What Happens When Car Engine Oil is Inadequate?

Credit: Santeri Viinamäki
Home » What Happens When Car Engine Oil is Inadequate?

An engine with clean oil and well-lubricated mechanical components performs more efficiently, than without.

However, as the fluid gets used in various parts of the engine, it breaks down and becomes viscous and dirty.

Once this happens, your car stops being as effective, and you will need to change the oil for it to return to its optimal performance.

What Are the Symptoms of Inadequate Oil in the Car Engine?

1. Engine Oil Warning Light

The first indication that you need to change your oil is when the dashboard light is illuminated. The light turns on due to low oil pressure in the engine.

The sensors in the engine detect the low pressure due to the low level of oil.

 Take the dashboard light seriously as it will save considerable headaches in the future, which can be a result of low pressure in the engine.

2. Burning Smell

An engine has many moving components. These components are metallic, and when they come into contact with each other, they produce frictional force.

The friction causes heat, and this heat can produce a burning smell.

The engine oils prevent overheating with a cooling effect so that the components do not wear and tear as they come into contact with each other.

If there is a low level of oil in the engine, these components will continue heating up and eventually start wearing down.

Can you smell a burning sensation inside the car’s cabin? If yes, check that the oil in your car is clean, clear and at the optimal volume.

3. Failing the Dipstick Test

Credit: Dvortygirl

The easiest way to confirm the engine oil level is to use a dipstick to test the depth of the oil. Is the dipstick shows a low level of oil, you need to refill it.

4. Complete Engine Failure

A complete engine failure will be the result of ignoring the warning signs of a low engine oil level.

You should always try to avoid this eventually because it will cost you a lot more to fix the engine than it would have cost you to refill your car’s engine oil.

The cost of purchasing the engine oil is considerably less than the cost of the new engine.

5. Excessive Mileage without Oil Change

It is generally recommended that when you have driven your car for 3,000 miles or 3 months, you should check your engine oil. Check the exact recommendation with your local mechanic.

If your vehicle is new, you should schedule an oil change every six months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first.

While these are the best practice guidelines, you should check your car’s manual to determine the exact time you should change your oil or/and schedule your vehicle for maintenance.

6. Loud, Knocking Engine Noise

When engine parts and components rub against each other, you’ll start to hear a loud knocking noise.

This is an indication that the parts are not well lubricated and will need an oil change or refill so that they can be adequately lubricated and avoid friction.

The knocking sound is caused by loose rods that keep pistons in place. When the rods are loose, they get thrown around the engine thereby creating the knocking sounds.

A fresh batch of clean oil creates a thin barrier between the engine’s moving parts thereby avoiding metal-on-metal contact which makes the noise.

When the new oil starts breaking down it will not lubricate as well, and the engine will continue getting louder.

If you ignore these sounds, the knocking noises will get even worse, and the engine will eventually break.

7. Black Dirty Looking Oil

Clean oil is amber in colour. After the fluid has been used it starts to darken and get dirty from all the particles it collects from the moving parts of the engine.

Check the colour of the oil every month to ensure that it has not started darkening. You can do this using a dipstick and then wipe off the oil using a clean cloth.

If the oil is dark and dirty, you need to schedule an oil change immediately.

8. Exhaust Smoke Instead Translucent Vapour

Credit: Love Krittaya

When the car is burning fuel efficiently, it emits relatively translucent vapour from the tailpipe.

If you notice black smoke coming from the exhaust, it is an indication that fuel is not burning efficiently or that there is an oil leak in your engine. Dark coloured  smoke can indicate some faulty components in your engine.

If there is enough oil or you recently changed the oil, you will need a professional mechanic to pinpoint the problem for repair.

What are the Effects of Inadequate Oil in the Car Engine?

1. Oil Pressure Problems

The most straightforward problem to fix when you have low oil in the car engine is the oil pressure problem.

Oil pressure is affected when there is not enough oil in the car engine and therefore not enough oil gets to all the moving parts in the car’s engine.

This means that there are parts which will not be appropriately lubricated due to the metal-on-metal movement.

To fix the problem, schedule an oil change or refill the oil to attend the right oil level in the engine.

2. Engine Wear and Tear

Physics teaches us that when metal moves on metal, there will be friction. Friction creates heat, and the eventual result is wear and tear of the moving parts.

The oil flows through the engine parts such as crankshaft bearings and cam bearings, lubricating the parts to reduce frictional pressure.

In the absence of engine oil, the oil pressure will decrease, and the friction created by the metal-on-metal movement will create wear-and-tear.

3. Oil Pressure Gauge Problems

Modern cars come with oil pressure gauges. This helps the car owner to determine if the oil level is at the optimal level.

When the car doesn’t have enough oil, the pressure gauge will measure and warn the car owner.

If the car owner ignores the pressure warnings, the indicator will malfunction, and the only way to determine the level of oil in the car without the gauge is to do a mechanical test using a dipstick.

4. Oil Filter Problems

The oil filter performs a critical role in maintaining oil pressure. It filters the particles collected from the moving parts of the engine to prevent them from returning into the engine system.

If the filter gets clogged with dirt particles, the oil pressure will be high and will damage the valve thereby allowing the oil to pass freely at reduced pressure.

To ensure that the filters are operating optimally and sure you have a regular oil change.

5. Increased Oil Viscosity

As the engine oil moves around the engine, it collects dirt particles. These particles make the oil viscous. High viscosity is not suitable for proper flow and pressure of the oil.

Solution to the Problem

Use a smart technology such as GOFAR to find your car engine’s sweet spot. The technology helps you by;

  • Reminding the driver of the scheduled maintenance visits such as oil change
  • Connecting drivers to top-rated mechanics and parts suppliers
  • Saving fuel by finding the engine’s sweet spot
Danny Adams sitting in a chair with a laptop

Danny Adams

Co-founder of GOFAR and with a Computer Science background from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Aerospace, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering (Honours), UNSW. I want to transform data from cars into useful services so -> drivers save time & money -> emissions fall -> Australian roads are safer. So we built an ATO-compliant logbook app called GOFAR. I write to help you understand how to use GOFAR to maximise business travel. Reach out via support@gofar.co.

Related Posts

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice from GOFAR. We recommend consulting with an independent legal, taxation, or financial expert to ensure the information is applicable to your specific situation. Please note that relevant regulations and laws may evolve over time.
Check Car Buy Now