Does Oil Have A Shelf Life?

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Mar 26, 2004
I apologize if this is a dumb question, but here goes....

My questions is...does oil have a shelf life where after a certain point it doesn't provide as good as protection as it would have when it was first produced? If so, what would be the normal "shelf life" for automotive based oils?

What I'm getting at is I'm like alot of people, if I find a good deal on oil products, I like to stock pile it for later use. Of course later use might be days, months, or several years without being poured into your vehicle.

My opinion would be yes,....but I have no clue as to how to calculate this. Of course, my opinion is based on seeing expiration dates and best used by dates on other household products, medicines, etc...

This has been discussed in several threads over the past couple years here at BITOG and I don't think a conclusive answer was ever arrived at. do a search because they are quite interesting threads.

One thing, the rating (SH, SJ, SL) will become outdated (not bad, but superceded) after a couple years or so. Right now the current SL is about to be superceded by SM, but it is debatable as to whether SM will really be better.

I would recommend that you keep the long term oil storage in the basement where temperatures don't get so extreme. I heard that subfeezing storage can reduce the effectiveness of the pour point depressants and thus may decrease the oil's winter propereties. Also high heat, say above 70F is not as good I've heard. I keep most of my oil in the celler and leave what I will use next in the garage.
It was determined or concluded or concocted that oil has a very long shelf life.....way more than 5 years, as long as it is tightly closed and away from extreme temperatures.
Yeah this is one of those questions where they may be many answers or no answer at all. Its hard to say whether there is set time frame on storage of motor oil. Oil is not like batteries, medicine, or food items where there is an expiration date. If oil did have a certain storage time, it should say how long the shelf life. Usually I don't stock up on motor oil because I wasn't so sure what the shelf life is. What would be interesting is that maybe synthetic oils have a longer shelf life compared to conventional. I have heard that you can store oil for around 2-3 years and also hear that they don't have a expiration time. I'll believe that as long as the oil has not been open and its sealed, it should last for a while but will eventually expire. I guess the copyright year thing on the bottom tells you how new the oil is. Not so sure what the auto stores do with the oils that are left on the shelf for a long time, usually they have it on clearance items. There was a topic recently about this issue, check it out and hope you can find the answer or perhaps some findings.
The Mobil Supersyn in the sealed top 5 quart jugs will store for 10 years per Mobil if kept indoors w/o heavy ambient swings .

One year for the Mobil after opening .

They have also told me about quart storage of their SS oil but me forgets

I ran some 5 year old Phillips PAO blend over the winter in the mother in laws car w/o nary a problem and for 4 years it was in a unheated/cooled warehouse so it saw 15f - 110f+ temps .
I have some SJ rated oil with a copyright of 1998 that I will be running this summer. Not worried at all. Maybe even have a little more zinc phosphorus than the newer SL. My truck is rated to run on SH anyway.

They sell these special corks for wine whereby you can pump the air out of the bottle. If you use only part of a quart of oil you can squeeze the bottle until the oil is near the top, cap it tight, and it will be like a new bottle with very little air in it. Does it matter? Who knows. But it is a conversation starter to have a mangled bottle of oil on the shelf.
Any climate amenable to human life is perfectly fine for unused, sealed motor oil prolonged storage. This is motor oil, people, not liquid nitrogen-hypered fine grain color emulsion film for short exposure astrophotography. This gook sat heated in the ground under tremendous pressure for several million years after the carcasses of whatever it originated from rotted topside and oozed downward until it hit impenetrable rock. Its trip through a fractional distillation column and subsequent incubation in a high heat/high pressure catalytic hydro-cracker weren't exactly cake walks either.

[ April 06, 2004, 03:06 PM: Message edited by: Ray H ]
1. "Technically, engine oils have shelf lives of four to five years. However, as years pass, unused engine oils can become obsolete and fail to meet the technical requirements of current engines."

2. On their website, STP lists the shelf life of ALL their fuel and oil additives as "indefinite."

3. All such guidelines assume tightly capped containers, of course. (Us folks would wonder why anyone would need to state this, but a friend of mine actually didn't know it, leaving uncapped oil around for his mower. I gave him a dollar so he could go out and "get a clue.")
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