How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven? Know The Truth

A vehicle that sits idle for a long time needs careful maintenance. In your maintenance procedure, engine oil is an important thing that you should care for properly. Basically, as you know, you need to change your oil based on time intervals or mileage. But how long does oil last in a car not driven? It’s an important question that you must know.

Some car owners think a gathering dust idle vehicle doesn’t need to change the oil. Is this thought correct? As an automotive specialist, we say whether you drive or not, you should follow your oil change interval. However, let’s know the truth and more information about this topic.

How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven

How Long Can Oil Sit In an Engine?

Amazing question! An engine can give, take, and hold the oil for over six months. Although the shelf life of unused engine oil is 3-5 years, inside the unused engine oil life is about six months. Unused old oil that has become dry can’t lubricate your engine correctly and safely. Hence, it allows your engine to seize and overheat. Do you not actually know how long your vehicle has been sitting unused? Just check your motor oil’s quality.

Additionally, if you see a gritty texture or dark color oil, don’t think about it; just change your oil. Besides this, you can notice engine knocking, vapor coming from the pipe, check engine light, and decreased fuel economy. Remember that don’t add new oil on top of your old oil.

How Long Does Oil Last In a Car Not Driven?

The lifespan of oil in a car is not driven; most people want to know about it. The truth is that if a vehicle does not drive regularly, its oil doesn’t spend its life infinitely. Mainly, your oil will last about six months if you have not driven your car for a long time. Thus, this lifespan may vary due to various factors like storage situations, oil type, and environmental conditions.

Ticking Clock:

Basically, your car’s oil is like a ticking clock that counts the next required oil change days. Though mileage is used to understand oil change intervals, it isn’t only a way to understand oil life. Timing plays a crucial role that can help to know the proper oil change time.


Climate is also a fact that determines how long your oil lasts. For example, if you store your car in a hot, humid climate, your oil will degrade quickly.

Oil Type:

Oil type is another factor that you should consider—synthetic oils last longer than traditional oils. Cars conditions and how you store when you aren’t used also contribute. The condition of the vehicle and how it is stored when not in use also contribute. A car parked in a well-ventilated, temperate garage is more favorable than an open, outdoor area.

Important Note:

This brief oil life discussion emphasizes regular oil changes’ importance, no matter how little or how much your vehicle is driven. Generally, oil change is not just a matter of miles covered but of elapsed time. Staying ahead with timely oil changes helps your vehicle’s engine be always protected whether you use it or not.

What happens if you don’t Get An Oil change?

Need to change the oil or replace oil after a certain period? It can decrease the car’s operating performance and cause more severe difficulties that shorten your engine’s life.

Debris Buildup

When the engine runs, many particles, impurities, and deposits will build up in your oil. Furthermore, the oil filter gets clogged, and old oil will drain through the drain valve.  Additives in lubricants with anti-rust effects will be ineffective, and the lubricating ability is poor. Hence, your machine will be protected if you change the oil regularly.

Risky Emissions

Old oil tends to make environmentally dangerous emissions and quickly burn the oil. In contrast, timely change of the oil can decrease environmental contamination. The reason is that collecting dirt emissions and burning the oil can’t help. Automotive experts say that regular oil changes will expand the engine’s oil life. The new engine’s first oil life change will be 1k km, and the next oil change time will be 5k.

Decrease Friction:

The oil viscosity will reduce friction on the engine’s metal surfaces. The machine can’t operate appropriately during this time and makes the worst noise. When you forget to change the oil and drive, the engine wears out quickly and loses operating power.

Damages Motor

The oil not used for a long time does not provide the best lubricating performance. Due to this, your engine will wear out quickly, impacting essential parts of your machine. In general, when your car needs an oil change, it shows symptoms like loud noise, overheating, and hard start.

How Long Does Synthetic Oil Last if Not Driven?

If you drive your car less than the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval, you should change your oil after 12 months. Likewise, if your manufacturer recommends a change at 10,000 miles and you cover this distance in 10 months, then change mileage. Nevertheless, if you drive infrequently, drive your car at least twice a month, bringing it to operating temperature.

Does car oil go bad if not used?

No. If your vehicle sits unused, dust and dirt can contaminate your oil. Motor oil deteriorates and becomes less effective if you don’t drive your car frequently. It will be damaged when you don’t use your vehicle for an extended period. However, the best remedy for an idling car is to drive it every week and let the engine run for 20 minutes. Drive it around your house at 50 MPH.

Typically, if the oil circulates, it will warm and pass through the oil filter. This path will help keep the oil working and help to keep your car battery from dying. Yet, if your car has been sitting for some time, check your oil. Usually, if you see it’s dirty, it’s best to change your oil before starting. Moreover, if you forget to change your oil, immediately you should change it. You put your car in the garage doesn’t mean you don’t need to change your oil.

Still, it’s challenging for those who only clock a few miles on their vehicle in a year. As a solution, we recommend at least annual oil changes or even semi-annual oil changes. Regardless, ensure your oil doesn’t degrade depending on how much you drive.

Should You Change Oil If A Car Has Been Sitting?

Yes, if your car has been sitting for a long time, you should change the oil. When a vehicle is idling, the oil can break down and can’t lubricate the engine properly. Experts suggest changing your engine oil every six months.

And it would help if you changed it, regardless of mileage, to ensure your machine is properly lubricated. Above all, some factors determine whether or not you should change oil if your car has been sitting. Have a look:

First, you need to know how long the car has been sitting. That means it’s an essential factor to determine whether you need to change oil or not. Usually, if your vehicle has been sitting for some weeks and months, you won’t need to change it. In contrast, if you last used your car six months ago or more, you should change your car.

Oil Type

Another factor is oil type, meaning what oil is used in your car. If you use synthetic oil, it will last longer and protect your engine than conventional oil. Ergo, you don’t need to change if you use synthetic oil and have been sitting for a few months. Conversely, the traditional oil is the early breakdown. Even if you use it briefly, you need to change it.

Oil Condition

Adequately, oil condition is the crucial factor that you should determine. Well, after sitting in your car for a long time, if your oil is dirty, you should change your oil. It’s because any dirt and garbage can damage your engine. But if your oil looks clean and the color is good, you don’t need to change your oil. Alternatively, if you are unsure about the oil condition, it’s best to change it.

Final Word

In summary, how long does oil in the last car not driven? You may now get an answer. Accordingly, if your vehicle sits idle more often than it’s moving, you must change your oil. Why is it required? The reason is that unused oil will go wrong, damaging your engine.

Regular oil changes can clean your machine and prevent oil breakdown. Lastly, identifying the oil problem signs and regularly changing oil is crucial, whether you drive or not. At last, we hope this blog post will help you to get a solution and know more information. Thanks for reading.

Check: How Long Can You Go Without An Oil Change After It’s Due


I am Engr. Z Eusuf Lubricant Specialist, Mechanical Engineer & has been working with engine lubricants for a long time and knows what makes them work best. I can help you find the right oil for your needs, and I have tips on how to keep your engine running at its best.