Car maintenance adheres to a schedule, and any manufacturer will tell you to always make it in time for service or have your maintenance interval a bit earlier. However, what would happen if you forgot to get your car’s oil changed? What will happen to your car if it went on a few more kilometers—or perhaps a thousand more? Should you worry or is it completely safe?
Where do you drive?
If you drive around the city a lot and you find yourself getting stuck in traffic often, it is better to not miss a maintenance interval. In traffic, your engine is exposed to a lot of heat, emissions, as well as dirt and debris. Your car is designed to be used in conditions such as these, but not for long. Prolonged exposure to heat can wear away at your car’s components much faster, and dust and debris may find their way into your car’s engine.
If you find yourself on the race track often, missing a maintenance interval is definitely not recommended. In fact, it is better to conduct an oil change and a thorough check before you test your car’s limits on the circuit, then get another oil change not too long after the track day. Again, excessive heat could damage your car’s engine, and when you’re red-lining on the main straight, the last thing you want is for your engine’s temperature to shoot up.
If you’re more inclined to go up muddy terrain or just tear up the trails with your rig, make sure to attend to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule much earlier than recommended. Exposure to a lot of dirt can damage your engine. On top of that, you should have your car thoroughly cleaned to prevent rusting and to ensure that other movable components such as your suspension arms and dampers are free to articulate without any obstructions.
What if I go on a few kilometers, or weeks?
For most cars, a maintenance interval is often conducted after a certain period of time, or after a certain number of kilometers have been run. Oil breaks down over time whether used or unused. However, a few extra kilometers or a few days over your manufacturer’s recommended interval isn’t going to break your engine. You won’t experience catastrophic failure immediately after you get that dreaded notification on your dashboard—considering the oil is the only problem you need to address.
If you have a modern car with a fully-featured gauge cluster, however, you will most likely see a warning stating that your car is due for an oil change. It’s annoying to an extent, but it will keep you from forgetting to attend to something that will keep your car running smoothly.
Nothing really happens a few kilometers after a schedule. The more observant may notice an engine may tend to get a little sluggish over time since the oil tends to get thicker as it traps dirt over time. The oil progressively gets thicker the more you use your car, and it breaks down the more time passes, or the more heat cycles it goes through. It’s not recommended, but going a bit over your interval isn’t too much of a problem. Just make sure that you do intend to change the oil at the soonest.
What if I go further?
If you truly forget your maintenance interval or neglect your car, foregoing the oil change and other items entirely, then you will run the risk of breaking your car’s engine.
Oil is vital for your engine’s health. Proper lubricant is a necessity to prevent metal-to-metal contact which will wear down your engine faster. Going on without changing your oil will make your engine’s components wear because oil thins over time and loses the additives that decrease the friction between your engine’s components. Oxidation is also an issue because it degrades the oil slowly, but given enough time it could cause the oil to lose its efficacy.
Oxidation and an excessive amount of debris will make your oil run thick making your car’s engine perform sluggishly. Fuel economy will also be reduced as the oil will impede your engine more than helping it run smoothly. You will also trap a lot of debris inside your engine which can eat away at your pistons and cylinder walls as well as your crankshaft. In some cases, you can even clog up your engine’s oil filter which leads to a ruined oil pump.
However, once you reach a point where you’ve completely neglected your oil, and it’s broken down to the point where it’s thin and crusty, your car could potentially seize up or produce unpleasant sounds like knocking or ticking. After a long period of time, the oil’s ability to protect your engine from itself is reduced, and because the oil is so thin or doesn’t flow properly, you will damage your oil pump because not enough oil is flowing through it.
You could also face the threat of burning too much oil. Over time, you may notice that the oil level in your car will get lower and lower, and that is because engines tend to “eat” some oil during the combustion process. Below a certain level on your oil dipstick, it becomes dangerous to run your car especially since the remaining oil in your engine might not be enough to fully protect it.
Get your oil change as soon as you can
When the oil change warning lights up, or you reach a certain amount of kilometers, it is imperative that you get fresh fluids as soon as you can. Your car will drive better and you will be able to enjoy it for a longer period of time if you attend to your maintenance. Changing your oil diligently will also save you money in the long run because rebuilding your car’s engine if something does go wrong down the line is costlier than religiously maintaining your automobile.