Dear Tom and Ray:
Before being deployed to Iraq for a year, I put my 2003 Subaru Outback wagon in storage. I put it on jack stands with a plastic ground sheet beneath it, plugged the exhaust and intake, changed the oil and filter, and locked it up. I'll be home in another two months, and I'm wondering if I should change the oil again when I get home. I tend to be ... um ... frugal. OK, I'm cheap, but I don't want to do any damage to my beloved Subaru over $10 worth of oil. Is it advisable to change the now-year-old oil, or can I drive my car without worrying about it? I change my oil and filter religiously: every Sunday ... OK, every 3,000 miles, but I've never changed it based on time alone, even though the oil companies would love for me to do that. Do I need to change the oil when I get back? -- Aaron, Al Qa'im, Iraq
RAY: What 10 bucks? You're in Iraq. Can't you just fill up your canteen and bring a couple of quarts back with you?
TOM: Actually, you don't need to do anything, Aaron. The fact that you plugged up the intake and exhaust means that no possible contamination could have gotten into your engine while you were gone. So the oil is as clean as it was the day you left. In fact, it's as if you had left it in the bottle!
RAY: That's assuming your no-good brother-in-law Eugene hasn't been using the car to deliver pizzas the whole time you've been away.
TOM: Before you start it, we do have a couple of suggestions, though. You might want to remove the spark-plug wires so the engine won't start. And then crank the engine for 15 or 20 seconds to get the oil circulating.
RAY: The top of your engine hasn't seen oil in many months, and it would be good to give the oil pump a little head start, and let it coat everything before making the engine run at 1,000 rpm or more.
TOM: Don't forget to unplug the air intake and exhaust before you do that. Otherwise, whatever you plugged the intake with will get sucked right into the engine. And you won't like the results of that if you're frugal, Aaron. Best of luck to you.