Can Your Car Use Too Much Oil?
Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, having a car any time of the year can help you get from point A to point B as quickly and as comfortably as possible. But while having a car year-round can help get you to and from the places you want to be, it won’t be doing you any good if you’re not maintaining it. Thankfully, by following your car’s recommended maintenance schedule in your car’s owner’s manual, you can help ensure that your car is ready to go regardless of the season.
One of the most important maintenance services you need to have done is an oil change. And whether you choose to do it yourself or have a mechanic do it for you, you must ensure that your car’s engine has the right amount of oil.
What Are Oil Changes?
An oil change is a vital maintenance service for any gas-powered vehicle to ensure its engine runs at its best and is protected from potential engine damage. But what exactly is it? Well, it’s pretty much as it sounds, as an oil change is a service in which the current engine oil is drained from your oil pan and replaced with new oil. Your oil filter, which captures any debris in your oil from entering your engine, is also replaced to keep your new engine oil clean.
While an oil change is one of the easiest DIY maintenance tasks you can do, when having your oil changed by a professional, you can opt for a full-service oil change which usually includes having a mechanic check your car’s other essential fluids and other wear and tear items during your oil change. This is a great way to keep your fluids topped off and stay ahead of any potential issues that may arise in the future.
If you opt to stick with DIY oil changes, you should change your engine oil every 3000 miles or every 3 months, whichever occurs first. However, some vehicles and oil manufacturers may recommend a longer interval, so it’s always best to read the fine print of any oil before you use it. But, overall, check your owner’s manual or consult a professional mechanic for the most accurate oil change interval for your specific vehicle and the recommended type of oil you should use.
What Happens If I Use Too Much Oil?
Every vehicle will have a specific oil capacity to keep its engine running at its best. You can check your car’s oil level by inspecting the oil dipstick in your car’s engine bay. The dipstick has a minimum and maximum mark with a hashed center to indicate the ideal oil level. If the oil level is below the minimum mark, you do not have enough oil in your engine, leading to increased friction, heat, and damage to your internal engine components.
If your oil level is above the maximum, you have excess engine oil, which can lead to several issues, including:
Frothy or Foamy Oil
In its natural form, engine oil has a golden color and viscosity similar to vegetable oil. And as the oil circulates through your engine and goes through heating and cooling cycles, it will turn into a dark brown or black color. But while the color may change, it will tend to keep the same viscosity. However, if you notice that there is foam in your oil or your oil is frothy, this is a sign that you have too much oil in your engine.
The foam comes from the oil being aerated by the crankshaft, which can quickly damage your engine. You will also want to look at the color of the foam. If the foam in your oil is light in color, you could have a whole other problem, as this could be due to the presence of coolant in your oil, which could indicate that you have leaking head gaskets. In this case, you must take your vehicle to a certified automotive mechanic as soon as possible.
Too Much Pressure In Engine
Oil pressure is one of the most critical components of an internal combustion engine with a forced lubrication system. In these systems, motor oil is picked up by a positive displacement oil pump and then forced into the oil galleries and bearings to properly lubricate piston rings and other moving internal engine components.
This is why the engine oil capacity dictated by the manufacturer is not only in place for engine lubrication efficiency but is also used to produce a proper oil pressure in the crankcase. And if you overfill your engine oil, you may notice that your engine oil pressure is reading too high on your dashboard warning lights. So keep an eye on your engine oil pressure gauge and look for any check engine lights for signs of high oil pressure.
Think of your engine like a cup of water. Pour too much water, and it’ll start to overflow. And the same goes for when using too much oil, as the excess oil will look for a way to escape and be forced out of gaskets and seals. Due to this, you may notice oil leakage from valve cover gaskets, drain plug gaskets, and other seals on your engine. Of course, this can also be caused by old gaskets or other issues, but checking your oil level is an easy way to diagnose the issue yourself.
Oil leaks are also very common on older vehicles as gaskets fail over time. Suppose you notice your vehicle has a high oil consumption and oil leaking on your engine or other internal components. In that case, you will need to have it repaired quickly, as engine oil leaks can cause other failures as the oil degrades or damages exterior engine components.
Spark Plug Fouling
Like how too much oil can cause leaks, it can directly impact other parts of your vehicle. For instance, when oil gets into the combustion chamber, the area between your cylinder head and piston where air, fuel and spark combine to create combustion, you could get fouled out spark plugs. Specifically, spark plug fouling refers to issues with the electrode tip of the plug, causing intermittent firing issues. And because the electrode tip of your spark plug is located in the combustion chamber, when you have too much oil, it can coat the electrode, fouling out your spark plugs.
Early Catalytic Converter Failure
All gas-powered vehicles have one or more catalytic converters installed in the exhaust system to convert harmful compounds from the exhaust into safe gasses for better emissions. And while converters are often targets of theft due to the precious metals inside, most last the lifetime of the vehicle when your vehicle is maintained correctly. However, most converters fail due to a high level of contaminants clogging the converter, possibly due to bad fuel or too much oil in your engine. So if you know your vehicle has its converter, and you notice it’s failing, or you are seeing blue smoke from your tailpipe, engine oil is being burned in the combustion chamber.
And due to its complexity and importance, your mechanic will have to tackle a failing or faulty catalytic converter, as specific tools are needed to test your emissions.
What Happens To A Car With Too Little Oil?
Too little oil can be as bad, if not worse, than too much oil, as your car’s engine won’t be able to protect itself from the extreme heat and stress put on all the moving parts of your engine while the car is running. So to help you to avoid this potentially catastrophic scenario, be sure to keep an eye out for some of the main symptoms that your car has too little oil:
- Oil Pressure Warning Light
- Burning Oil Smell
- Unusual Engine Noises
- Decrease In Engine Performance
- Engine Overheating
If you notice that your engine oil level is low, it is best to get a quart of oil and add a little at a time until your engine oil is at the correct level. You should also schedule an appointment with your mechanic or local dealership to have them inspect your vehicle for any oil leaks to determine why your engine oil level was low.
How Endurance Keeps You Protected
Oil changes are one of the simplest yet most vital maintenance services that all gas-powered cars need. But, while all internal combustion engines need motor oil, having too little or too much oil could be catastrophic.
That’s why taking the time to familiarize yourself with your car’s maintenance needs, like how often you should be getting an oil change and how much oil to use, can help ensure your vehicle is road-ready. And with an Advantage auto protection plan from Endurance, you can save up to $3,500 toward your car’s maintenance needs, including its next oil and oil filter change and more, while protecting it from those unexpected breakdowns that even regular maintenance can’t keep away.
Plus, regardless if you have the Advantage plan or your customized coverage from Endurance, you’ll be able to enjoy complimentary services like 24/7 roadside assistance and more. You’ll even be eligible for an entire year’s worth of Endurance Elite Benefits, including collision discounts, tire replacements or repairs, and more, regardless of your coverage.
Don’t wait until you’re stuck dealing with an unexpected repair bill, and protect your vehicle today by requesting a free, no-obligation quote. Or, to learn more about how an Endurance auto protection plan can help you, call the award-winning Endurance customer care team at (800) 253-8203. You can also discover more helpful DIY car maintenance tips and other articles like auto expert buying guides, extended warranty coverage comparisons, road trip planning guides, and more by visiting the Endurance blog.
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Larry Witherspoon Jr. is a co-founder and Executive Director of the Automotive Training Center. Larry has held multiple leadership positions in the U. S. Navy and with various Fortune 100 companies. In addition to his business experience, Larry grew up understanding the difficulties all young men face becoming adults especially those that come from challenging circumstances. He has taken those experiences growing up and combined them with his passion for vehicles to start the Automotive Training Center. Read more about Larry.