Motor oil helps to lubricate your car engine and protects it from corrosion and excessive wear. But, the oil must be liquid enough to carry out such tasks. So, the question is: can motor oil freeze in cold temperatures?
Motor oil, such as 10W30, freezes at -20°F. Yet the viscosity of the oil increases from 50°F to 0°F, making it increasingly harder to handle. It is set to freeze at -10°F when using hydraulic and gear oil. Generally speaking, most motor oils lose viscosity as they grow colder.
Read on to learn more about the freezing point of different motor oils and what to do to prevent the oil from freezing.
Motor Oil Freezing Point
Lower Than the Water’s Freezing Point
The freezing point of oil is lower than that of water. Moreover, the type of oil affects the freezing point. While oil can freeze at any temperature between -107°C and -40°C, water has a freezing point of 0°C (32°F) (-161.6°F).
Impurities also have an impact on the freezing point of the oil.
Oil is a liquid at room temperature, but it can indeed freeze and has a different freezing point depending on its composition, ranging from -6 to -40°C.
Two Methods of Measuring an Oil’s Freezing Point
Measuring the exact freezing point of oil can be challenging because there are two methods for measuring it. The temperature at which oil thickens and syrupy is one, sometimes referred to as the pour point.
The other method is the cloud point or the temperature at which streaks of hazy oil begin to appear. What makes the two different, then? The pour point is a more precise indicator of an oil’s freezing temperature.
This is because it considers that oil can thicken and become challenging to pour at lower temperatures. Despite this, understanding the cloud point is still a helpful measurement. After all, no one would want to use oil in their car that is starting to develop murky streaks.
As you can see, the range is wide.
What Is the Freezing Point of Synthetic Oil?
Wax is absent from synthetic motor oils.
Additionally, these oils have a high viscosity index, which measures how viscosity alters with temperature.
Synthetic oils can perform well even at temperatures as low as -20°C.
The pour point for them is -50°C. Synthetic oils can maintain low viscosity and a great flow rate even when the engine is cold. These oils don’t immediately freeze or coagulate due to their chemical makeup.
You can’t stress this enough, but all vehicles should use synthetic oil today. Why? It is simply better for your car. Despite the higher upfront cost, you’ll probably save money in the long term thanks to improved performance, engine health, and fuel efficiency.
The freezing point of synthetic oil is determined by the chemical composition of the specific product as determined by the manufacturer, who keeps this information confidential. Its primary component is crude oil.
Crude oil stops flowing at around -40°F, while it may be safe to -60°F.
Beyond these temps, you will start to experience some serious issues.
But keep in mind that synthetic oil also contains various additional ingredients. It would need to get significantly colder overall to freeze solid, and such freezing temperatures would never happen on this planet.
What Is the Freezing Point of Conventional Oil?
Wax in conventional motor oil enables the oil to thicken in cold temperatures.
Oil gets more difficult to flow through the engine as it gets thicker.
The mineral base oils in conventional motor oil are ineffective at temperatures below -20°C.
The additives in conventional oil differ from those in synthetic oil. In general, it’s significantly worse for your engine because it leaves behind various deposits and crud.
Despite this, newer synthetic varieties may degrade performance in older vehicles because their engines are built to use this kind of oil.
For instance, it could remove an old deposit that was preventing a leak from occurring. A high-mileage option can be better depending on the age of your car. Alternatively, a new vehicle or engine might be necessary.
The closer conventional oil comes to a solid form, the colder it will get. You will see how the pump fights to force the oil to flow at about –30°C.
How to Warm up a Car in Winter
The oil pump will activate when you start your car on a chilly morning. The pressure with which it can force the oil through the engine increases with the amount of electrical energy it can transmit to the pump.
Your engine should be good if you’re using high-quality synthetic or high-mileage oil.
Keep in mind that the oil becomes thicker and denser the colder it is. As the liquids inside the battery start to freeze in cold conditions, the battery will also be impacted. It is, therefore, unable to produce as much current.
Tips on How to Cold-start Your Car on a Chilly Morning
Below are helpful tips on how to cold-start your car on a chilly morning:
- Use the recommended battery and motor oil listed in the owner’s manual. Avoid purchasing cheap alternatives! You’ll have more trouble with them than they’re worth.
- Park behind a shelter to avoid the snow, ice, and chilly winds. Consider parking inside if at all possible.
- Never operate any electrical devices while the engine is off, including the radio, lights, heaters, etc. This will drain the battery more quickly than you might think.
- Allow the engine to warm up after starting the vehicle. The oil will flow more readily as the temperature rises. On the other hand, never leave your car running and unlocked on the driveway.
- Don’t ever leave your car running after starting it in the garage! Carbon monoxide kills without being heard. Instead, if you’re heading back inside, lock the doors with a spare key or sit in the vehicle. Alternatively, just travel for the first ten minutes extremely slowly.
- Take a 30-minute drive to keep the battery charged at least once weekly.
How to Prevent Motor Oil from Freezing
1. Go on Longer Travels
When you start your car in the cold, your engine oil is most affected. Additionally, engine emissions and pollutants may build up in your engine oil while it waits for the engine to achieve the proper operating temperature.
Your engine will have more time to reach its ideal operating temperature if you take longer trips rather than several short ones.
In other words, this will help eliminate these pollutants by ensuring your engine runs at optimum temperatures when you take longer trips.
2. Avoid Prolonged Idling
More fuel, both unburned and partially burned, may pollute your engine oil due to prolonged idling. This fuel pollution may weaken your engine oil’s viscosity and lubrication qualities. Avoid prolonged idling when you can, and steer clear of making lots of short journeys to help get rid of the toxins.
3. Consider Switching to Synthetic Oil
Synthetic motor oil is the ideal lubricant for most vehicles throughout the chilly winter months since it has a more constant viscosity and a lower freezing point.
Make sure you’re using oil designed for your car, whether you choose a conventional, synthetic blend, or full synthetic oil.
Additionally, your car’s manufacturer will state which viscosity grade is appropriate for your specific vehicle. The “W” in the oil viscosity rating refers to “winter.”
4. Use the Appropriate Type of Oil
The added conditioning chemicals in high-mileage oil may help keep your engine lubricated. You can consult your owner’s manual for more information if you don’t know whether your car can use high-mileage oil.
5. Check the Oil Filter
When you start your engine in a chilly environment, your oil pressure may change suddenly and drastically. Your oil filter will be under more strain as a result. So, ensure to have your oil filter examined and updated regularly.
6. Regularly Check your Battery
In the winter, your battery needs additional power to push cold oil through your engine. To ensure your battery has enough charge to start your car, check it frequently, especially during periods of intense heat.
7. Add Winter Additive
You can add anti-freeze and other wintertime additives to your motor oil. These additions will help lower the oil’s freezing point and halt its thickening.
Ideally, a small amount of the additive will be enough, but the exact amount will be specified on the bottle’s label.
8. Heat the Oil
Before using the motor oil, you might also try heating it. The oil will become more diluted as a result, making pouring simpler. Just be careful not to overheat the oil, as this could result in harm.
Again, does motor oil freeze? Motor oil does not usually freeze but still thickens due to the cold temperature. This will cause difficulty circulating, and your vehicle will lack the necessary lubrication.
How Do Freezing Temperatures Affect Fluids in Your Car
1. Regular Gasoline
Fortunately, there is a very high likelihood that your gas tank won’t freeze solid. Gasoline has a substantially lower freezing point than water because of its chemical composition.
Although different fuels have varying chemical compositions, gasoline can freeze at about -100°F. This is colder than any temperature ever recorded in North America.
Even if gas does not freeze, you may not be entirely safe if the outside temperatures continue to drop. While it may not wholly freeze, gasoline can potentially thicken and become more viscous, which increases the amount of wear and tear on your engine by making it work harder to process the fuel.
Condensation brought on by cold weather can also freeze inside fuel lines or tanks, keeping the right amount of gas from reaching your engine.
2. Diesel Fuel
Diesel fuel has different constituents than “normal” gas and therefore responds to cold temperatures very differently.
Because of the greater freezing point, components of diesel fuel can begin to thicken even when the temperature is only marginally above freezing. Diesel changes as the temperature drops and turns more gel-like, which can clog filters and fuel lines.
Fortunately, diesel fuel seasonal versions are produced with lower freezing tolerance. Diesel vehicle drivers, such as truck drivers, often use engine block warmers or leave their engines running in cooler weather to prevent fuel gelling and maintain the proper operation of their vehicles.
3. Other Fluids
Regarding car operations in cold weather, fluids other than gasoline should be considered. Since it is made of petroleum, motor oil, for instance, is technically incapable of freezing. However, it can gel or congeal like diesel fuel and cause issues inside your engine when it doesn’t flow as easily.
The dissolved waxes in the oil have precipitated, causing this alteration. Because gasoline lacks these waxes, it is less susceptible to cold temperatures than engine oils made of petroleum.
If you live in an area with a colder environment, you might choose to use synthetic or winter-grade motor oil. In terms of freezing and coagulation points, synthetic oils are lower.
Your wiper fluid is another thing to pay attention to. Although wiper fluid isn’t as essential to the running of your car as gas or oil is, it could freeze and lead to damage that will end up costing you more in the long run.
As the frozen fluid expands, it’s possible that your washer fluid tank can fracture or the pump will become damaged, requiring a brand-new tank. Wiper fluids with a lower freezing point are available when combined with alcohol/anti-freeze solutions.
The antifreeze in your radiator is one of the most crucial fluids to ensure it is in good condition, no matter the weather.
Anti-freeze cools the same liquids in your engine in hot weather, preventing them from freezing in cold weather. It also acts as a lubricant for the car parts it contacts, ensuring that all liquids move through the vehicle smoothly.
How Long Can You Store Motor Oil?
According to oil companies, unopened motor oil has two to five years of shelf life. This assumes it was stored correctly and shielded from extremely hot or cold conditions.
However, it is best when drivers use their engine oil as soon as possible and won’t have to wait until the fifth year. This is because no one can predict how long the oil will maintain its highest quality.
It is exposed to many elements daily, each of which will result in specific changes to its qualities and impact its performance.
For motor oils that have already been opened, you should use what is left of them within a year of opening. To prevent contamination, make sure you store it correctly in its original container.
How to Tell If the Motor Oil Has Expired
Here are several warning signals that indicate it’s time to discard your motor oil:
- Oxidation marked by dark hue. The oil may become more dense and acidic as a result.
- A milky or hazy appearance may be a sign of contamination with water or soil.
- Thick to nearly solid in texture. It won’t be possible for this to go quickly.
- Material separation in the oil. You will notice that the deposits no longer dissolve and may result in blockage.
What Happens When the Motor Oil Freezes?
Motor oil’s extremely complicated structural makeup prevents it from freezing, regardless of the ambient temperature. The oil won’t freeze, but it will undergo structural changes and lose some viscosity.
Your motor oil will not lubricate the engine when the temperatures are too low.
This happens because the oil starts to harden and lose viscosity. The oil will no longer be able to lubricate, which could harm some parts of the engine. Driving a car in cold weather puts the engine in danger of further damage.
Oils made from petroleum are distinct. These will become less liquid at low temperatures but won’t freeze. It won’t freeze, but its shape and organization will change.
Diesel oil, however, will solidify to the point that it can no longer lubricate the engine.
It is problematic in winter because It contains waxes that can freeze at specific temperatures.
When we compare diesel and petroleum oils, the number of waxes makes up most of the difference.
Because petroleum oils lack waxes, they respond differently to cold temperatures.
Which Motor Oil Is Ideal for Winter Driving?
Winter-grade Motor Oils
Winter-grade motor oils are your best bet to prevent engine problems brought on by thick, sluggish motor oil during the chilly winter.
Even in cold weather, this oil is lighter and more fluid. It can complete the task since it flows better. It will guarantee that your engine’s moving parts are adequately greased.
You’ll notice that motor oils that are appropriate for use in winter start with the letter W.
5W Motor Oils
W stands for winter. You can go for 5W-30 instead of 10W-30 when driving in the cold. Because 5W-30 has a lower viscosity rating than 10W-30, it can perform better.
That is why many car professionals advise using 5W motor oils throughout the winter. In cold conditions, these petroleum products may flow more efficiently and provide your engine with the necessary protection.
However, some synthetic oils have received a 0W grade. You should also check out these since they were created specifically for winter driving.
To maximize its performance, you should consult your owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity grade for each season change.
Conclusion – What Temperature Does Motor Oil Freeze?
Motor oil does not fully freeze because it never crystallizes or solidifies at any temperature. However, motor oil will start to thicken at freezing temperatures and lose its viscosity, making it difficult for the oil to circulate through the engine and lubricate it.
Motor oil will start to freeze at -20°F, but its viscosity increases from 50°F to 0°F.
Oil will not solidify in cold weather because it is a petroleum product, but it will become less liquid as temperatures drop. Diesel oil, for instance, will change in color and texture when it is cooled to 0°F, turning white and solid to the point where it won’t flow through the engine.