When it is cold weather, you might think: can engine oil freeze?
Yes, engine oil gets frozen in extremely cold weather. If you are driving in harsh weather like -107 to -40, then the engine oil is likely to freeze.
However, normal cold weather temperatures don’t solidify or crystallize the oil. Cold weather just impacts the oil’s viscosity and flow properties. The reduced fluidity of oil in cold environments can lead to inadequate lubrication and potential damage to critical engine components. However, different oil types have different freezing points.
So what will you do in this situation? Stay tuned with me.
Can Engine Oil Freeze?
As I said earlier, engine oil doesn’t freeze unless you drive in extreme harsh weather. Motor oil freezes at a very low temperature. It is not similar to water’s freezing point which is 0 degrees Celsius.
Since engine oil contains a petroleum-based composition, it doesn’t freeze easily. The composition of engine oil, particularly the type of base oil and additives used. Synthetic oils, with their carefully engineered molecular structures and higher purity, generally have lower freezing points compared to conventional mineral-based oils.
Additives, such as pour point depressants, can also affect the oil’s freezing point. These additives modify the crystal structure of the oil at lower temperatures, preventing it from solidifying and improving its flow properties in cold weather.
What temperature will engine oil freeze?
Different types of engine oils have varying compositions, and as a result, they exhibit different freezing points. Generally, conventional engine oils, such as SAE 10W-30 or SAE 5W-30, have freezing points around -22°F to -40°F (-30°C to -40°C).
On the other hand, synthetic oils, like SAE 0W-30 or SAE 5W-40, often have lower freezing points, ranging from -49°F to -58°F (-45°C to -50°C). These values can vary depending on the specific brand and formulation of engine oil.
What happens if motor oil freezes?
If motor oil freezes, it can lead to various issues that can potentially affect engine performance and reliability. When engine oil solidifies at extremely low temperatures, it becomes thick and viscous, losing its ability to flow properly throughout the engine. In other words, engine oil won’t get to the engine parts properly.
The unusual flow doesn’t lubricate the moving engine parts effectively. This lack of lubrication can cause increased friction and wear on critical engine components. It leads to premature engine damage and reduced performance.
With reduced oil flow and lubrication, certain engine parts may experience excessive heat and higher operating temperatures. Elevated engine temperatures can lead to thermal stress, warping, and other damage to engine components.
During cold weather, engines require motor oil with good cold-start performance. When the oil is frozen, it becomes challenging for the engine to start smoothly. The increased resistance in the engine due to the thick oil can put extra strain on the starter motor and the battery.
As the motor oil solidifies, it may form gel-like structures that can clog the oil filter. A clogged oil filter restricts oil flow, exacerbating lubrication issues and potentially causing engine damage.
Engine Oil Freezing Points By Its Type
Every type of engine oil has different compositions and characteristics. So the freezing points of these oils are different but they are pretty close to one another.
Let’s have a comparison of synthetic oil and conventional oil.
As many of us know, synthetic oils are more compatible with vehicles. They are superior to conventional oils in many ways. According to many automotive experts synthetic oil continues its flow despite the temperature dropping below -20 Celsius.
However, the viscosity of synthetic oil changes if the temperature reaches -50 degrees Celsius. At this stage, some of the key characteristics are also starting to diminish. Most synthetic oils are made from crude oil and it freezes at about -40 degrees Celsius. As different synthetic oils also combine other additives, the freezing point can be a little bit up or down between different brands.
On the contrary, conventional oils become thicker at lower temperatures. According to experts, conventional oils lose their efficiency if the temperature drops below -20 Celsius. At the same time, it becomes more difficult to flow.
Typical freezing point range
Conventional Mineral-Based Engine Oil
-22°F to -40°F (-30°C to -40°C)
Semi-Synthetic Engine Oil
-40°F to -49°F (-40°C to -45°C)
Full Synthetic Engine Oil
-49°F to -58°F (-45°C to -50°C)
High-Performance Synthetic Engine Oil
-58°F and lower (-50°C and lower)
How do I stop my engine oil from freezing?
Engine oil is very important for proper lubrication. If there are changes in the oil due to cold weather, it can cause significant damage to the engine. How to prevent the oil from freezing?
Keeping the car warm at lower temperatures is the only way to stop the engine oil from freezing. Though there are numerous suggestions from automotive professionals in this regard, you may not follow them all. However, I have some basic tips that work amazingly in cold weather.
Get The Right Oil
Switch to winter-grade engine oil specifically designed for colder temperatures. Winter-grade oils have lower viscosity and pour points. It allows them to flow more easily in cold weather. If your car manual recommends synthetic oil, then don’t invest in the cheap brands. Because it won’t help you on chilly days.
Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual or consult with a trusted mechanic to determine the appropriate winter-grade oil for your climate. Also, make sure the motor oil in the tank is sufficient.
Park In A Garage
As winter draws near, select a parking space. Parking outside in the summer is acceptable. But in winter, try to park the car indoors to avoid snow and ice. If possible, park your vehicle in a heated garage during extremely cold weather. A heated garage will help maintain a higher ambient temperature around the engine, preventing the oil from freezing.
Avoid Extended Idle Periods
If you need to warm up your vehicle in cold weather, try to avoid prolonged idle periods. Idling for an extended time without driving causes the engine to cool down and may lead to oil cooling and thickening as well.
So try to drive your car for at least 30 minutes each week. Doing so, you won’t have to face trouble due to a battery issue or any other fluid issue.
Avoid Shorter Trips
Shorter trips are not great if you want to keep your vehicle in good condition. Keep your vehicle in working condition and charge the various components, it requires more than short trips.
Top 5 Best Engine Oil For Winter Review
For winter, I recommend synthetic oils rather than conventional oils. Because conventional oils lose their properties and make the start harder. On the other hand, synthetic oils are thin and flow easily, making it easier to crank the engine faster.
1. Mobil 1 Synthetic Oil
Since 1974, Mobil 1 motor oil has been a big player on the market. I have been using the oil in my BMW for the last 3 years and still now, I always get superior performance.
Talking about cold morning starts, the oil helps to crank the engine in seconds, thanks to its purified base oil. It spreads faster to all the moving parts and provides essential protection.
2. Castrol GTX Magnatec 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil
Castrol GTX is another best cold-weather motor oils. It is more popular for its superior engine protection within 20 minutes of a warm-up engine. After switching off the engine, the oil drains to the sump and leaves a thin coat on engine components. It prevents wear through friction and improves the lifespan of your engine. In cold weather, this fully synthetic oil maintains its viscosity.
3. Valvoline Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil
Valvoline Full Synthetic Motor Oil is a top-tier product that delivers on its promises. Its exceptional engine protection, adherence to industry standards, and dedication to maintaining engine cleanliness make it a standout choice for any vehicle owner, including me.
This oil is the best for your engine in extreme cold temperatures. This motor oil is a reliable and high-quality option that I wholeheartedly recommend.
4. Royal Purple 01311 HP 2-C High-Performance 2-Cycle Motor Oil
If you have a 2-cycle engine, then Royal Purple is the best choice for your engine in cold weather. It improves performance and reduces wear on a gasoline engine. Its ability to extend engine life and reduce environmental impact is unparalleled.
For anyone seeking top-tier protection and lubrication for their 2-cycle engines, this motor oil is an exceptional investment. From powering through rough terrains on your ATV to slicing through snow on your snowmobile, this product ensures that your engine runs at its absolute best.
5. Shell Rotella Gas Truck Full Synthetic Motor Oil
When it comes to ensuring optimal engine performance and protection for your gas truck or SUV, Shell Rotella Gas Truck and SUV Full Synthetic Motor Oil has proven itself to be a worthy contender.
Shell Rotella motor oil truly shines is in its performance under severe driving conditions. From stop-and-go traffic to extreme temperature fluctuations and the rigors of towing, Shell Rotella steps up to the plate. It outperforms conventional motor oils, ensuring that your engine remains well-lubricated and protected even when facing the challenges of your daily commute or long-haul journeys.
Is 5W30 or 10W30 better for winter?
Both 5W-30 and 10W-30 motor oils are suitable for winter use. But according to experts, 5W-30 is generally better at colder temperatures. The “W” in the viscosity grade stands for “winter,” and the number before the “W” indicates the oil’s viscosity or thickness at lower temperatures. Here’s how they compare:
The “5” in 5W-30 indicates that this oil has a lower viscosity (thinner) at cold temperatures compared to 10W-30. This means that it flows more easily in cold weather. So it is a good choice for winter conditions, especially in regions with extremely cold temperatures. It provides quicker oil circulation during cold starts, which is crucial for engine protection at low temperatures. It also helps reduce engine wear during start-up.
The “10” in 10W-30 indicates that this oil is slightly thicker at cold temperatures compared to 5W-30. While it is still suitable for winter use, it may not flow as quickly as 5W-30 in extremely cold conditions. However, it is often recommended in milder winter climates where temperatures don’t drop as severely.
Verdict: If you live in an area with very cold winters, 5W-30 is generally a better choice as it provides better cold-start protection. However, if you’re in a region with milder winters, 10W-30 should still perform well. Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the recommended viscosity grade based on your specific driving conditions and climate.
Frequently Asked Question
1. Is Thicker Oil Better for Cold Weather?
Thicker oil is not necessarily better for cold weather. Thinner oils with a lower viscosity, such as 5W-30, are generally recommended for cold weather. Thin oils flow more easily at lower temperatures. It provides quicker lubrication during cold starts and reduces engine wear.
2. Does Synthetic Oil Get Thicker in Cold Weather?
Synthetic oil is formulated to have consistent viscosity across a wide range of temperatures, which means it doesn’t thicken significantly in cold weather like conventional oils can. Synthetic oils offer better cold-flow properties, making them suitable for use in colder climates.
3. Is Frozen Oil Still Good?
Frozen oil is not ideal for engine operation. When oil freezes, it becomes thicker and loses its ability to flow properly. This can lead to inadequate lubrication during start-up and potentially cause increased wear on engine components. If you suspect your oil has frozen, it’s recommended to allow the engine to warm up and the oil to thaw before driving.
You have to ensure that your engine remains well-lubricated and protected, even in the coldest of weather. You need to take proactive steps to prevent engine oil from freezing. It will contribute to smoother starts, reduced wear and tear, and overall improved engine health, allowing you to confidently navigate the challenges of winter driving.