Storing an engine in oil

October 1, 2010 | By Richard Prince


I have a sweet-running 327 cid Chevy engine that I need to put into storage for two years. No one will be available to start and run the engine on a weekly basis.

However, I do have a watertight vat that will hold the engine and its support cradle. I plan to lower the engine into the vat, and then fill the vat with enough 30-wt. oil to completely submerge the entire engine.

On my return, I plan to let the oil drain out for about two days, shake the oil out of the bowl, manually turn over the engine with the old spark plugs out, steam clean the exterior, and put all the wires and hoses back on (stored on a shelf). Is this idea feasible?


Your question immediately brings to mind one of my wife’s favorite questions: “What were you thinking?”

I believe that you can completely submerse your engine in 30-weight oil as long as the container it’s in is sufficiently strong and is made from a material that will not degrade as a result of contact with the oil.

But, seriously, why would you want to go to the trouble and expense of doing this? You’ll end up with oil in all sorts of places it was never meant to be in, and when you steam clean the exterior of the engine to get rid of as much of the oil as possible you’re likely to end up with water and a soupy water/oil mixture in places you don’t want it. You also may well end up with oil soaking into the engine’s metal parts and staying there for a good long time, causing foul odors when the engine gets hot and preventing paint from sticking long-term.

My advice is to drain all of the gasoline out of the fuel pump, line and carburetor, fill the oil pan and crankcase with enough oil so that the crankshaft is immersed in it, put a liberal amount of oil into each cylinder through the spark plug holes, back off the rocker arm adjusting nuts to minimize valve spring pressure, pour a liberal amount of oil into the lifter valley to coat the camshaft, and put a few large desiccant bags into your airtight container before sealing it up. If you do all of this, your engine will be in the same condition after two years as it was when you put it into storage.