How to Burn Used Motor Oil

Updated March 23, 2017

One gallon of used oil can contain up to 140,000 British thermal units, or BTUs, the unit of heat required to raise one gallon of water one degree Fahrenheit. By comparison, one cubic foot of natural gas contains around 1,000 BTUs. Burning your used motor oil instead allows you to dispose of it in a useful way, generating heat for your home or small indoor work space. To properly burn your used motor oil, you will need to make sure that you own a heater or boiler capable of burning used motor oil and its additives.

Drain used motor oil from your motor into a plastic container. Oil draining procedures will vary based on the style of operational machinery that uses the motor. Reference the owner’s guide for your piece of machinery for specific instructions on draining the motor oil.

Empty the plastic container of used motor oil into the fuel barrel of your waste oil heater. Waste oil heaters work similarly to other boilers and heaters that combust oil, but are specially designed to handle the high viscosity of motor oil. Waste oil heaters can also better withstand the extreme temperatures required to burn motor oil, as motor oil generally contains additives which raise the oil’s burning temperature.

Preheat the combustion chamber of your waste oil heater to begin the oil combustion process. Fill the combustion chamber with old, wadded up newspaper and 1/3 cup of kerosene. Drop a match inside of the combustion chamber to start these materials on fire.

Keep dry sand or dirt near your waste oil heater in case of emergency. If for any reason the oil should begin to catch on fire, smother the flames entirely with the dry sand or dirt. Water should not be used when trying to stop an oil fire.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic container
  • Machinery owner’s manual (if necessary)
  • Waste oil heater
  • Old newspaper
  • 1/3 cup kerosene
  • Match
  • Dry sand or dirt
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