What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Oil?

February 3rd, 2022 by
Mechanic holding stick during oil change

OEM Image from Volkswagen

Whether it’s brand new or has a lot of mileage, you are responsible for your car’s routine maintenance. Otherwise, you risk causing damage to critical parts. And no one wants to pay the cost to repair such parts if they can avoid it.

Part of your duty is to change the oil regularly to keep the overall engine and system working as well as it did when you bought it. Today, we will discuss what happens when you don’t change a car’s oil regularly.

What Happens if I Don’t Get an Oil Change?

The oil you put in your car lubricates and protects the engine’s moving parts. However, the oil’s consistency and usefulness will worsen over time due to the harsh conditions it must undergo, including high heat and exposure to combustion materials.

This process will happen faster the more and harder you drive, but oil still degrades in a rarely-driven car. Friction reducers and other additives in the oil will lose their potency. When your vehicle’s current oil can no longer work adequately for optimal engine health, it’s time to change it. If you don’t, here are just a few of the things that will happen.

You Risk Overheating the Engine

Combustion engines use explosions against pistons to make the various components move. When the engine’s tight components move together rapidly as a result of these explosions, it causes friction and high temperatures. Alongside the coolant, engine oil helps keep things cool under the hood. However, if you don’t change the oil regularly, it becomes ineffective at preventing friction and friction builds, causing the engine to overheat.

The Oil Becomes Filthy

One of the classic signs that you need to change your car’s oil is its color. Fresh oil starts clear and light-colored. Over time, it collects dust, sediments, and other impurities, causing it to get thicker and dark brown or black. The oil’s job is to reduce friction and wear within the engine, but sufficiently dirty oil will accelerate disintegration.

Remember, it’s not just dirty oil; it’s thicker, dirty oil moving more roughly through the system, doing more damage, and generating more heat to worsen the oil. With this cycle, it’s easy to see why an ignored oil change can escalate into engine problems.

Engine Components Get Damaged

The more you slack off on getting oil changes, the more your engine’s critical components have had to operate in more stressful conditions. Oil is designed to protect these parts and prevent premature wear and tear. Without this kind of maintenance, you can expect much shorter lifespans for all major parts and poor overall driving performance.

Your Engine Will Be Noisier

Most people can tell when a car’s engine is making loud noises that it shouldn’t, especially when it’s their own car. If you don’t change your oil, you can expect your engine eventually to sound different from performing under greater strain. If you notice anything like this, along with other signs such as high engine temperature levels, make sure you aren’t off schedule with your maintenance.

You Might Lose Your Warranty Coverage

Automotive warranties cover various common problems, but they generally don’t assist with something like basic maintenance. If there’s evidence that you didn’t follow the maintenance schedule properly, it might result in your warranty being void. Or, the warranty could apply, but you might end up facing extra charges to cover the damage of improper maintenance.

Why Is Changing Oil Regularly So Much Better?

Your vehicle could not function for more than a few seconds without oil. Modern synthetic oils are full of components that reduce friction and anti-wear and anti-oxidization ingredients. All those metal parts sliding against each other would overheat critically without that protection. However, automobiles will always generate enough heat to break down these chemicals and render them ineffective.

An engine system marred by overly thick oil will have greater and greater difficulty transferring heat through the system evenly, which can cause specific parts to overheat. Along the way, you can expect lower fuel economy and the issues noted above.

Can My Car’s Engine Fail From Not Changing the Oil?

Absolutely. If you ever wonder what happens when you continue driving your car without ever getting an oil change, the short answer is you lose your engine. The longer, more complex answer is something will inevitably deform, crack, or burst, either from a gasket blowing or a general seize-up.

Replacing an engine’s parts can be expensive, but that’s getting off easy. Damage from neglected fluid systems could total a car due to the expense of replacing an unsalvageable engine. Depending on the vehicle, new engines could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Spare yourself the stress and expenses of engine damage by getting regular oil changes and other maintenance.

How Often Should I Change My Oil?

How long to go between oil changes will depend on mileage. Typically, newer cars have better mileage windows before you have to change the oil. You’ll generally find recommendations between 5,000 and 7,000 miles for recent models. And vehicles that use synthetic oil, such as luxury cars, have wider windows, like 7,500 miles. This is one area where Volkswagen excels. The automaker recommends changing the oil in one of their more recent vehicles every 10,000 miles or 12 months.

Even if you barely drive your car, it’s recommended that you change your oil at least twice a year. If you own a VW, extend that to at least once a year.

The one takeaway from all of this should be to keep track of your miles and oil changes. Check your oil levels every so often and have the filter and fluid replaced when appropriate. If you own a VW and want it to stay in peak shape, our team can put all your maintenance concerns to rest with a convenient and affordable VW care plan. Contact our service department if you’d like to schedule oil changes, brake services, tire replacement, or other auto care services.

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