Asbestos a Problem in Classic Cars

Asbestos a Problem in Classic Cars

The Australian Border Force (ABF) – the agency responsible for offshore and onshore border control enforcement, investigations, compliance and detention operations in that country – has a problem.

Asbestos a Problem in Classic CarsIt’s not drugs or human trafficking. It’s asbestos. And that asbestos is coming into the country via classic cars that include lots of friction parts – like brakes and clutches – that contain the toxic material.

So far this year, the ABF has seized upwards of 50 classic and vintage cars that contain asbestos, reports a spokesperson for the agency, almost twice as many as last year during the same time period.

These cars are mostly 40 years old or older and have included brands and models such as Ford Mustangs, Bentleys, Jaguars, and Rolls-Royces.

Importers can be subject to fines up to $3000 per offense, the ABF reports. Furthermore, before the vehicle can clear Customs in Australia, the importer will be made to pay for the testing of the car parts and for replacement of any asbestos-containing parts.

Australian news outlets report that this can take several months to accomplish and may cost in excess of $20,000 Australian dollars, making importing a vintage car a very expensive proposition if asbestos is suspected.

“Recent history has shown a high incidence of imports in the classic car sector where asbestos has been found in parts such as brake pads, clutch linings and gaskets from vintage and veteran cars,” noted Stephen Hledik, the acting commander of Customs Compliance in the Australian Border Force.

“If the Australian Border Force suspects there is asbestos present in the goods being imported we will instruct the importer to arrange for testing at their cost. That involves extra cost to them as well as delays as the testing is conducted,” he added. “It’s the responsibility of the importer to make sure the asbestos parts have been removed before importing the car into Australia. Importers need to be aware that Australia’s total ban on asbestos (introduced in 2003) means zero percent asbestos content.”

Though there’s no ban on asbestos in the U.S. and no border force to protect classic car collectors from asbestos exposure, the use of asbestos-containing car parts can and should be a huge concern for American collectors.

Most old cars manufactured prior to the 1980s could contain asbestos parts, including:

  • Brakes (most common)
  • Clutches
  • Gaskets
  • Hood liners
  • Heat seals
  • Insulation

Other engine components

Anyone who is interested in buying any classic or vintage automobile should first have it inspected for asbestos parts, especially if they expect to do any DIY work on the car.

A licensed mechanic will be able to take a quick look and determine the presence of asbestos as well as provide a price estimate as to what it will cost to remove the parts and replace them with safer alternatives.