Does Bar And Chain Oil Expire? When To Throw Away Old Lubricants

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Does chainsaw bar and chain oil ever expire?

The quick answer is no, within reason, it does not.

I have many different brands of chainsaw lubricants from Stihl Synth Plus Chain Lubrication and ECHO Standard Bar And Chain Oil to Valvoline Bar Oil and cheap off-brand lubricants. 

I’ve checked all the containers and none of them say anything about an expiration date.

BUT there are a couple of exceptions!

How Long Does Bar And Chain Oil Last?

Most, if not all petroleum-based bar and chain oils have no expiry date.

For example, here’s the small bottle of Valvoline ‘Chain & Cutter Bar Lubricant’:


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There’s no indication that it expires, and this goes for both the best chainsaw bar oils and the less-expensive, less-premium products.

Here’s another example of a cheap bar oil I’ve been using.

how long does chainsaw bar and chain oil last

This SuperS Bar and Chain Oil also do not have an expiry date on it so I assume it’s going to last for many, many years.

I get through a lot of it though, so it’s not an issue for me. And, when you think about it, it’s been in the earth for a while already, right?

However, there are times when you might want to consider NOT using an old bar and chain oil.

Don’t use a bar and chain oil if:

  • If it’s been left in the sun for a good length of time
  • Dirt, sawdust, and other debris have found their way into the container (or filter it first)
  • It’s more than 10 years old

All of these circumstances can change the makeup of the oil and may stop it from being as effective.

If you accidentally put bar oil in the fuel tank, you can likely still use this so long as it wasn’t mixed with a significant amount of fuel.

Biodegradable chain and bar oil is the main exception to ‘chainsaw bar oils don’t expire.’

These alternative lubricants, such as Stihl BioPlus, are usually based on vegetable oils. They are designed to break down in the environment far more quickly than petroleum-based oils.

Because of this, biodegradable chainsaw oils should be used within 5 years of manufacture.

These oils will often have an expiry date on them, and the best-before date varies from brand to brand, so just check when you’re buying. You don’t want to get an oil that’s already been sitting on the shelf for a while!

Other substitute chainsaw oils such as canola oil and other vegetable oils will also expire long before a petroleum-based oil. Personally, I’d want to use something that’s no more than 3 years old.

And as far as using hydraulic oil or motor oil as a bar and chain lube, you just want it to be clean. It will also last many years, but is it really the best option in the first place?

How To Best Store Chainsaw Lubricants

Storing engine lubricants properly is really just a case of using common sense.

Keep them in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight and sharp items that could pierce the container.

Usually, you want to prevent them from being covered with dust, lest this contaminates them the next time you go to use them. Failing that, just give the bottle a wipe-down before opening it.

It’s also best to try and keep them at a steady temperature – most garages remain about the same temperature and don’t fluctuate too much, making them a good spot.

A conservatory, for example, would be a bad spot because it can get very hot during the day and very cold at night.

Ideally, wherever you’re storing chainsaws is probably a good spot so that your oil is handy.

Does Bar And Chain Oil Expire?

So, does chain and bar oil expire?

No, regular bar and chain oils will last for a decade or longer. As long as they aren’t contaminated or stored incorrectly, they will be fine to use in your chainsaw.

Biodegradable chain and bar oil, along with other substitute oils, do not last as long. It is best to use these types within 3 to 5 years.

If you’re buying a used chainsaw find out how long the oil has been sitting in it – it is best to start up a chainsaw every few months.


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