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All Around the Farm: Air-Evacuated Oil Drain Cart

There is something in James Nelson’s shop that he believes his sons will use long after he’s done with it. It’s an oil drain cart that he built himself.  

“There is nothing to wear out; there’s nothing to go wrong,” says Nelson. 

He couldn’t say that for the factory-built drain carts he looked over at a farm show. Nelson was concerned about the reliability of their electric pumps. They weren’t built very sturdy, either, he recalls. Determined to go with an air-evacuated unit instead, Nelson then had trouble finding one with an adequate capacity and clearance.

This was about a year ago, and that’s when he started to work on his own. 

simplicity of air

Used oil drains from the catch pan into a 14-gallon vessel below. When full, Nelson empties it by using air pressure. 

The drain hole in the catch pan is a threaded bung, so when the cart needs emptied, he screws in an adapter to which an air hose is attached.  

Once regulated air pressure is applied (at about 10 psi), the oil is pushed out of the hose and into a larger storage barrel. 

To keep the hose from pushing itself right out of the barrel and spraying oil everywhere, Nelson installed a tee on the end of the hose.

“This lets the pressure equalize, so the hose won’t pull back out of the receiving barrel,” Nelson explains.

“I hook it up and walk away. It will drain in just a minute if the oil is hot,” maybe five if it’s cold, he says. “No more messing with 5-gallon buckets during oil changes on combines, tractors, or semis!”

minimal investment

Since it’s made with recycled iron, he spent less than $100 on fittings, casters, and a sight gauge. 

A neighbor who heats his shop with waste oil is happy to have Nelson’s. 

“One day, I’d like to have a larger waste oil tank right outside the shop. Then I could plumb a pipe out to it with a quick-connect just inside the wall to hook the cart to,” says Nelson. 

More About james nelson

Work: Nelson has been active in the family farm since age 13. After completing his ag studies degree at Iowa State University, he came back to farm with parents Fred and Susan Nelson on their grain farm in Audubon, Iowa. 

Family: Nelson and his wife, Anna, have three children: Josiah, 4; Faith, 1; and Jadon, born last November.  

Hobbies: He enjoys driving ATVs, Jeeps, and dirt bikes. 

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