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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Your car's oil is already 100 million years old-another year won't kill it | Hagerty Media

Hythem Zayed writes: I own a 1965 Mustang with a V-8. From March through October, I drive it about once a week. In the winter months, I start it every week and let it run for 15 minutes. At most, I put a couple hundred miles on the car each year.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/the-hack-mechanic/your-cars-oil-is-already-100-million-years-o...
38 REPLIES 38
Utopia1
Detailer

I know there are so many school's of thought on the subject of how often to change the oil in an infrequently driven car. From early May to mid-October, my car gets about 2,000 km (about 1,300 miles) of use on average. I change the oil on the day that I put in into winter storage and then don't touch the car until the day that it comes out of storage. I use Mobile1 synthetic oil. I feel that one dry start in the spring is better than several cold starts over the winter with just idling that will pollute the oil with gasoline and condensation. I can't bring myself to let oil stay in my car for more than one year. Cheap insurance.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

This is what I do, but I tend to put about 2,000+ on the car and use conventional oil. I used to change it in the Spring when I took it out for the season, but I don't like all that contamination sitting in the crankcase all winter so I switched to a fall oil change.
Magnumcello
Pit Crew

I do the same thing with the Chevy motor on my boat's Mercruiser...Except for one detail. When I do the Oil Change, I refill the crankcase about 1/2 quart shy of the full mark. Just before starting it up for the first time in the spring, I pour in that final 1/2 quart. That way I can be confident that the top end is sufficiently lubricated while waiting for the the oil pump to catch up.
knucklebusted
Intermediate Driver

My two Buicks sit in a heated, cooled and dehumidified garage when not being driven. From late November to early March, they sit on battery tenders and are not started. I won't start one if I'm not going to drive it. I figure the start and lack of full heat cycle is harder than letting them sit.

I check the oil regularly for smell of fuel and usually change it every 1,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. It always looks good. I place a magnet on the oil filter and cut them apart to see how the parts are wearing.

My long term storage spare engine gets 1/4 turn of the crank every few months. I should pop the rocker arms loose instead but I keep thinking I'll used it any time.
Tim
Instructor

I haven't owned many vehicles that would sit for an extended period, but I most closely follow your plan. That is, I never change oil based on time alone. I feel like people feel the need to invent a reason why we need to continue changing oil frequently. First, it was because engines actually required it. But as oils and engines improved to extend change intervals, seemingly myriad old wives tales arose to quash that. I've never had an engine rebuild or even major engine work on any vehicle I've owned. I can't even begin to calculate the money and man-hours saved. Preventative work is good but paranoia work is a waste. It's good to be able to separate the two.
BMD4800
Instructor

I have gotten unheard of mileage out of MOPAR automatics through fanatically religious fluid changes with a total exchange system. I followed the worst-case maintenance schedule, zero issues.
auto-mark
Pit Crew

You'll hear (read) all kinds of opinions on oil changes. I'm in agreement with any change cycle that's more vs. less frequent, and I tend to follow Rob's direction on my collector cars that sit dormant for months. I'd challenge the idea of simply starting and running the engine, and not driving the car. My opinion is it's best to "let sleeping dogs lie", once you've put them away for the winter. However if you live somewhere where weather and road conditions permit, at least a 20 minute (or more if it's really cold) drive is in order.
RallyeRalph
Intermediate Driver

The value of a car matters only if you plan on selling it. Original is best as my father ,who was a used car dealer, told me about 1952. Even if you are keeping it, a full change will cost a lot if completely stripped and if not, then every time you open the hood, maybe the door, the old color will jump out at you. A stone chip can show the original color and if your body man gets a call at work and forgets where he was prepping ( a not unusual occurence from my experience) the paint starts lifting down the road. The old saying that "the best makeup on a woman looks like she isn't wearing any" still applies. Speaking of color change ask me sometime about the orange XKE roadster with leopard skin top and interior I used to own. Talk about hard to sell!
Punk
Detailer

I'll buy it. Have you seen what even basket case E Types go for these days? LOL
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I used to own a light aircraft (320 CID horizontally opposed). I was taught that acids produced by blow-by build up in the oil over time. As a result, I (and every other owner I knew) changed the oil and filter once a year. I ran the engine around 100 hours every year.
OldRoad
Instructor

You are right and those acids attack gaskets and seals and then your asking, Where did that oil drop on the floor come from?
Alb
New Driver

This day and age if you want to do a color change do a wrap.
corbiator
New Driver

true!

V1121DZ
New Driver

A friend of mine that owns a 1969 COPO Camero told me he doesn't start his stored engines during the winter but he does "roll the engines over" with the starter every few weeks just to rotate all the moving parts & leave everything in a different position. Always seemed like a good idea to me, what do other gear heads think of this approach?
OldRoad
Instructor

If your storing a car or engine its good to keep your engine at TDC because either the valves are closed or they are at the beginning of open or at the end and just short of closing. In short, opened valves in storage are very hard on valve springs especially on engines with high lift and long duration cams.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

You can't keep all the pistons at TDC if there are more than 2 of them.
BMD4800
Instructor

With a very good quality oil they has at least 1500 ppm of zinc and phosphorus, not an issue.
Less than that, siting that long, I’d prime the oil pump, while rotating it over, before startup. I want a good film on the surfaces before those tight valve springs wipe a priceless original cam.
Punk
Detailer

When I bought my current E Type in 1990 it had already been repainted in an awful, non-Jaguar color, so it was a foregone conclusion that it was going to get stripped and painted from the metal up. But what color? Originally it was red. Does the world need another red Jag? I painted it the Jaguar color 'dark blue'. Its almost black but not quite. Then I took the saddle colored interior out and replaced it with light grey. Blue and grey on a roadster is absolutely lovely, gets tons of compliments, is somewhat unusual, and is still correct for how they were sold. Do what makes you happy on color, within reason!
Figuero
Intermediate Driver

Starting a car once every week from November - February and letting it idle for 15 minutes is doing more harm than good. Especially if you store the car in a cold space.
If you must start it, do it once a month and if possible get it run up to full operating temperature.

Assuming you are using cold winter storage, I would do an oil/filter change followed by an engine fogging right before the winter lay up and let it sit. Remove or disconnect the battery but keep it charged. That's what I do with our boat, but as others have said, it's all individual opinion.


Tinkerah
Technician

All the Chevy 8's I own are the cheapest part of whichever car they're in, and I'm not even sure how many spares I have. I change the oil and filter religiously - as soon as the oil light starts flickering.
BMD4800
Instructor

I had a wiped out engine in a g-body Malibu. 10w-30 was too thin for the wide tolerances in a warmed up engine with a 110 degree day. Used to flicker the light at idle. Switched to 15w-40 and all was well with the idiot light.
SJ
Advanced Driver

Waterboy1KHY80
Intermediate Driver

Man, none of my business, but, you can't beat an original manufacturer paint-job. If you decide to have it re-painted not only will you be loosing originality value as discussed, but the protection that the paint provides will be compromised. I say dont, man that car is beautiful.
TonyT
Instructor

As a point of reference, allow me to share what I have witnessed first hand:
1965 289, had sat undriven for about six months. Owner would "spin it over" every thirty days but not start it. When he decided to drive the car, he noted that the mechanical oil pressure gauge indicated fifteen to twenty PSI. The car was towed to our shop and a teardown revealed that the surface of the main and cam bearings looked like the surface of the moon. Acids that had formed consumed the bearing material and consequently the oil pressure was AWOL.
1970 El Camino, mildly built 454, roughly the same situation wherein the car was operated very sparingly. Three years and about one hundred miles after the engine was installed, the oil pressure gauge said "you need to leave me alone." Same deal, cratered bearings coupled with rust forming on the pushrods. The Chevy had Clevite bearings and a Comp Cams valve train (we didn't build the engine but the brand names were still visible on the affected parts) so it wasn't as though substandard parts were used. Our advice to both owners was to "pickle" the engine(s) prior to long-term storage. Change the oil, fill the fuel tank all the way up, remove the spark plugs and spray the cylinders liberally with Marvel Mystery Oil. Remove the carburetor, drain it and pour a little Marvel in it as well. A lot to go through for sure, but a little bit of effort doing those things outweighs an engine rebuild. Oh yeah, also fill the tires with nitrogen and then store the car off the floor or ground.
BMD4800
Instructor

Modern oil is death to flat tappet cams and engines of that era.
Just like everything else, the auto parts store oil isn’t what you need.
Need Zinc and Phosphorus well above the SJ allowable limits.
brians356
Detailer

Mobile 1 15W-50 has the desired 1200/1200 ZDDP levels we require for flat-tappet cars.
nesier
Pit Crew

Right on Bought a 69 GTO from an estate in Alberta (no salt) and got a great deal until I found low compression on #7 and 2 cam lobes all scored. The guy ran the wrong oil in it!!! Old motor needs Old classification oil !!! So we rebuilt it at .030 over with forged rods pistons and a hotter cam. It was still a good deal after completing only because of the overall vehicle condition and value. Take your compression tester with you when you shop even if it runs smooth--------
Tcoradeschi
Intermediate Driver

Please do let Mr Zayed know that starting his car once a week and letting it run for 15 minutes is one of the absolutely most harmful things he can possibly do to it. If you're going to start it, drive it. If you're not going to driver it, don't start it. You need to get the oil HOT and get it HOT long enough to evaporate off all the moisture and raw fuel (from startup) which is in it. Don't just drive it around the block. Get the engine up to temp and make sure it stays there for some reasonable (not gunna claim that there is a specific number) amount of time.
oldcars
Intermediate Driver

Lot of good advice here, but a couple unusual ones . Fogging the cylinders when you put it away is not necessary (it's already fogged from running) but if its sitting much more than one winter, lets say years, than once a year fogging cylinders is great. Cratered bearings from sitting over winter has to be the extreme. Not gonna happen if your motor really had oil in it. Love these scare tactics. "I have witnessed first hand" Misdiagnosed cause.
Rolling the engine over every few weeks. If it makes you feel good, but again not necessary. ( it's six months not years of storage)
" It's good to keep your engine at TDC" This may work for a one cylinder engine.
Not starting the engine unless it can be fully warmed up ( about 20 minute drive) is the best advice. That's not an opinion, it's a fact.
You should know if the oil needs changing.
oldcars
Intermediate Driver

I forgot one. For the person who wrote. "I change the oil and filter religiously - as soon as the oil light starts flickering. " What the heck does that mean.. you should investigate why your oil light is flashing
Bunka
Intermediate Driver

There are a few comments on here on why we change the oil, however, I did not see anything on effective or ineffective oil filtration. My oil filter is much more effective as an oil cooler than a filter. For each cycle through the engine, about 7 % of the oil gets filtered. In addition, the oil is actually routed to bypass the filter on a cold startup to go directly to the engine. ( 58 year old 4 cyl Porsche) After it reaches temperature a spring loaded piston sends the oil through its normal route where most of it still bypasses the filter. That is the prime reason for changing the oil often, lack of a full flow filter. I change it every 1,000 miles, which may be once or twice a year and exceeds factory recommendations. The filter gets changed every other oil change since it really doesn't get much use. Old cars may or may not have a full flow oil filter. Some don't even have an oil filter. Oil contamination and frequency of oil changes depends on the original engine design. Also, original factory recommendations are pretty much useless now due to the on going improvement of oil additives. However, they do provide hints as to factory design. It's pretty much a judgement call and you can't go wrong with frequent changes.
Will
Intermediate Driver

I can see one issue with the oil story..."I start it every week and let it run for 15 minutes." 15 minutes is not long enough to burn off any moisture created by getting the engine just barely to the warm state. It would be better not to start it at all, if 15 minutes is all the time you let it run. If I couldn't get it out due to weather or whatever, I would let it run for at least double that or not at all. I'm glad I live in the south, so I can drive my cars at least a few miles each month and let them run long enough to get up to temp for at least 30 minutes and let the transmission go through the gears a few times.
As for the life of the oil...Send a sample to www.Blackstone-Labs.com. They can test it and let you know way more than you ever wanted to know about the oil and the condition of the engine and if you can extend the life of the oil, the way you are driving/idling your car.
Blackstone Labs helped me rescue my V12 Jag. The previous owner had neglected to change the oil for way too long. It was way too black. It took three changes, 1000 miles apart, and now the oil tests perfectly normal, for the mileage on the car.
BMD4800
Instructor

Depending on the type of engine you have, there is more to it than just fresh oil, in the correct weight.

The additive pack is critical. For modern engines modern oil is good, but if your engine is older or has flat tappets, even with a catalytic converter, you need much more Zinc and Phosphorus, along with additional corrosion inhibitors. I’m not here to sell a brand, but there is much more to it than just clean, new oil. Especially on start-up after a long slumber.
Those wiped cam lobes and bearing surfaces may have been saved with a proper oil.
As to how often, if you are recycling the waste, don’t stress it. You probably spend more money on coffee and gas station confectionery.
brians356
Detailer

There are people who will tell you your oil will go bad in the sealed original container in a few years. That strikes me as crazy, but there it is. In your crankcase, try to get the oil temperature up to at least 185f for about 20 minutes, to boil off any water or other light compounds. This is per Lycoming air-cooled aero engine insrtructions.
560sec
New Driver

First of all don't just start and let the car idle, this rich condition washes down the cylinder walls and causes damage. Second if it's gonna sit for the winter let it sit, don't start it until your ready to drive it, don't idle it, just drive it easy until fully warm. Your engine doesn't know how long it's been since it last ran.
What you are doing is causing more damage. I've had classic Mercedes for 30yrs and never hurt an engine by doing the above. I was told by high end engine builders that idling until warm dose the most damage because of fuel wash down, driving moderately uses this extra fuel and no harm occurs it also warms the trans and rear end.
nesier
Pit Crew

Bought a used 4x4 chevy Blazer years ago Wife loved the rig---Hated the colour !!!! (butterscotch) 2 years later I take it to my brothers shop and sand blast it but good= Stripped it down and painted it white (a lot of work dismantling) Wife loved it after that If it is "ugly" might as well do it---or trade it for what you want Life is too short
hyperv6
Gearhead

The harsh truth is people way over think oil. Many test it but really have little clue what it means. Most can’t give you an answer for what the rating on the bottle means etc. Many are just so obsessed of out miles and time on oil. 

I worked in a bad part of town where I saw old and new cars subjected to things we here would cringe to see. First oil changes at nearly 80,000 miles.....Yes! 80,000. 

Now I am in no way endorsing abuse but I have been there and seen things most could never imagine and engine come out and still live long fruitful lives. 

There are some cases where some equipment needs special attention but most never did. Today things in new cars are getting more critical due to the many things oil does today beyond just lubrication. 

But in old cars from the 50’s to around 2000 most easily could deal with a lot of issues and live on. I have seen engines come out of cars burned up in fires and run. Saw one filled with gear oil and live a long life. Seen many with oil changes over 20,000 miles and easily out live the rust on the car. 

Saw one driven several miles with no oil and live. Slant 6 mopsrs were hard to kill. 

 Much on lil life in storage is due to conditions. If you are not in a climate controlled area moisture is the real issue no matter the oil. If you do not run it Long enough the moisture builds up. In the spring as temps rise moisture builds on cold metal inside and out. 

Now if you have controlled temps you eliminate this moisture issue and generally it is not an issue. Use a hood oil and you can extend the life. 

The greatest danger today is the lack of phosphorus and zinc to flat tapped cams. There are still some oils but you need to read web sites to find content.  

I have always said the three things to avoid in conversation is Politics, Religion and Oil. I even had two customers get in a fight over oil till the one left yo come back after the other customer left. The funny thing was neither had a clue about oils but they were willing to fight for it. 

Life is never boring. 

One last thing. Todays cars are more critical about oil. The trouble is so few understand how. Oil today adjust cam timing. Cools and lubes turbo bearings. Cools pistons, deals with killing cylinders and in some cases more. Some oils can kill converters and sensors in modern cars. The light piston rings will use some oil and if the oil is not approved for the sensors you can lose them. 

These new approvals like Dexos etc are due to these new needs. Many 5hink it is just to raise money but the truth is automakers have special needs and these ratings force oil makers to meet these needs. 

Might note I have also gotten several poorly stored barn finds back on the road with no drama. One suffered stuck valves but a little Marvel Mystery oil and it solved the issue. A trick  I learned from being around old car guys who had a lot of real world experience. 

CABRIO-STEVE
Pit Crew

Ok Rob...the oil change discussion was relatively painless and very practical. How about entering the lion’s den of cam belt change intervals. I own a 1985 Ferrari 308. The online recommendations talk of belt changes every 2 years regardless of mileage. The owners manual recommends every 35,000 miles with no mention of time. At the time of my last belt change the “used” belts that came off the car looked brand new. I can’t imagine the need for a two year interval.