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Does Engine Oil Evaporate?

Does Engine Oil Evaporate?

When you think of any liquid, such as water, you know of course it evaporates over time. However, what happens to the oil you put in your vehicle’s engine? 

Does it stay there forever, or does it too evaporate? 

If you’re curious about what happens to your engine oil in terms of evaporation, here’s what you need to remember.


When you place engine oil in your car, it will over time begin to evaporate. However, this won’t happen quickly. For car oil to evaporate over time within your engine, it has to be subjected to very high temperatures, which take place when your engine is running. At normal temperatures, car oil will evaporate at a rate that is very negligible and barely noticeable. 

However, as your engine runs longer, the amount of heat increases.

As a result, once temperatures surpass 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which water boils, evaporation will become much more noticeable, yet will still not be enough to put your engine in peril, so long as you have a proper amount of oil in your car.

When oil is on the ground, don’t expect it to evaporate anytime soon. In fact, it may not evaporate at all. 

Though a small amount of it may eventually evaporate, chances are you will still be noticing a pool of oil in the same spot for a very long time. Unless you clean up the oil or wait until it rains and causes a runoff of the oil, it will be there indefinitely.

As for engine oil that is in its bottle, you also don’t have to worry much about this evaporating as well. 

Not only will little if any of the car oil evaporate over time, but it will also lose little if any of its effectiveness.

In fact, most motor oil today is made so that it can have a shelf life of as much as five years before becoming bad to put in your car’s engine.

Does Engine Oil Disappear?

Generally speaking, engine oil does not disappear in any significant amount from your car’s engine. If it does, your car has a problem that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

When you think about it, if engine oil disappeared from your car, there would be no need to have your oil changed, since there would be nothing in the engine itself to remove. 

However, not all cars are lucky enough to avoid oil leaks and thus having their engine oil disappear. 

If your car falls into this category, there are a few reasons that may shed light on where your engine oil is going.

In many instances where engine oil is disappearing, the problem can be related to gaskets

This could include a hole in an old or even a new gasket, or perhaps a new gasket that was not installed properly. When this happens, you’ll probably start to notice a small amount of oil disappearing gradually, rather than a major loss of oil all at once.

Unfortunately, once your car develops an oil leak and you have oil disappearing, it can be hard for even the most seasoned mechanics to find and fix the problem. 

Actually, it’s not uncommon for vehicles to need multiple trips to the mechanic before the disappearing oil problem gets resolved.

In some instances, you may think your engine oil has disappeared, when it fact it has just changed its appearance.

Should you have a car that is significantly past due for an oil change, the oil that was originally in liquid form may in fact turn into what looks like crystallized carbon, which is known as a semi-solid substance. 

If this happens, your engine will need some TLC from you or your mechanic to get rid of this substance. Otherwise, it will only clog up your engine, keep it from working properly, and probably result in it overheating, leading to expensive repairs or an engine replacement.

Why is My Car Burning Oil?

When your car is burning oil, you need to address this problem as soon as you can to avoid potential damage to your car’s engine.

Most times when this problem occurs, it is due to your car having parts that are worn out. 

The usual suspects are worn out valve seals and piston rings, since both of these parts have the primary duty of preventing engine oil from entering the combustion chamber.

In some cases, your car may be burning oil not on the inside of the engine, but on the outside. 

This means your engine oil is escaping from somewhere, and results in you smelling burning oil on a regular basis. Reasons for this can include a damaged oil pan, oil filter that is not properly attached, or damage to your car’s valve cover gasket.

If your car is burning oil, the good news is that you can continue to drive it indefinitely, so long as you add engine oil when it starts to get too low. 

However, it’s best if you try to get the problem fixed as soon as you notice your car is burning oil. 

Otherwise, putting your engine through this stress could lead to a catalytic converter overheating or even a blown engine. 

What’s it Cost to Fix a Car That’s Burning Oil?

Should your car be burning oil, the cost to get it fixed will depend on the seriousness of the underlying problem. Overall, the average cost for such repairs is around $600. 

However, if you have a blown head gasket, your repair costs could escalate to more than $1,500.

In the worst-case scenario where you have a cracked engine block or need an engine replacement, expect to pay at least $3,000 and possibly as much as $5,000 if you need a new engine. 

Needless to say, the sooner you get your car to a mechanic to get the burning oil problem resolved, the greater the chances you won’t be spending thousands of dollars on repairs.

How Long Does it Take Engine Oil to Dry?

While engine oil may not necessarily evaporate per se, it does eventually dry. While it won’t do so immediately after your car’s engine is turned off, as it cools down the engine oil that may be on various parts will dry. 

Depending upon how hot your engine was when it was shut off, most types of engine oil will dry in as little as five to as much as 30 minutes. 

Should you spill oil on your engine while performing an oil change, checking your oil levels, or performing other repairs or maintenance, you won’t have to worry, since you know it will dry in a matter of minutes.

What if I Smell Oil While Driving?

If you smell oil while you are driving, it may be a minor or major problem. If you had a recent oil change, hopefully it is only a loose drain plug or oil filter.

If not, it could be bad gaskets, seals, or other issues that will need to be looked at by an experienced mechanic.

Since engine oil plays such a critical role in helping your vehicle perform at its best, do all you can to change your oil regularly and address any problems you notice right away.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!