The Case for Recycling Motor Oil

If you regularly change the oil in your car, chances are you've heard about the importance of recycling used motor oil before. It's a topic we feel pretty strongly about. That's why we provide free oil recycling at most of our stores, unless prohibited by law. But maybe you have some questions about why we need to recycle oil in the first place, or what the best way to take care of used oil is. Here are the answers. Rain gutter Source | Robert Lawton/

Why recycle motor oil?

We're glad you asked! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the oil resulting from a single oil change, if disposed of improperly, could contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water. That's enough drinking water for 50 people for a year—or it would be without the oil slick on top. Toxic oil sludge clogs sewers and storm drains and sticks to everything it touches—birds, beaches, pets. Cleanup, as you know from watching any news coverage after a major oil spill, is a costly, prolonged procedure.

What happens to recycled motor oil?

Your recycled oil goes into furnaces to heat homes and businesses or to power plants that provide electricity. It can also be used for marine fuels and even be “re-born” into new motor oil. Re-refined motor oils are just as safe and effective for your car’s engine as fresh oil, and meets all of the same API specifications.Oil slick on driveway Source |

But does recycling oil really make a difference?

Yes! It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil. Compare that to only one gallon of recycled oil to produce the same 2.5 quarts. Every time you choose to recycle motor oil, you're contributing to a healthier, cleaner world. Consider also the difference that recycling motor oil can have on your wallet. Disposing of motor oil improperly is illegal and can lead to hefty fines.

How to recycle motor oil

If you're tackling oil changes already, congratulations. You're saving money and getting up close and personal with your vehicle. For those who need a starting point, check out this video and read our step-by-step guide by Advance Auto Parts mascot, Tuxlee. Before you get started, keep a few things in mind:
  1. Catch every drop. Lay out a tarp and use a drip pan with a built-in spout for easy transfer to a storage container.
  2. Use the correct storage container. Use sealed containers made of a suitable plastic, such as PE (polyethylene), or the original oil container. No milk cartons please.
  3. Don't mix fluids. Motor oil mixed with other automotive fluids, like windshield washer or brake fluid, can't be recycled. Also avoid storing used motor oil in containers that once housed other fluids.
  4. Remember the oil filter. Oil filters contain both steel and oil, so they're perfect candidates for recycling. Punch a hole in the oil filter and let the oil drip into the catch container. Even after draining, the filter can contain as much as 10 oz. of residual oil. So be sure to recycle the filter too.
  5. Store used motor oil in a cool dry place until it can be recycled.
  6. Bring it to your local Advance Auto Parts for recycling.
Recycling motor oil is a small way to make a difference for the environment. Anything we missed about oil recycling? Tell us about it.
Last updated June 6, 2018