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Storing oil

In the right conditions, a bottle of oil can stay good for years

Occasionally, a farm store will have a good deal on motor oil and it’s not a bad idea to stock up to save money. But, you may be wondering about the shelf life of oil, and the best way to store it.

Jim Wills is a biosystems engineering professor at the University of Tennessee. He says ideally, keep oil in a cool, dry place where the temperature is relatively stable.

"As the temperature changes, as it gets cold, oil thickens up. And as it gets hot, it gets thin. Heat is not a problem, but the cold might be," says Wills. "Oil can actually get so cold that it turns into wax and it won't flow. So keeping it above freezing but under 100-degrees, and in a cool, dry place is an ideal way to store the oil."

Wills says don't worry too much about shelf life. Oil can sit there a long time.

"I've used oil that's been sitting around for 15-20-years. As long as the can is sealed up, or the bottle is sealed up, the only thing you need to do if it's been stored for a long time is to kind of shake it and mix it back up because some of the additives may settle out over a long period of time," says Wills. "But the quality of the oil itself is not affected."

Several additives are added to synthetic motor oils to increase their shelf life. But keep in mind that as years pass, unused oil can become obsolete if it doesn't meet the technical requirements of current engines.

Wills says if you open up a container of oil but only use a portion of it, make sure it's sealed back up. Dust, dirt, or other contaminants that get inside the container could affect the oil quality. Also be sure to watch for any leaks that develop. Properly dispose of a dripping container, and wipe up spilled oil.

Learn more about extended storage of synthetic motor oils

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