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Is This Still Good? When To Throw Out Your Motorcycle Fluids

Chaparral Motorsports
September 11, 2018

Maintaining your motorcycle or ATV requires time, effort, and regular oil changes. After replacing your motorcycle oil, you'll probably have a significant amount left in the container. You understandably want to keep it to save money and prevent waste, but how long can it sit on your shelf without going bad? Here's a simple guide to help you determine when to toss old fluid.


Motor Oil

Motor oil is generally good for five years. However, there are certain factors that can change its effectiveness before the end of its shelf life.

Humidity can result in condensation within the container, causing insoluble particles or sludge to form when moisture interacts with additives. Temperatures above 100 degrees or below zero degrees Fahrenheit can also degrade the oil's effectiveness.

No matter how old your oil is, if it is milky, has particles in it, is gel-like, or has separated, it's time to throw it out. You may save a few bucks using old oil, but it won't do the job properly and you'll probably end up having to replace it anyway.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is perhaps the most finicky of the automotive chemicals. Exposure to moisture diminishes the effectiveness, which means that from the moment you break the seal, it starts to degrade. An opened bottle of brake fluid doesn't retain its potency for more than a year. However, since new bottles contain an air-tight seal, an unopened container essentially has no expiration date.

A tight seal and dry storage environment can extend your brake fluid's shelf life. However, if you notice the liquid has darkened or has a brown tint, it's time for it to go.


Coolant, also known as antifreeze, can last up to five years in an opened container or as long as 10 years if unopened. The chemical makeup means coolant is incredibly stable, even when exposed to extreme temperatures. Just make sure the container is properly sealed to prevent any contamination from dust.

If you have coolant that requires the addition of water, know that the resulting solution rarely retains its effectiveness for more than a year. If you notice that your coolant (usually bright orange, yellow or green) is dark or brown, that's a sign its overstayed its welcome.


We've already reviewed how to tell if your oils and chemicals have deteriorated past usability. However, you may want to toss fluid that has passed its expiration date, even if it still appears usable.

What gives? Well, these fluids are subject to regulations, which change over time. Manufacturers are aware that fluid sold five years ago may not meet today's updated standards. If your oil or chemicals have exceeded their expiration dates, you may be better off buying new products.

When it comes time for disposal, keep in mind that motor oil, brake fluid, and coolant are considered hazardous, which means you can't just dump them outside or down the drain. Instead, they should be delivered to recycling centers equipped to handle this type of waste. Many vehicle service stations also have their own recycling equipment for motor oil and coolant. To prepare chemicals for recycling, be sure to:

  • Keep each fluid in a separate container
  • Use clean, leak-proof containers
  • Make sure each fluid is properly labeled if not in the original container

Improper disposal is not only illegal, but dangerous for the environment and the public. While necessary to keep your vehicle running smoothly, these chemicals can be harmful if wildlife or unsuspecting people come in contact with them.

Don't let your motorcycle or ATV suffer from subpar fluids. Chaparral Motorsports offers a variety of oils and chemicals to keep your vehicle in top shape. Give us a call at 1-800-841-2960 or visit us online to order today.

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