Does Motor Oil Go Bad If Frozen?

Motor oil is essential in the proper maintenance of vehicles. That's why it is a must-have for vehicle owners. However, many people just keep them in the garage or trunks of their cars. These places are easily affected by the weather outside unless the owners had them properly insulated. Thus, a common concern among vehicle owners is what would happen to their stock of lubricants in case they freeze during the winter months. Don't worry because we've done the research and here's what we found out.

Motor oil can go bad when exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Their chemical properties may deteriorate making them ineffective in their primary purpose of lubricating engine parts which could lead to damages.

Continue reading because we'll tell you more about what happens to motor oils when they freeze and the problems that can occur because of this. We'll also share with you tips and recommendations regarding the proper storage of these oils as well as the best motor oil that you can use during the cold winter months.


One closed brown liquid from engine oil in a glass bottle on white snow on a green background. Does Motor Oil Go Bad If Frozen

What happens to Motor oil when it Freezes?

With the four kinds of motor oils available in the market that are fully synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional, and high mileage motor oil; each vehicle owner may require a different motor oil depending on his car's engine type, mileage, and driving habits. But no matter what type you need, it always pays to have one on hand so that you can use it to lubricate your engine as part of its regular maintenance.

When the weather gets cold, motor oil does not actually freeze rock solid but it turns into a thicker substance. They are not able to form into ice crystals but they become denser and better able to resist flowing motion. They become more viscous and lose the energy to move smoothly along the passageways. That's why sometimes it seems like they're not moving at all.

When this happens, it won't be able to flow through parts that need lubrication to function properly. Your car battery has to work harder to be able to pump oil to these parts and this causes problems on the engine.

What problems can cold motor oil cause?

Cold motor oil has high viscosity. It means it won't be able to flow smoothly inside your car's engine. When this happens, it won't be able to perform its primary purpose of lubricating moving parts to reduce friction amongst them. There is more abrasion and grinding which advances the wear and tear of the engine.

The thicker cold motor oil can also block certain passageways or since it moves slower, it won't be able to get to the vital parts to give them the protection that they need.

These instances can take their toll on your engine. Eventually, too much wear and tear will lead to engine failure and costly repairs.

How long does motor oil last in storage?

Garage corner with three red plastic fuel can and a motor oil container

Oil companies say that the shelf life of unopened motor oil can last anywhere between 2 and 5 years. This is of course assuming that it has been stored properly and wasn't exposed to extreme temperatures.

But motorists are encouraged to use their motor oil within a reasonable amount of time and won't have to wait until the 5th year. This is because no one can say exactly until when the oil will stay in its peak quality. Each day, it is exposed to different conditions which will cause particular changes in its properties and can affect its performance. This is why it is important to keep your oil in a cool and dry place with a stable temperature so that you can get the most out of its performance.

As for motor oils that have been opened already, you should use the remaining amount within a year after opening. Make sure that it is kept properly in its original container so that it won't be contaminated

How to tell if your motor oil is expired

Here are some telltale signs that let you know if you should discard your motor oil:

  • Dark color is a sign of oxidation. This can make the oil more viscous and acidic.
  • Hazy or milky appearance can indicate water or dirt contamination.
  • Thick to almost solid consistency. This won't be able to flow smoothly.
  • Separation of substances in the oil. The deposits won't be dissolved anymore and can cause blockage when used.

When you notice these changes in the quality of your motor oil, it is best to throw it away rather than risk damage to your car's engine and pay for expensive repairs.

Can motor oil be stored in freezing temperatures?

It is not recommended to store your motor oil in freezing temperatures. According to automotive experts, lubricants should be kept in a place where there's a stable temperature. This means it can't be exposed to extreme heat or cold as this could cause changes in its chemical properties and ultimately affect its effectiveness and performance.

This reminder is especially relevant for those who live in areas usually affected by extreme weather conditions. This is also the reason why it's not advisable to keep your oils in your garage or inside the trunk of your car. These places can get really hot or cold depending on the weather outside.

How cold does it have to be for motor oil to freeze?

Oil doesn't really freeze when exposed to low temperatures, unlike other liquids. But their texture and consistency take on an almost solid form, making them incapable of flowing out of the container and inside the engines. This usually happens when the temperature reaches -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

But even at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, changes are already happening especially on the viscosity level of the oil. You will notice at this point that it doesn't flow as smoothly as before and it would seem like there's a lot of friction as it moves. This happens because the molecules bind together to form a thicker substance and as such, they offer more resistance to flowing motion.

Woman driver standing next to car and holds motor oil container in winter

How do you keep motor oil from freezing?

The best way to keep your motor oil stock from freezing is ensuring that it's kept in a temperature controlled room inside your home.

As for the motor oil in your car's engine, you have to use one that's suitable for winter driving. Motor oils with lower viscosity grades are better able to handle the cold and will still flow inside your engine to ensure that it functions properly.

It is also important to winterize your car. You can use antifreeze or coolants to help prevent your car's engine from freezing during winter. These substances will keep your vehicle's temperature at a manageable level even when it's cold outside. There are pre-mixes available in automotive shops, but it is always best to check your car manufacturer's recommendation regarding the right formulation before using these products.

Click this link to find this Valvoline Antifreeze/Coolant on Amazon.

What is the best motor oil for winter?

It is recommended to use winter-grade motor oils during the cold winter months to avoid engine issues that are caused by motor oil that has become thick and sluggish. This kind of oil is lighter and more fluid even under cold temperatures. Since it can flow better, it can get the job done. It will ensure that every moving part of your engine is well lubricated and function properly.

You will notice that motor oil that is suitable to use for winter driving has the letter W in its name or title. W stands for winter. In general, the lower the number that precedes W, the lower its viscosity and the better it will perform in cold weather.

For example, you'll compare the performance of 5W-30 and 10W-30 for cold-weather driving. 5W-30 is expected to do better than 10W-30 because of its lower viscosity rating.

Because of this, many automotive experts suggest using 5W motor oils for winter. These petroleum products can flow more smoothly during cold weather and will give your engine the protection it needs under this condition. But there are also synthetic oils that have been given 0W ratings. These are specially formulated for winter driving so you can check them out as well.

However, it is still best to check your vehicle owner's manual for the proper viscosity grade to follow for each changing season so that you can optimize its performance.

Check out Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil 5W-30 on Amazon.

Final Thoughts

It is important to store your motor oil properly so that its quality won't deteriorate especially when there are temperature changes. Make sure also that you do the necessary steps to winterize your vehicle so that everything will be smooth and running when you're winter driving. Remember, an ounce of prevention is always better than cure. It's always better to save your car and yourself from costly repairs and get the best performance from your engine.

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