What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Oil?

What happens if you wait too long to change your oil? How bad can it be? We’ve all been in this position. Life gets in the way. You’re overwhelmed by work demands, family obligations, and a blizzard of small errands. One day, idling in rush hour traffic, you notice that reminder sticker on the corner of your windshield.

You’re overdue for an oil change.

It’s another task on your already long to-do list. You convince yourself to push it. Wait until next week, maybe next month, whenever life is more manageable. Plus, does oil really need to be changed every 3,000 miles? Putting it off couldn’t cause too much harm. Right?


Oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle. It lubricates and protects all those meticulously engineered moving parts in your car’s engine. Having it changed at regular intervals is one of the most economical ways to get reliability and peak performance out of the vehicle you rely on to carry you through life.

what happens if you don't change your oil

What does oil do for your engine?

Mostly, the main job your motor’s oil has is to keep the moving parts of your engine lubricated, so they can run smoothly. The oil pump will send the oil through the filter where it will move on to the motor’s bearings, pistons, valve train, and other parts of the engine. It then goes back to the oil pan where it will get recycled and pushed through the filter and the engine parts all over again.

But, that’s not exactly its only purpose. Engine oil has certain properties, within it, that provide the protection your motor needs. Without it, the metal parts will rub on other metal parts, damaging the engine as it goes.

What does the oil protect the engine from?

Your engine’s oil contains additives that will keep all the inner parts clean and friction-free while reducing air bubbling in the liquid. Motor oil has antioxidants to reduce oxidation, which causes the oil to break down and the motor to wear out faster.

It also has detergents that prevent corrosion of the metal surfaces, and dispersants that bond to carbon deposits, and other debris, keeping them away from the motor and sending them into the filter where they will get trapped.

There’s also zinc, an anti-wearing agent. This mineral becomes a barrier preventing parts from wearing out too quickly, while foam inhibitors work to reduce bubbling within the oil. Otherwise, the oil pressure would lower and protection would diminish until parts started to break down and cease.

Related Article: How often do You have to change Engine Oil?

What happens if you don’t change your oil?

Bad things can happen if your oil isn’t changed. The following are just a few of the ways delaying or skipping oil changes could cost you time and money.

1. Wear of components

An engine consists of many moving parts such as pistons and valves. Your engine oil’s lubricating properties help to protect these parts by reducing friction. After the recommended oil change interval, the engine oil will deteriorate and will not be able to fully protect the components from friction which will lead to wear and damage.

2. Over-heated engine

Just your coolant system alone is not enough to cool the engine. Engine oil also plays an essential role in this since it is able to reach places that the coolant does not reach. As the engine oil ages, it breaks down and becomes thicker because of the exposure to high temperatures.

This thermal breakdown of the oil prevents it from absorbing heat, which could cause the engine to over-heat, gaskets to blow up, and parts to wear out and warp.

3. Dirt buildup

Besides lubricating and cooling, engine oil also cleans the inside of the engine. It removes small particles and debris. Over time, this dirt can build-up which can lead to plugging of the oil channels. This can significantly decrease the engine’s lifetime. This buildup of dirt will also cause the engine to work harder which results in a loss of power.

When the oil has not been changed for a long time, it will begin to gel or solidify in an engine, eventually turning into sludge. When this happens, the oil will not be able to reach all parts of the engine, leading to oil starvation in the crankshafts, bearings, camshafts, and other valve train components. This could lead to serious damage to the engine to the point that it needs to be replaced. 

4. Increased fuel consumption

As the aged engine oil thickens and becomes sludge, the engine will have to work harder. This means that you need more fuel for the same amount of power. This increase in fuel consumption can make a difference of 1% to 2%. Furthermore, your car might release toxic smoke into the environment as old engine oil burns.

5. Voided car warranty

Your car’s manufacturer ensures a warranty if you stick to its recommended maintenance. If you do not have it serviced accordingly, the warranty will be voided. In case of damage to your engine, this could lead to high costs which will not be reimbursed by the manufacturer.

Doing an oil change in which you also replace your oil filter is much cheaper compared to fixing a damaged engine. High-quality engine oil that is changed at the recommended intervals will allow your car to realize its maximum potential while the lifespan is extended. Besides fuel, engine oil is the most important fluid your car needs so make sure you choose the right one.