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motor oil

Household Motor Oil and Transmission Fluid

It is illegal to discard used motor oil or transmission fluid in the trash, on the ground, or into sewers. Used oil and oil filters can contain toxic substances that can have negative consequences for local waterways. Improperly disposed motor oil from just one oil change can contaminate up to a million gallons of water.

Motor oil doesn’t wear out — it just gets dirty. The oil you take to a collection center to be recycled can be made into re-refined lubricating oils that meet the same standards as virgin motor oil. Or, it can be reprocessed and used in furnaces for heat, or in power plants to generate electricity. The American Petroleum Institute (API) estimates that only 10 percent of the 400 million gallons of used oil generated annually by car owners who do their own oil changes is recycled.


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Check your car’s owner’s manual for guidance on oil change frequency. Change your oil at the interval recommended, and not before. Most cars can safely go much longer than the 3,000-mile interval we all think is the rule for oil changes.

Maintain your vehicle regularly to avoid fluid leaks.

Consider installing synthetic lubricants. Synthetic oil, while more expensive than traditional lubricating oil, offers longer intervals between oil changes without compromising engine life. It also keeps your engine cleaner and reduces engine wear.

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Buy re-refined oil for your next oil change. Re-refined oil is subject to the same stringent refining, compounding, and performance standards as virgin oil. The NYC Department of Sanitation uses re-refined oil in all of its vehicles, from passenger cars to garbage trucks and snow plows. Before buying a re-refined oil product, check to see that it has the API Service Symbol leaving NYCWasteLess, which identifies the performance level, viscosity, and energy-conserving properties. Contact your local auto supply retailers for more information.

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Bring used motor oil and transmission fluid to service stations that change oil. These businesses are required to accept up to five gallons of used motor oil per day, per person at no charge. If a NYC service station or retailer refuses your used oil, contact the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation leaving NYCWasteLess or call 1-800-TIPP DEP (1-800-847-7332).

Recycle used motor oil, and oil filters, and transmission fluid by taking them to any NYC Department of Sanitation Household Special Waste Drop-Off Site or upcoming SAFE disposal events.

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