What's the shelf life of engine oil? 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. In recent years, engine oil specifications have changed every 12 to 24 months. An oil that is a number of years old is simply not formulated to meet the requirements set for newer engines. If you discover unopened containers of engine oils that are more than three years old, read the labels to make sure they meet the latest industry standards. If they meet the current standards, you should take the extra precaution of obtaining oil analysis before using them. An oil analysis check for key properties will ensure that the oils meet the original manufacturing specs. If the oils do not meet the original manufacturing specs, they should be discarded. That means taking plastic jugs to your local recycling center for disposal. If you have unused drums, contact your oil distributor for disposal.