At what temperature does engine oil freeze?

Engine oil helps keep the engine running smoothly and prevents it from getting too hot.

However, the oil must stay at a certain thickness at different temperatures to effectively perform its functions.

That’s because the oil can change its viscosity depending on how hot or cold it is.

For this reason, there are various types and grades of oil available.

Even though these oils are made to work in specific temperatures, they can still “freeze” when it gets really cold.

People often wonder, “At what temperature does motor oil freeze?

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What temperature does engine oil freeze?
Source: upgradedvehicle

At what temperature does engine oil freeze?

Technically, engine oil doesn’t quite freeze like water, instead, it may coagulate or get thicker, depending on the atmospheric temperatures.

This usually happen especially between -4°F and -76°F (-20 to – degrees Celsius), and may greatly make the oil to move slowly and unable to lubricate effectively.

Using thinner oil can lower the chances of this happening.

Though the specific temperature at which oil freezes depends on the thickness of the oil, the additives it has, and the type of motor oil.

Typically, thinner oil handles colder weather better than thicker oil.

Engine oil also contain additives with low or high freezing points.

Extremely lower temperatures are better handled by additives with lower freezing points.

When it comes to types of oil, there are mainly three types; synthetic, semi-synthetic, and mineral oils.

What happens to oil when it freezes?

As mentioned earlier, motor oil doesn’t really freeze, instead it coagulates.

So, what happens to engine oil at low temperatures?

In colder temperatures, thicker oil flows more slowly.

This can result in it not enough lubrication between the engine parts thus reduced efficiency.

When the parts don’t get proper lubrication, they may rub against each other, causing damage to the engine.

The battery has to work extra hard to pump the oil to different parts in the engine, which weakens it in the cold.

Cold engine oil causes grinding and abrasion, wearing down the engine.

The thickened oil can also block some pathways, preventing vital lubrication for the engine parts.

This can lead to complete engine failure or costly repairs.

Moreover, cold engines take longer to warm up, causing increased fuel consumption and reduced fuel efficiency.

How can you stop engine oil from freezing?

In colder weather, oil tends to be affected and the question, what temperature does engine oil freeze arises.

Since thicker or frozen oil is harmful to your engine, how can you prevent oil from freezing in low temperatures?

1. Blending with cold-weather additives

Your car’s coolant has antifreeze to stop the engine from freezing in winter.

You can do a similar thing with engine oil.

The antifreeze has a lower freezing point, which helps keep the oil from getting too thick in the cold.

You can also mix antifreeze into your motor oil.

Just make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle regarding how much antifreeze to use.

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2. Warming up the oil

Warming up your oil is another way to make it thinner since thinner oil is less likely to freeze.

You can warm up the motor oil before using it, but be careful not to overheat it, or it might lose its thickness.

3. Changing the oil regularly

Although it might seem like it could cost a lot, it’s way cheaper than getting a new engine.

When oil is in use and faces cold weather, it not only thickens but also gathers water, both of which can harm your engine.

So, changing your oil regularly ensures you have good-quality motor oil for your car.

4. Using oil that can handle cold temperatures

There are different kinds of oil. Synthetic oil, in general, handles the cold better and might not freeze unless it’s extremely cold, like -60°C.

Oil has different grades, no matter the type or brand. Some work well in summer, while others are better for winter.

For instance, let’s look at two oil grades, 0w30 and 5w30.

The 0 and 5 indicate the temperature at which these oils begin to freeze.

Typically, the lower the number, the longer it takes to thicken.

So, the 5w will thicken faster in the cold compared to 0w.The “30” in both oils indicates their viscosity, meaning they have the same thickness.

A lower viscosity number is better; oil with lower viscosity takes longer to get thick.

5. Keeping oil in warm places

Storing engine oil in warm spots can stop it from getting too thick.

If you’re in a cold area, a simple way to prevent oil from freezing is to keep it in a warm place that maintains its normal thickness.

You might use a space heater for this.

How Long Does It Take Motor Oil To Freeze?

In really cold temperatures, motor oil doesn’t freeze, but it gets thicker, making it harder to start the engine.

When a car is parked for a long time, like overnight, the engine gets cold.

The oil inside the engine also cools down and becomes denser during the night.

When you try to start the engine in the morning, the thickened oil doesn’t flow properly in regular temperatures.

Additionally, regular motor oil gets thicker than synthetic oil.

What Are the Effects of Increased Oil Viscosity?

Thicker oil slows down how fast it moves in the engine and also affects the gearbox.

The lower part of the gear can’t push thickened motor oil to the rest of the engine parts.

When the thickness of the oil goes up, you need more force (torque) to get the engine running.

When the load goes up, too much energy is used because of the additional friction, or the engine faces serious damage.

In freezing temperatures, the basic oils in the oil can split and form separate layers.

These additives are important, but if they gather as sludge at the bottom, the motor oil won’t work well anymore.


To sum it up, knowing what temperature does engine oil freeze and how engine oil behaves in the cold is crucial for keeping your engine running smoothly.

Although oil doesn’t freeze like water, it can get thicker, causing potential problems.

Being mindful of factors like oil viscosity, additives, and storage, alongside taking preventive actions, such as using the right oil and practicing good maintenance, helps ensure your engine stays well-lubricated in cold weather.

Regular oil changes, the use of antifreeze, and proper warming techniques are practical steps to protect your engine from the negative effects of freezing temperatures.

By considering these factors, you play a role in extending your vehicle’s engine life, avoiding expensive repairs, and enjoying a more comfortable driving experience in the cold.

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