Is Engine Oil Flammable?

Are you one of the drivers that are wondering what would happen if there was a sudden spark while pouring engine oil into your car engine? If yes, you are not the only one a lot of drivers want to know if engine oil is flammable.

In this article, I will explain to you why engine oil is not flammable.

You need to know that engine oil can catch fire, but due to an air flashpoint that’s above 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius), it is not classified by OSHA as a flammable liquid. The flashpoint of engine oil is 419 degrees Fahrenheit (215 degrees Celsius).

Engine oil is not flammable, because OSHA defines “flammable liquids” as things that ignite when they are in the presence of “an ignition source” below 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius).

Engine oil requires a lot higher temperature to combust. It is not classified as a flammable liquid because it can’t burn, in the presence of an ignition source (flashpoint), between 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit (150-205 degrees Celsius).

The temperature that a substance will give off fumes to burn is when it is exposed to a spark or other ignition source that’s known as the flashpoint. The flashpoint of engine oil is around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure you don’t confuse auto-ignition temperature. Auto-ignition temperature is a substance that spontaneously (without an ignition source) catches fire. It has a much higher number.

What Temperature Does It Catch Fire? Flashpoint

There are several brands but the flashpoint will be 400 degrees Fahrenheit when a specific source of heat is introduced to the oil itself (flashpoint).

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There is no vapor produced from engine oil at room temperatures which means it can’t catch fire until it gets heated above the flashpoint temperature. The flashpoint is the temperature at that enough fumes/vapors are released to catch fire.

But, it is not recommended for people to smoke in these places because of other flammable liquids around and while you can’t help creating sparks, you ought to keep them to a minimum too.

Why Isn’t It Flammable?

A lot of flammable liquids consist of “short” chains of hydrocarbons. These short molecules make it so easy to release vapor, the vapor will then allow them to be ignited at low temperatures.

The release of vapor usually comes from “intermolecular forces” which is a fancy method of saying, it takes little energy to break two molecules apart and for one to drift away in the form of vapor.

Given that there are trillions of molecules present in a gallon of liquid – it means that this happens many times a second and is capable of producing a lot of vapor.

Engine or motor oil is a heavy liquid, so it has much longer molecules (oil is, in fact, a mix of hydrocarbons, there’s no specific hydrocarbon, the mix has molecules that have as little as 18 or as many as 34 carbon atoms in each molecule) than the flammable liquids do.

It takes more energy to break two of these molecules separately and engine oil has stronger “intermolecular forces” and has no tendency to form vapors at room temperature.

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Engine oil needs a higher temperature to “combust” the temperature is what effectively weakens the intermolecular forces enough to produce a vapor.

This doesn’t mean that engine oil won’t be able to catch on fire, it only requires higher temperatures to do so and is also classified as a combustible liquid instead of a flammable liquid.

1. Oil Storage Matters

While engine oil is not “flammable” in the strictest definition of the word “flammable”, engine oil can still catch on fire easily. A lot of sources of flame are much, much hotter than 400 degrees Fahrenheit and if the engine oil gets this kind of temperature – it can heat the engine oil to the point that it will burn.

That means it matters when it comes to the method of storing your engine oil and that means you need:

2. Adequate Ventilation

If you keep a single small bottle of engine oil in your car, there’s not much that needs doing in this issue but if you do keep a lot of oil on hand, you need to check the extraction systems to prevent the build-up of vapors.

3. Spill Containment

Engine oil in a bucket of sand if you have one bottle, that way if it leaks – it’s not going anywhere except over sand. If you have a lot, you have to talk to a supplier of spill containment facilities though.

4. Keep engine oil away from potential ignition sources

If there’s a source of flame, always make sure that you keep the oil at least 3 meters (10 yards) away from it. This process will help to reduce the risks of fire breaking out.

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In Conclusion

You need to know the major and minor parts of your car as a driver, this will help to know more about your car and how it works. You will be able to get rid of several minor and major problems when you know your car parts and other aspects of your car.

Now you know that engine oil is not flammable. Likewise, the temperature degree.

Make sure you buy recommended, branded, and trusted engine oil because they are the best for your car engine. Aside from that, you will be able to get the best from recommended or branded engine oil when it comes to safety and other related aspects.