How Bad Is It To Drive Without An Oil Change?

Apart from fuel, the most important fluid your vehicle needs is oil. This vital liquid plays a key role in keeping your engine running by lubricating metal parts, such as pistons, to prevent premature wear. Oil also collects various particles in the engine and features detergents that break down deposits to keep your engine running smoothly.

Most of the engine oil is not designed to last for a very long time though. The fluid breaks down over time and is not always able to provide the necessary lubrication and protection that your engine needs. You need to change this on a regular basis. Depending on the vehicle and the oil, the time between oil changes could be between 3,000 and 10,000 miles. But what happens if you decide to skip the change in oil? The end result is that your engine won’t last as long as it can. It could also mean an extravagant bill to replace the engine or to rebuild it sooner than expected.

The dangers of not changing your oil

Oil breaks down over time due to high temperatures in the engine (known as thermal breakdown). As a result, after an extended period of use, the oil is not capable of providing the necessary lubrication for metal parts. Without lubrication, the moving joints in the engine start rubbing against each other and cause premature wear. Oil also has a limited capacity on how much particulate matter it can hold. If the oil does not change, the particles already in the oil will begin to settle and cause corrosion.

One of the greatest dangers of not changing your oil is the build-up of sludge. Sludge occurs when old oil starts to gel or solidify in the engine. When sludge begins to build up, oil is not able to flow freely through the engine and can cause oil starvation of crankshafts, bearings, camshafts and other valve train components that are not lubricated. In time, this may cause major damage to the engine and, in the worst-case scenario, may require the engine to be replaced or rebuilt.

If you skip an oil change or go too long without one, the oil in your vehicle will not be able to move through your engine properly. Skipping an oil change leads to the vehicle’s oil thinning over time and to the accumulation of metal, dirt, and other particles. Over time, the oil will become abrasive and will wear down on vital engine parts.

It’s crucial to follow a maintenance schedule that fits both your vehicle needs and your driving style. If you take frequent short trips more often than longer on the highway, you’ll need to change your oil sooner rather than later. A suggested maintenance schedule should be included in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, otherwise talking to a local mechanic can give you insight into how often you should take your vehicle in for an oil change.

What to do if you skipped an oil change

First of all, some bad news, it’s impossible to tell whether or not you have caused some kind of damage to your engine. You might be lucky enough to find out that nothing has happened to the engine, but more often than not some kind of wear or sludge formation has happened. The best thing to do if you missed your oil change is to bring it to your mechanic right away, tell them what happened, and take a look at the engine. Even your local mechanic should be able to perform a leak test or a vacuum test. They can tell you if there are signs of incoming problems and provide a course of action to keep your engine running for a long time.

Of course , the best way to tackle this problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Your owner’s manual will tell you the recommended interval for when you need to change your oil. The interval in the manual is a guideline for the best of circumstances. Automakers recommend that you change your oil more often in certain situations, such as driving in a place with extreme temperatures, stopping and driving, or driving on dirt roads. However, make sure that your oil changes on a regular basis. It could save you from paying a lot of bucks for a new engine.

By Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis, CC BY 3.0,

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