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How To Dispose Of Motor Oil (Step-By-Step Guide + 3 FAQs)

November 29, 2021

Did you know that used motor oil never wears out? 
It gets dirty but can be recycled again. 

However, in order to be recycled, you first need to collect the oil from your engine and contain it the right way. 

In this article, we’ll show you step-by-step how to dispose of motor oil correctly and answer some motor oil recycling related FAQs

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Let’s begin!

How To Dispose Of Motor Oil?

Here’re the steps you should follow to dispose of motor oil properly:

However, before we dive into these steps, let’s identify the tools needed to collect the old oil. 

Tools needed to collect motor oil

You can buy these things online or from a nearby hardware shop.
However, if you’re not much of a DIYer and aren’t familiar with the insides of your car, it’s best to leave this task to a professional mechanic.

Now that we’ve got the tools covered, let’s go over the motor oil disposal process:

Step 1: Drain The Oil

Start by laying down a tarp or a large plastic sheet under the engine to prevent oil spills on your floor. 

Note:  Make sure that the drip pan is large enough to hold the entire quantity of the waste engine oil. Usually, passenger car engines hold about five quarts (1.25 gallons) of motor oil. Also, look for a drip pan that comes with a spout which makes it easier to transfer the oil to another oil container.

To ensure that you collect all the oil and sludge from your engine, drain the oil while the engine is still warm

Also, as the oil may be hot, consider wearing rubber gloves for protection.

Here’s what you should do next:

Step 2: Empty The Oil Filter 

Along with the engine oil, you can recycle your oil filters too.

Remember, used oil filters are hazardous waste. 
Most states don’t allow you to dispose of undrained oil filters as regular solid waste so recycling them makes sense.

Here’s how you should empty your oil filter: 

Note: Even after you’ve drained an oil filter, it may still contain several ounces of motor oil and can be recycled. 

Tip: To support recycling programs in your state, you should purchase oil filters from auto shops that accept used oil filters for recycling. 

Step 3: Contain The Oil

The next step is to contain the waste oil correctly before handing it over to the curbside collection service. 

Here’s how to go about it: 

Note: Avoid using containers that have contained any toxic substance like bleach, pesticides, antifreeze, etc., as they can contaminate the engine oil. You should avoid using milk cartons, juice containers, and metal cans as well. 

Just like motor oil, you can also recycle any other automotive fluid. These include power steering oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, or any other lubricating oil. 

However, you should bring each automotive fluid to a curbside collection site in a separate sealed container. You should never add these to the same motor oil container; else, the oils can’t be recycled.  

Step 4: Bring It To A Recycling Center

Depending on the city you live in, you can hand over the used engine oil and old oil filter to your city’s curbside collection service. 

These are certified household hazardous waste collection centers that take in used oil and other solid waste from the public. A recycling center can take up to five gallons of oil per person per day.

However, make sure that you follow their hazardous waste packaging requirements and protocol. 

If curbside collection isn’t available, you may have to drop off the motor oil container yourself at a participating recycling center. Some oil change service stations and automotive parts stores also accept used oil for a small recycling fee. 

Nonetheless, you shouldn’t leave the used oil and old oil filter at any collection site if it’s not open for business. Such an act is considered illegal dumping and may have serious repercussions. 

Another option to dispose of household hazardous waste is to contact Earth 911.

It’s one of the largest databases for recycling facilities. You can visit their website to search for the nearest collection center by ZIP code. The website also provides information on recycling oil and other solid waste like vehicle batteries and electronics. 

Now that we have the disposal steps covered, let’s go over some common motor oil disposal and recycling questions. 

3 FAQs On Recycling Motor Oil

Here’re some of the questions you may have about disposing of and recycling motor oil: 

1. Why Should I Recycle Motor Oil?

First and foremost, incorrect motor oil disposal is illegal
You may attract a fine, face jail time, or be held responsible for clean-up costs. 

But, more importantly, proper disposal can help reduce your carbon footprint.

If you discard the car oil in a storm drain or anywhere else, it could contaminate waterways with heavy metals or toxic chemicals and threaten aquatic life. 

In fact, one oil change without proper disposal can contaminate one million gallons of water!

Used car oil also contains additives (toxic chemicals) and heavy metals that could easily make their way to your drinking water supply and affect your health. 

On the other hand, engine oil could be re-refined and used as new oil in a vehicle when disposed of correctly. Recycling oil can also significantly reduce the need for virgin oil. 

Moreover, it takes around 42 gallons of crude oil to manufacture  2½ quarts (less than a gallon) of refined virgin oil. At the same time, recycling oil can create the same amount of refined oil from only one gallon of used oil. 

2. Can I Recycle Contaminated Motor Oil?

If your used oil is contaminated, it can be difficult to recycle it into refined oil. 

Moreover, if you have mixed solvents, brake fluid, engine coolant, gasoline, antifreeze, or even water with your motor oil, recycling it is almost impossible

Note: You should never mix any other automotive fluid with your used motor oil

In that case, don’t hand over the car oil to an oil recycling site as it can contaminate their collection tank with toxic chemicals, making the entire waste pretty expensive to recycle. 

You should label the motor oil container as “contaminated” and take it to your local household hazardous waste collection center. 

Alternatively, you can contact your local government authorities about dealing with the contaminated oil. 

3. What Happens To Used Motor Oil? 

Used oil can be repurposed in several ways: 

Also, your used oil filters contain scrap metal that steel producers can reuse as scrap feed.

Final Thoughts

Used motor oil, without proper disposal, can be a serious threat to the environment. On the other hand, disposing of engine oil the right way makes it viable for recycling. 

And, if you need help replacing your motor oil with new oil or want to give your car some much-needed TLC, you can always reach out to RepairSmith.

RepairSmith is a mobile auto repair and maintenance service provider that offers competitive and upfront pricing on a range of car services.

Our ASE-certified mechanics can perform an oil change right in your driveway!