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Engine Oil Shelf Life

Does engine oil in an unopened container have a shelf life? I have some quarts of oil that are 5 years old, the containers are still sealed, would I be ok using them in my next oil change?

The question is not whether the oil is still good, but rather if that old oil is the proper specification for a car that is newer than 5 years old.

Check your Owner’s Manual for the specification of the oil for your car, and compare that with the oil cans. If it is equivalent (or more recent) than the spec mentioned in the manual, then it is safe to use.

The oil spec for new cars is “SM”, if I recall correctly. That can also be used in older cars. But, if that old oil sitting on your shelf is, let’s say, “SJ” oil, and your car requires “SK”, “SL”, or “SM” oil, it should not be used.

Also, be sure that it is the proper viscosity for your engine. This information can also be found in your Owner’s Manual.

A sealed can of engine oil lasts forever. Literally.

I just want to endorse both VDC and Steve in case the OP wants a second opinion.

I have oil from the early 1990s that I am still using; can detect no problem.

Your older oil may actually be better for an older engine than the current SM oil which is very low in extreme pressure anti wear metallic compounds (ZDDP) which tend to poison catalytic converters. Other than that, older oil should be OK for newer engines as long as you use a viscosity that is permitted in your owner’s manual.

Newer engines have roller cam followers (valve lifters) which do not need ZDDP as older engines with flat face cam followers do. There is some talk about SM oils being responsible for flat face cam follower failures in high performance engines. Google “SM oil flat face cam followers” for more on this.


Agree with other posters. Unlike food and drugs, oil stays fresh in a sealed can. Just make sure it is the right viscosity and grade designation, as stated.