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20 or 30 year old can of motor oil


FrankWest107
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Guest Skyking
Has anyone ever opened a 20 or 30 year old can of motor oil?

Does the oil still flow of has it become hard as tar??

I opened up some old Quaker State that was sitting probably that long and it was like new. I used it in my lawn mower.

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Has anyone ever opened a 20 or 30 year old can of motor oil?

1. Yes

Does the oil still flow of has it become hard as tar??

2a. Yes 2b. No

Would this be similiar to the consistence of oil you would find in an engine that has sat dormant for 20 or 30 years?

3. No, because it has not been used.

What it won't have is the additives that are in modern oil.

Terry

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Guest Gary Hearn

The oil was millions of years old before it made its way to the refinery. I doubt that spending the last 30 years in a can has significantly altered its lubricating properties.

I rebuilt the engine in a 1955 Chevrolet truck in 1974 and used oil that I had picked up from an Army surplus outlet that had been refined in the 1960's. The oil had no negative effect on the engine.

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A friend of mine got some "free" 45 gallon drums of motor oil, transmission fluid, and gear oil from an oil dealer (they were supposed to be contaminated by water).

He tilted the barrels so any water would run away from the pump, and used them for years. He was using oil in the late 70s that was refined in the mid fifties. It didn't deteriorate at all.

I have revived engines that were off the road for 30 years, who knows how old the oil in the crankcase was. But it was perfectly clean and fresh (all the dirt had sunk to the bottom). Started the engine, ran it for a while with no problems, then drained the oil.

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Oil does not deteriorate or wear out. It gets dirty and the additives wear out but not the oil. Greyhound bus lines had their own plant to rerefine motor oil, they used the same oil in their buses for years, they never threw it away. Of course they had to replenish what got burned, dripped off the engines, spilled etc so there was new oil entering the system, but some of the oil must have been used 100 times.

I was also told that in an engine the weaker oil molecules wear out first. During the refining process they get filtered out and discarded so the rerefined oil is better than new oil.

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The oil was millions of years old before it made its way to the refinery. I doubt that spending the last 30 years in a can has significantly altered its lubricating properties.

My sentiments exactly, plus this old oil has the zink and phosphates our older engines need. Sure would be nice to just be able to change oil instead of nowadays playing scientist by having to add those ingredients the oil companies at the request of our government have left out!

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The oil companies (virtually in unison) recommend NOT to use any oil more than 5 years old. Additives separate out and precipitate over time, with lighter components even able to sublimate through today's plastic containers*. If the container has been opened and is no longer sealed the 5 year figures is reduced to (in most cases) 2 years.

*Have you ever noticed that an old plastic container of 90W gear oil will appear slightly collapsed? This is why, and it even occurs with heavyweight lubes like 90W.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Does_motor_oil_have_a_shelf_life?#slide=1

http://forums.pelicanparts.com/porsche-911-technical-forum/530157-motor-oil-age.html

Edited by Dave@Moon
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Guest Tusler 49 New Yorker

When I worked on turbine engines in the Navy they also told us oil does not break down...even when engines are running in excess of 600 degC.

But what it does do is get dirty and even the micro particles oil picks up makes it destroy bearing and close tolerance surfaces and for that reason no matter how good the oil is it must be changed. So old oil sealed in a can should be good forever or until it is opened as far as its ability to lubricate.

Edited by Tusler 49 New Yorker (see edit history)
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My understanding is that oil itself dows not break down but does get dirty with use as has been noted above. The biggest concern with older oil - especially multi-weight oil is that the additives that give it those properties are what breaks down with time. The issue is really not time but tempurature cycles usually seen with long term storage in a garage or shed - so if one is inclined to keep oil around for any length of time best to store it at room temp where there is not a lot of fluctuation in the temp. After learning this, I tend to keep cases of oil no longer than one season and stored in my basement shop, usually a constant 70 or so as that is where the furnace happens to be.

That said, I still would still shy away from using very old oil in my car. I will say I have drained oil from cans older than 30 years to see it come out looking pretty darn good though.

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Just went through a similar situation on my 1917 Maxwell. Previous owner totally rebuilt motor in the 1960's and it was never started. I just started it for the very first time several weeks ago. Having seen the rod dipper tray rotted out on another engine years before I decided to remove the pan and check to see how the engine had faired in it's half century of slumber. Draining the oil was my first chance to see what was in the pan as my Maxwell has a float oil level and no dipstick. No water and the oil was crystal clear as new so I almost decided to forget removing the pan. Glad I went with my first instinct as when I removed the pan the oil had separated and left a thick layer of sludge on the clean oil pans bottom. I have no idea what lubricating qualities that two part oil had left nor do I have any idea what the sludge would have done to the oil system once the pump picked it up, maybe nothing but I'm glad I didn't risk my rebuilt motor for the price of 4 quarts of fresh oil.

Howard Dennis

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I had some oil cans that were of the cardboard type that sat on the shelf for several years. I couldn't use it as it was all over the floor and the cans that didn't deteriorate would crush if I used the old stab the lid opener spout. I used some by opening them with a regular beer can opener with no issues.

This was several cases that somehow got shoved to the back shelf. (glad that episode is over)

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In the 60's I worked at a gas station that sold Quaker State as the good oil and re-refined oil from some name I don't recall for about 1/2 the price of the good oil. The re-refined said it was just as good if not better than new oil. The buyers for the re-refined oil usually had a nice oil smoke coming from the exhaust so I don't think they worried to much about the lube quality. We also captured the drippings from the empty oil cans and sold it to those who were really didn't care at all about the quality.

Terry

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A couple of points:

1 - A simple shake of the can will tell whether or not the contents have become as "hard as tar." I am certain they have not.

2 - In the early days of automobiling, up to the early 60's, it was not at all uncommon to be able to buy re-refined (a.k.a. used) motor oil at gas stations. It was dispensed in quart glass bottles with a spout on top, kept in a rack by the pumps. (We may see those days again?)

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The oil was millions of years old before it made its way to the refinery. I doubt that spending the last 30 years in a can has significantly altered its lubricating properties.

I rebuilt the engine in a 1955 Chevrolet truck in 1974 and used oil that I had picked up from an Army surplus outlet that had been refined in the 1960's. The oil had no negative effect on the engine.

I LOVE IT!

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Guest Skyking
We also captured the drippings from the empty oil cans and sold it to those who were really didn't care at all about the quality.

Terry

Wow, Terry, you brought back some old memories. My brother owned an Atlantic gas station in the early 60's and we did the exact same thing. The oil rack was out between the pumps with Atlantic oil on it. I even remember 2cycle outboard motor oil along side the regular oil. The station was on the way to Narragansett Beach and people used to tow their boats, and stop for gas. Also the old Saabs used that oil too.

Edited by Skyking
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Guest Skyking
I opened up some old Quaker State that was sitting probably that long and it was like new. I used it in my lawn mower.

I still have the empty can plus 2 full ones.

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Guest Gary Hearn
I still have the empty can plus 2 full ones.

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Being a chain saw collector I couldn't help but notice your quart can of Oilzum. I have one squirreled away with my 3 racks of unopened STP from when Studebaker owned them. I think i still have one quart left of the Army surplus oil.

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Guest Skyking
Being a chain saw collector I couldn't help but notice your quart can of Oilzum. I have one squirreled away with my 3 racks of unopened STP from when Studebaker owned them. I think i still have one quart left of the Army surplus oil.

Actually it's an empty gallon of 90 wt. gear oil I had used over the years. I just keep the can.

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Blackstone Labs, an oil analysis company spent around a $1000 buying old oil off eBay a couple of years ago so they could analyses it. In general they found old oil to be fine but the additives have changed a lot over the years. Here are pointers to the 3 part story.

http://www.blackstone-labs.com/Newsletters/Gas-Diesel/April-1-2012.php

http://www.blackstone-labs.com/Newsletters/Gas-Diesel/June-1-2012.php

http://www.blackstone-labs.com/Newsletters/Gas-Diesel/October-1-2012.php

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Your 600W should be as good as when it was refined probably no additives. Contact your local brass car owners and it will disappear quick. Have a can that came with my car 35 years ago and still using it. Only oil I would worry about is a multigrade, pour it into a clear container to see if additives have separated out, if not should be ok.

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600W has been replaced by 90W. I checked with Pennzoil about 15 years ago when I was flushing some long neglected rear ends.

40 years ago I used 600W oil in the lubrication cups for babbit journal bearings on blowers in a mid century forge shop I maintained. Sometimes it was referred to as steam oil for use on locomotives and railroad car packing boxes.

It works real good with those open chain drive cars. They meter out a flow as they drive. In the teen's the drip lube system helped keep the dust down on dirt roads. Today it would just drw the attention of those EPA guys in green trucks.

Of course with summer coming on a little torque tube ball drip can be helpful on Woodchuck Hollow Road:

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Bernie

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Your 600W should be as good as when it was refined probably no additives. Contact your local brass car owners and it will disappear quick. Have a can that came with my car 35 years ago and still using it. Only oil I would worry about is a multigrade, pour it into a clear container to see if additives have separated out, if not should be ok.

Anyone want it? MA.

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