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Does Oil Go Bad Sitting in an Engine?

If you haven't been using your car a lot lately - you're not alone. Many Americans have been sheltering in place and distancing themselves from public places in the midst of our current pandemic. With the decrease in travel and staying home more often, you may find that your vehicle isn't being used, either not much or at all. 

We've gotten this question a few times recently, and wanted to share our take on it - does oil go bad sitting in an engine? We get this question from car owners who haven't used their cars in weeks and are worried if they need to have an oil change sooner than planned. Let's look at some of the effects that an idle vehicle can have on the engine oil and whether or not it goes bad while sitting unmoved. 

What can happen to your car's engine oil if you don't drive for weeks at a time? Engine oil is notoriously for breaking down quickly - that is why you have to have an oil change more frequently than any other service. It also tends to get dirty fast, considering it's circulated throughout a dirty engine. So, if you aren't using your car, does the engine sit untouched and unaffected? 

The answer is, no. If your vehicle is sitting unused, dirt and dust can still dirty the engine oil. Another thing that can happen is moisture can begin to build up, especially if your car is in a damp or cold area such as a garage. What happens is the moisture contaminates the engine oil, which causes it to be much less effective and can rush or corrode interior engine parts if circulated. 

Now, does the engine oil go bad? Not necessarily. However, the best medicine for an idle vehicle is starting it up every week and letting the engine run for a good 20 minutes. Take it for a drive around your home and try to reach up to 50 MPH if possible. When the engine oil circulates, it warms up and passes through the oil filter. This will help the oil stay effective and this also helps prevent your vehicle's battery from dying (totally different topic, but also a concern for idle vehicles). 

If your car has been sitting idle for a while, we recommend checking your engine oil with the dipstick. If it looks dirty, you should change it before driving your car. Also, change it if you're due for one. Just because you aren't driving your car, doesn't mean you don't need an oil change at your car's interval. 

If you're due for an oil change, we invite you to our shop here at Auto Clinic Care. Even if you aren't sure if you need one, we can take a look and give you our expert opinion on whether or not the engine oil should be changed. Give us a call or stop by our Rockville oil change shop today! 

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