You've Waited Too Long To Change Your Oil – Can You Prevent Further Damage?
Although oil changes are relatively simple and cheap maintenance tasks, how oil affects your car can be surprisingly complex. The primary role of oil is to provide lubrication for your engine. However, oil also acts as a secondary coolant, helping to move heat away from critical internal engine parts. Poor lubrication also produces excessive heat, so insufficient oil can damage your engine in several ways.
Changing your oil helps avoid these issues by ensuring your engine's oil always provides as much lubrication as possible. The longer oil remains in your car, the greater the impact of contamination and heating cycles on its ability to provide efficient lubrication. Manufacturers generally choose oil change intervals to balance protection and cost, but what happens if you wait too long to change your oil?
The Impact of Deferred Oil Changes
Oil viscosity selection is a somewhat complicated process. Viscosity refers to the ability of a fluid to flow freely, so higher viscosity numbers indicate a thicker oil. A thicker oil can coat your engine's internal parts more effectively while providing efficient lubrication, but lower-viscosity oils can sometimes provide more efficiency.
Other factors, such as your engine's ideal heat range, can also impact your manufacturer's oil choices. In other words, manufacturers don't choose oil viscosities on a whim. Unfortunately, leaving oil in your engine for too long can affect its viscosity. As engine oil engines, oxidation will make the oil thicker, pushing it outside your manufacturer's specifications.
Thicker oil can have numerous negative consequences for your engine. Many engines contain small passageways, which thick oil can clog, potentially affecting oil pressure. Thicker oil can also reduce engine efficiency, increase heat, and result in long-term wear. Leaving old oil in your car for any period will impact your engine's longevity, even if only by a small amount.
The Best Way to Prevent Further Damage
Of course, the best way to avoid damage from old oil is to change your oil according to your manufacturer's recommended interval. Fortunately, all is not lost if you've already waited far too long. The most important thing you can do to prevent further damage is to change your oil immediately. A quick oil change will restore your oil's viscosity, helping to ensure your engine remains protected.
However, you can do more to undo some of the impacts of running your engine with old oil. The best option is to change your oil again relatively soon after your first change. Modern synthetic oils contain detergents to help clean your engine, and putting fresh oil in will help break up and remove any remaining sludge. Changing your oil again will remove these contaminants.
The good news is that you're unlikely to have caused much damage with one delayed oil change. Even if you don't choose to perform a second oil change on a shorter interval, you'll likely be fine if you avoid delaying future oil changes. By sticking to a routine oil change interval, you'll guarantee your engine has the protection it needs to last for many years and miles.
To learn more, contact a local auto lube shop.