What Happens if You Don’t Change Engine Oil – A Detailed Guide

What happens if you don’t change your vehicle’s engine oil according to schedule?

I shall talk about everything regarding the matter in this in-depth article. With that said, to put it simply, cars that are regularly driven without the correct engine oil levels end up having shorter lifespans.

To kick things off, I’ll discuss what engine oil does. After all, it’s such a vital component of your vehicle. For that reason, you should know anything and everything about it.

What Does Engine Oil Do?

What Does Engine Oil Do?

You cannot overstate the importance of the role your engine oil plays in keeping your vehicle in optimal condition. Below are the main things that the engine oil in your car does:

Cools Down Your Engine

An internal combustion engine can get very hot. Its insides can reach temperatures that would destroy them if they weren’t cooled by your car’s engine oil. 

It should also be mentioned not just any kind of oil will efficiently cool your vehicle’s engine. You will need to use what’s recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Lubricates Moving Parts

Your vehicle’s engine is made up of hundreds of moving parts that all grind against each other, producing enormous amounts of friction. Using the right kind of motor oil and maintaining the appropriate levels of the stuff ensures that your automobile’s parts will remain well-lubricated.

Prevents Mechanical Corrosion

Through cooling and lubrication, your car’s engine oil will prevent mechanical corrosion that may render your vehicle inoperable. With that in mind, you should always make sure to maintain the correct levels of oil and make it a point to regularly change oil according to your car’s manual.

Seals Your Engine Properly

It’s a known fact that loading your engine with the wrong type of motor oil can cause your engine to leak. Needless to say, with the right kind of oil, your engine will remain properly sealed.

How will it do this? By distributing a protective layer of coating across your vehicle’s many parts.

Overdue Oil Change Symptoms

Overdue Oil Change Symptoms

So how would you know if your vehicle is due for an oil change? There are 8 signs that’ll let you know that your car’s engine is running low on the stuff. Here are all of them:

Glowing Oil Level Indicator

The vast majority of newer vehicles have an oil level indicator on their dashboards. Once this indicator starts glowing, then it’s time for an engine oil change.

Of course, if you want to be sure if your vehicle is really running low on oil, you can always visit a qualified mechanic. However, we all know that doing this means you’ll have to spend cash.

Dipstick Shows Low Oil Levels

If you’re driving an older model, chances are, its dashboard doesn’t have an oil level indicator. So how will you know if you’re running low on engine oil? By simply popping open your car’s hood and checking its oil levels using its dipstick, which is something all automobiles have.

Oil That’s Dark & Dirty

Sometimes, simply looking at your engine oil can tell you about its condition. If it’s dark, murky, or dirty-looking, then it might mean you’re due for an oil change. Needless to say, the color of your vehicle’s engine oil does not necessarily dictate whether you need an oil change or not.

Engine Emits A Burning Smell

Engine oil that’s due for replacement changes frequently emits a burning smell. That smell isn’t to be ignored because doing so can lead to a myriad of other problems.

Once your engine starts emitting a burning odor, stop it immediately then wait for it to cool. After that, check your oil levels using your car’s dipstick. If the levels are low, change your oil ASAP.

Your Fuel Consumption Increases

As your engine oil degrades, it causes your vehicle to run less efficiently. Consequently, the rate at which it consumes fuel increases significantly.

Therefore, if you find yourself running out of gas much faster than before, it’s best to check your oil levels. If you see that you’re low on engine oil, apply more to your vehicle immediately.


As mentioned earlier, motor oil helps cool your engine’s components. When you’re running low on it, your vehicle will suffer from overheating. While you may initially think there’s a problem with your car’s cooling system, it would be wise to also check its oil levels which may be low.

Engine Stalls When Started

Engines with low levels of motor oil tend to stall frequently. This is especially true if you’ve got a car that’s equipped with an older engine that uses more viscous regular motor oil.

Be mindful that even engines that utilize synthetic oil stall when their oil levels are low. Thus, if your car’s engine ever stalls, one of the first things you should check is your car’s dipstick.

Dark Smoke From The Exhaust

Whether you’re driving a diesel or an unleaded automobile, dark smoke emitted from the car’s exhaust system is never a good thing. Needless to say, there are a plethora of reasons why your vehicle might be churning out black smoke and polluting the environment around it.

What Happens If The Engine Oil Is Not Changed?

What Happens If The Engine Oil Is Not Changed?

A lot of consequences may come forth if you don’t change your car’s engine oil. Below are a few examples of what might happen to your vehicle.

Total Engine Failure

Failure to change the engine oil regularly can lead its total failure. When this happens, your car will need a new engine, which can be very expensive. As a matter of fact, it’s sometimes cheaper to purchase a new automobile altogether than to replace/overhaul an engine.

Greatly Diminished Engine Performance

If your car’s performance diminishes greatly, then you may need an oil change. After all, most engines stall, use excessive gasoline, emit a burning smell, and overheat when they need a motor oil change. With that said, once you’ve filled your car with the appropriate engine oil, every one of the aforementioned problems that were mentioned will be a thing of the past.

Voided Warranty For Your Vehicle

Among the perks of buying a new car is the warranty that comes with it. Be that as it may, when you neglect your car’s engine oil, you may end up voiding the manufacturer warranty. Due to that, it is essential that you have your vehicle serviced according to factory specifications.

How Long Can A Car Go Without An Oil Change?

Irrevocable damage happens to most engines when they’re run without motor oil for more than between 5 and 20 minutes tops. Hence, once your vehicle completely runs out of oil, you shouldn’t attempt to drive it until you have loaded your automobile with some new oil.

What Happens If You Drive A Car That Needs An Oil Change

What Happens If You Drive A Car That Needs An Oil Change

Prepare for an unpleasant ride if you drive a car that needs an oil change. First of all, it may stall when you try to start it. After that, it’ll belch smoke and then emit a burning odor. Now as you’re driving, you shall feel bumps within the engine and use a lot more fuel than you normally would.

Recommended Engine Oil For Your Car

You’ve got countless options when it comes to engine oil for your car. Among all of them, here are what we believe are the best:

#1- Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil 5 QT

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil 5 QT (Packaging May Vary)

The Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 is one of the best-reviewed synthetic motor oils on many online platforms. It’s known to successfully prolong a vehicle’s lifespan as well as maintain it at peak performance for a very long time.

About This Product:

  • Provides 40% more protection to your engine than your average motor oil. Due to that, it can significantly prolong the lifespan of your vehicle’s engine.
  • Formulated with a special blend of chemicals that prevent corrosion and make the motor oil last much longer.
  • Proven to provide 25% more protection against engine deposits.
  • Maintains viscosity well and excels at keeping your engine’s temperature stable.

#2- Mobil 1 - 112798 120763 Synthetic Motor Oil 5W-20, 5 Quart

Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil 5W-20, 5 Quart

As its name alludes, this is Mobile’s #1 selling engine oil. It was formulated to make sure your car will last longer, run better, and use less fuel. With all that being said, you should also be aware that this product is only suitable for certain engines and isn’t a universal motor oil.

About This Product:

  • Is scientifically formulated to prevent sludge from building up and deposits from forming.
  • Provides superb lubrication that guarantees a longer lifespan for all compatible engines.
  • Aids with fuel economy when used on the right vehicles.
  • Reduces starting system stress and excels at regulating engine temperature.

#3- Castrol 03093 GTX 10W-30 Motor Oil, 5 Quart

Castrol 03093 GTX 10W-30 Motor Oil, 5 Quart

Castrol has long been a leader in the motor oil industry. Among their top products is the 03093 GTX 10W-30 Motor Oil. Unlike all the other products that we’ve discussed, this is our only non-synthetic option. As such, it’s the most likely the best choice for older vehicles.

About This Product:

  • Is guaranteed to provide extra protection versus engine sludge formation
  • Makes sure your car’s fuel economy remains stable.
  • Utilizes a special formula to make your engine run better and longer.
  • Doesn’t break down easily, meaning it’ll last a long time in your engine.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know what happens if you don’t change engine oil, make it a point to always keep your vehicle’s engine well-oiled. That way, it’ll be able to save fuel, run much at peak performance, and keep the insides of your engine free of gunk and sludge.

Keep in mind that not all engine oil is the same. 

Nowadays, there are tons of various brands to choose from. Moreover, you have now got 100%, synthetic, and semi-synthetic options that all come in different viscosities. As such, you must check your vehicle’s manual to guarantee you’re loading your engine with the right kind of oil.

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