Haven’t Changed Oil in Two Years. Is My Car Engine Damaged?

Has your car been telling you it’s time for an oil change, but you keep putting it off year after year? Many drivers think they can safely change oil after two years, not realizing the mechanical problems this causes over time. In this guide, we’ll look at the engine issues and safety risks you take on when you don’t change your oil regularly every few months.

Bonus Read: How far you can drive with minimum engine oil

Can You Go 2 Years Without Oil Change?

No. An oil change every six months or 5,000 to 7,500 miles is ideal for most vehicles. Going too long between oil changes risks damaging your engine through increased friction, heat buildup, and sludge accumulation.

You see, oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It lubricates moving parts, keeps things cool, and carries away contaminants. But it doesn’t last forever.

As oil circulates through hot engine components, it breaks down over time and loses its lubricating properties. The additives that help fight corrosion also get used up. After a while, the oil gets dirty and can start to thicken and turn sludgy.

If you drive a modern vehicle and ignore the oil change reminder light for too long, you’re asking for trouble down the road.

Lack of lubrication causes increased engine wear and friction buildup, which can lead to premature part failure. Dirty oil can also clog passages and restrict flow, robbing critical components of needed lubrication. And sludge buildup? That can block oil ports completely.

Oil Change Time vs Mileage

Traditionally, oil was changed based on mileage intervals recommended by manufacturers, usually 3,000-10,000 miles. However, time also determines oil life.

Even if you haven’t reached the recommended mileage interval, it’s still important to change your oil regularly. This is because oil degrades over time, especially if your vehicle is frequently subjected to extreme temperatures or harsh driving conditions (even if you have covered very small distances in such conditions).

Some driving conditions can be considered severe and require more frequent oil changes, such as:

  • Short trips of less than five miles in normal temperatures or 10 miles in freezing temperatures
  • Extreme hot-weather stop-and-go driving
  • Driving at low speeds for long distances
  • Driving on dusty, muddy, salty, sandy or gravel roads
  • Towing a trailer or carrying heavy loads
  • Track driving or racing

So, you should change oil at least once yearly, even if mileage is low, to maintain fresh oil.

Synthetic oil lasts for full year. Semi-synthetic lasts 6 months. After these intervals, oil can become contaminated and damage the engine.

An oil change costs around $50. Though inexpensive, it extends engine life, improves efficiency, and prevents major repairs. So it is a worthwhile maintenance cost.

Bonus Read: Check engine light after oil change

How Bad Is It To Be Overdue For An Oil Change?

Long delays in the change of the engine oil can cause the following problems with the oil sitting in the crankcase for a long time:

1. Overdue Changes Cut Additive Protection

Engine oil contains additives that help enhance its performance and protect the engine. These additives include detergents, dispersants, anti-wear agents, and antioxidants. However, over time, these additives degrade and lose their effectiveness.

As a result, the oil becomes less capable of cleaning, protecting against wear, and preventing oxidation. This can lead to increased engine deposits, accelerated wear, and decreased oil life. 

Furthermore, if you have not driven much i.e. less than 3000 miles and have not changed the oil in the last 2 years, the additives in the oil to remove the engine sludge will start breaking down, and will no longer provide the desired protection to the engine.

2. Oil Oxidizing from Heat and Age

Engine oil undergoes oxidation and thermal breakdown when exposed to high temperatures. Oxidation occurs when the oil reacts with oxygen, forming sludge and varnish. Thermal breakdown refers to the oil’s inability to withstand high temperatures, causing a loss of viscosity and lubrication.

Oxidation and thermal breakdown can lead to reduced oil life, decreased engine protection, and increased engine deposits.

In stop-and-go traffic, fuel and water vapors contaminate the oil. Frequent acceleration and deceleration make the engine work harder, injecting more fuel during acceleration and causing incomplete combustion. This unburned fuel finds its way into the engine oil.

Moreover, during stop-and-go driving, the engine may not reach its optimal temperature, leading to the formation of water vapor during combustion. These water vapors mix with the oil in the crankcase, further contaminating it.

Short driving distances worsen the issue by not allowing the engine to fully heat up and evaporate accumulated condensation.

To mitigate this, incorporate longer drives whenever possible. This helps the engine reach its optimal temperature, evaporating condensation and burning off excess fuel. Cruising on long routes ensures the engine operates at the right temperature, allowing the oil to flow and lubricate effectively.

3. Insufficient Lubrication Causing Engine Wear

Typically, an oil film coats all bearing surfaces within an engine as a safeguard during startup.

However, when an engine is left unused for an extended period and you have not changed under the misconception that it hasn’t logged 5,000 miles yet, the integrity of this protective oil film could be compromised.

A deteriorated oil film leads to heightened friction, heat, and wear on vital engine components – including piston rings, bearings, and camshafts.

Inadequate lubrication can result in damaging metal-on-metal contact, triggering accelerated wear, diminished engine efficiency, and potential engine damage. This underscores the importance of timely oil changes regardless of the vehicle’s mileage.

Must Read: Low oil pressure at idle

What Happens To Engine If You Wait Too Long For An Oil Change?

If you wait too long for an oil change, it can harm your engine in the following ways:

1. Reduced Fuel Efficiency

When the oil breaks down and becomes contaminated, it loses its ability to effectively lubricate the engine.

This means that the engine has to work harder to overcome the increased friction, resulting in reduced fuel efficiency. The decreased lubrication also leads to increased wear and tear on the engine, further diminishing its performance. 

2. Engine Overheating

Oil also plays a vital role in dissipating heat generated by the engine. As the oil loses its ability to lubricate and cool the engine, it becomes less effective at managing heat.

This can result in the engine overheating, which can cause severe damage. Overheating can lead to warped cylinder heads, damaged gaskets, and even a cracked engine block.

3. Formation of Sludge

Over time, oil accumulates debris, dirt, and other contaminants. When you delay an oil change, these particles can mix with the oil, forming a thick sludge-like substance.

This sludge can clog vital passageways, such as the oil filter or oil galleries, restricting the flow of oil to the engine. The lack of proper lubrication due to sludge buildup can have disastrous consequences, including engine seizure or failure. 

So, even if you have rarely driven your vehicle in the 2 years of timespan, the oil and moisture in the engine will react and cause the formation of sludge and acidic substances which lead to corrosion and affect engine longevity.

4. Increased Corrosion

Fresh oil contains additives that help prevent corrosion and rust within the engine. As the oil ages and loses its protective properties, the engine becomes more susceptible to corrosion.

Corrosion can lead to the deterioration of engine components, such as bearings and pistons, further compromising the engine’s performance and longevity.

5. Increased Emissions

Engine oil plays a crucial role in preventing the buildup of carbon deposits in the engine. When oil breaks down or becomes contaminated, it may lose its ability to keep these deposits in check.

Carbon deposits can accumulate on valves, pistons, and other engine parts, which can hinder the proper flow of air and fuel. This can negatively impact combustion, resulting in incomplete fuel burning and increased emissions.

Is It Okay To Be A Little Late On Oil Change?

If you happen to be a few hundred miles or a few days overdue for an oil change, it’s not the end of the world. Modern engines and high-quality oils are designed to withstand the occasional delay. However, it’s important not to make a habit of being late for your oil changes. Consistently neglecting this maintenance task can lead to a buildup of sludge, increased engine wear, and potentially more costly repairs down the road. 

Some First Hand Experiences Shared By Users In Different Communities

Our team conducted research across various online communities, forums, and subreddits to gather user comments and opinions on “changing oil after two years”.

User 1 says:

In my Charger, after two years without an oil change, the oil had become really thick and dirty. I noticed something was wrong when my engine performance decreased and there was a noticeable lag in acceleration.

User 2 says:

My 2017 Volvo XC60 had its oil changed after two years. The oil was definitely degraded, but no major issues. I realized it was time for a change when my engine started making a ticking sound, especially on cold starts.

User 3 says:

I recently changed the oil in my Eclipse Cross after two years. The oil was darker than usual but not too bad. I realized I needed a change when my fuel efficiency dropped and the engine felt sluggish. Thankfully, no long-term damage.

User 4 says:

Just did an oil change on my Kia Seltos after neglecting it for two years. Honestly, I didn’t notice any problems until the check engine light came on. Turns out, the oil was extremely low and almost completely degraded. It was an eye-opener for sure!

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