How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven? (Here Is Why)

How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven

A lot of people incorrectly assume that if they are not driving their vehicle, they don’t have to worry about changing their oil.

They seem to believe that the oil in their vehicle is going to last forever. After all, if the oil is not lubricating anything, how can it break down? Well, it can. Let’s explain.

How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven?

Oil in a vehicle that isn’t being used is still going to break down. It may not get as dirty as oil that is being constantly pumped through that vehicle, but a chemical reaction is going to happen.

The oil in your vehicle is going to start reacting with the compounds that are floating around in it. The heat of being stored in the vehicle is going to break down the oil too.

This means that the oil is going to end up being thick. If the oil starts to thicken up, then it can’t really do the job that it is supposed to be doing.

Now, it is impossible for us to tell you how long this process takes. It will all be dependent on the conditions that your vehicle is stored in, how much the oil was used before, and even the type of oil that you are using.

However, if your oil has been sitting inside of your vehicle unused for more than a few months, then it may be time to give it a change.

Read also >> How Much Oil Should A Car Burn Between Oil Changes?

Read also >> How Much Should You Top Off Oil? (All You Need To Know)

Read also >> Is Replacing Engine Oil The Same As An Oil Change?

How Often Should You Change The Oil In a Car You Rarely Drive?

It is suggested that even if your vehicle is rarely being driven, you should still change the oil frequently. This means once every 6 months.

Obviously, you don’t have to change the oil if it is just sitting in your vehicle and the vehicle is in storage. Although, some people may want to drain it away before they place a vehicle into storage. It will help to protect the vehicle’s interior components a little bit more.

However, make sure that you add new oil to your vehicle before you drive it again! If you don’t, then you will probably end up killing your engine.

If you are driving your vehicle infrequently, then stick to an oil change every six months or so. If your vehicle has been in storage for longer than 6 months, then change the oil as soon as it comes out of storage.

There is no guarantee that you will actually need to change the oil. Some oil won’t break down that quickly. However, since an oil change is fairly inexpensive, you may as well do so. What’s the worst that can happen?

Worse things will actually happen if you do not have oil that has broken down, and the vehicle starts to pump it through the system. 

How Do You Know That You Need To Change The Oil?

As we said, if it has been more than 6 months since your last oil change, even if your vehicle has been in storage for that long, then you will need to change the oil.

Simple as that. Don’t even bother looking at the oil. Just change it. As we said, it is not that expensive to do, and it will save you a whole load of cash from the issues that broken down oil could change.

In fact, we would recommend that you switch out the oil if your vehicle has been in storage for just a few months, even if you haven’t hit that golden 6-month limit. It will benefit you.

Of course, you could also look for the telltale signs that your vehicle’s oil may need swapping out. The same stuff that you would be looking for should your vehicle be driven normally here.

This means:

  • If the check engine light comes on.
  • If you smell oil inside the vehicle
  • If the oil is a dark, dirty color.
  • You have smoke rather than water vapor coming out of the exhaust.

Can You Change The Oil Yourself?

Absolutely. Changing out oil in a vehicle isn’t all that difficult. It is a job that should take no more than 30-minutes to an hour. However, you should make sure that you choose the right oil for your vehicle. If you don’t, then you will end up causing yourself all sorts of issues.

That being said, if your vehicle has been in storage for a while, the oil isn’t the only thing that you need to worry about. A lot can happen to a vehicle in storage.

Therefore, we suggest that you take your vehicle to a garage. You should mention to them that your vehicle has been in storage for a while.

This way, they can have a look over your vehicle and ensure that none of the issues often related to long-term vehicle storage are there e.g. rust on the chassis of the vehicle, etc.

So, yes. While you can change the oil yourself, it isn’t something that we would recommend. Not because we don’t believe in you, but because a vehicle in long-term storage is prone to all sorts of issues that need to be identified and fixed.

If you do not know what you are looking for here, then you won’t be able to fix the problem, and you are only going to cause yourself bigger problems later on.


It is impossible to say how long oil in a car not driven will last. It could potentially last years. However, this isn’t to say that you can drive a vehicle as soon as you pull it out of storage.

We always recommend that you have an oil change carried out if it has been at least 6 months since your last oil change, even if you have not driven that vehicle.

If you do not have an oil change carried out, then you could have thicker oil running through the system, which can kill the engine. 


Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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