The basics of re-refined oil

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Engine Oil

Used engine oil is usually disposed of as toxic waste - but it can be recycled. Image from Flickr.

We all know that we are supposed to change the oil in our cars on a regular basis, but other than natural or synthetic, most people don’t usually think much about what oil goes in or comes out. Re-refined or re-processed oil is engine lubricant that is exactly what it sounds like — used oil that has been re-refined for reuse. How exactly is re-refined oil made, and is it safe for use in your car?

The process of re-refining oil

Petroleum oil does not wear out. Instead, as it circulates through an engine, it gets dirty. The additives that are in the oil do wear out, but the oil itself does not. When used motor oil is re-refined, it is put through much the same process as crude oil. The oil is cleaned, refined and re-blended with additives to create a product that is comparable to lubricants created with crude oil.

Make sure your re-manufactured oil is approved

While re-refined oil can be as clean, safe and effective, you should take a few extra precautions. Make sure that the re-refined oil you or your mechanic are using is American Petroleum Institute approved. API-approved oil is usually required under warranty protections, for one thing. API approved oil has also undergone stringent testing requirements that ensure it does what it is supposed to. Re-refined or not, you should never use an oil that has not been API approved. If you use a mechanic or even quick-lube service, check with them that they are using API approved oil, re-refined or not.

The benefits of re-refined oil

Re-refined motor oil has many benefits above and beyond lubricating your engine. Used motor oil is considered a toxic waste, and is usually disposed of in a variety of not-so-environmentally-friendly ways. Re-refining oil helps create a closed-loop system, where the nonrenewable resource of oil is constantly re-used. It takes one gallon of used motor oil to create 2.5 quarts of re-refined oil. The byproducts are used to power re-refining plants and create asphalt roof shingles. If all motor oil in the United States was re-refined, there would be enough recycled oil to maintain about 8 million vehicles per year.


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