • gaskets 

  • clutch plates and housings 

  • wheel rims 

  • mufflers 

  • heat seals  

  • insulation and sound-proofing 

  • seat bases. 

Asbestos in good condition is low risk. If it’s disturbed or damaged through wear or machining, it becomes dangerous.  

How to tell if it’s asbestos 

You can’t tell if a part or material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Even with labels or service records, if you think it might be asbestos, treat it like it is. A licensed assessor can take a sample from the part and have it tested at a licensed laboratory. 

How to manage asbestos in vehicles 

Strict guidelines apply to identifying, removing, decontaminating and disposing of asbestos. You must follow all NSW work health and safety (WHS) laws and the Asbestos Removal Code of Practice

If you’re working on a vehicle made before 2003, do not: 

  • use power tools 

  • use abrasive cutting or sanding discs 

  • sweep up waste with a broom 

  • use a compressed air high-pressure water hose.  

If you think you’ve found asbestos in a vehicle of any age, stop work. Cover the suspected asbestos area and get help to identify, remove and dispose of it safely

Asbestos risk when restoring vintage and classic cars

If you’re restoring a vintage or classic car, you must follow NSW guidelines and laws. This includes:  

  • Doing a safety plan before starting work  

  • wearing PPE rated for asbestos removal 

  • covering the work area in plastic drop sheets with a thickness of at least 200 microns (buy where you get your PPE) 

  • checking no electrical products or exposed wiring are in the work area  

  • wetting the asbestos material to reduce dust using a gentle spray of water   

  • cutting down who is on site 

  • decontaminating yourself, the work area and equipment.