Oil and Lubricant Storage in Retreat Planning

Several of the recent letters on barter and charity items mentioned motor oil and chain saw fuel mixing oil.  That reminded me about a subject that I’ve meant to address on the blog: key considerations of oil and lubricant storage.  It is important to think through all of your oil and lubricant needs–everything from motor oil and transmission fluid to firearms lube. Figure out what you use in a three year period, and stock up.  Then anticipate what you might need for barter and charity, and stock up even more. Because most families do not store any substantial quantity of oils and lubricants, they will make an ideal barter item in a long term Crunch.

Safe storage for your oil and lubricants is essential. I recommend that you build a separate, dedicated, locking steel storage shed to store all of your flammables. Think in terms of a stubby CONEX that is well-removed from your other retreat buildings. Aside for a very small supply for day-to-day use, nearly all of your flammables should be stored in the outside shed:  kerosene, fuel canisters (propane, stove fuel, et cetera), lighter fluid, gas cans, paint cans, bore cleaner, various automotive/tractor fluids, paint thinner, chemical degreasers, decontamination fluids, and oils of all descriptions. If you store any powder, primers, or blasting caps, or fuse in this same shed, it is important that you store them inside separate ammo cans with tight-fitting rubber seals. Otherwise, the lubricant vapors will deaden them.

For your long term “TEOTWAWKI” oil storage, I recommend that you store at least a few cases of non-detergent motor oil.  This is because detergent motor oils only store well for a couple of years.  In contrast, non-detergent motor oil store almost indefinitely. Look carefully at the label before you buy. (These days, even most inexpensive brands of motor oil contain detergents.)

For firearms lubrication, I generally prefer the Break Free CLP brand.  In a post-TEOTWAWKI environment, your guns will be your constant companions in all sorts of weather. So it is important to store gun cleaning and lubrication supplies in quantity

Important Side Note: If you live in a region with cold winters, then you will also want to store special low temperature dry film lubes such as Dri-Slide, BP-2000, or Moly-coat (molybdenum disulfide) for your firearms. Otherwise, you might have a gun literally freeze up on you. As American G.I.s in Korea found more than a half century ago, this can be more than just embarrassing when someone is shooting at you!  If the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you should scrupulously de-lubricate your battle rifles (with a degreaser such as Chem Tool) and re-lubricate them with a dry film lubricant. Repeat this process whenever a weapon gets wet. (Keep in mind that rapid temperature differences will cause a rifle to “sweat”. You should probably plan to do things Alaska style and leave your rifles out in your chilly mud/coat room rather than bringing them into heated rooms. When standing LP/OP duty or patrolling, cycle your rifle’s action several times during the night to insure that the action still functions properly

Oil filters are more important to store than motor oil.  The myth of the obligatory 3,000 mile oil change has been perpetrated by the “30 minute oil change” industry, because they like to see their customers frequently. (Read: $$$) In fact, in the modern era of multi-weight detergent oils, oil changes are grossly over-done!  Unless a car engine is older and starting to grind metal, then your motor oil will usually have a much longer life than 3,000 miles. And just because motor oil is dark does not necessarily indicate that it needs to be changed. Many commercial fleet vehicles get no oils changes at all–just new filters installed, and the same oil put back in. Back in the 1980s the U.S.Army instituted the Army Oil Analysis Program (AOAP.)  Under AOAP, oil samples are periodically mailed to a centralized lab. Unless the lab detects a drop in viscosity, suspended metals particles, or contamination for any particular vehicle’s oil, they direct units to re-use the oil and merely change filters.  (By the way, this program has saved the U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 20 years.)

Another tangential note: Part of keeping your hand tools in proper condition is oiling them to prevent rust.  It is a good idea to keep a steel bucket with a tight-fitting metal lid, half-filled with sand that is soaked in used motor oil   (Don’t use wood shavings or anything else that is flammable!)  After tasks like splitting wood or spading the garden, be sure brush off any clinging soil, re-sharpen your tools, and then plunge them into the oily sand and swish them around to give them light coat of oil will. This will greatly extend the serviceable life of your hand tools!