Are you one of those car owners who have been neglecting to change your oil for the past two years? If so, it’s time to pay attention. Your engine is in dire need of some TLC, and changing the oil is a crucial part of its maintenance. Neglecting this task can lead to serious consequences and may even shorten the lifespan of your beloved vehicle.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of changing your oil regularly and the signs that indicate your oil needs changing.
Bonus Read: How far you can drive with minimum engine oil
Table of Contents
Can You Go 2 Years Without Oil Change?
The short answer is no, and let me explain why. Oil plays a crucial role in lubricating the engine’s moving parts, reducing friction, and preventing excessive wear and tear. Over time, however, the oil breaks down and becomes less effective, losing its ability to perform these vital functions. Regular oil changes help to remove contaminants and debris that accumulate in the oil, ensuring that it continues to protect your engine properly.
Going 2 years without an oil change is not recommended for several reasons. First and foremost, the oil’s viscosity or thickness changes over time, causing it to become less efficient in lubricating the engine. This can lead to increased friction and heat, potentially damaging vital engine components.
Additionally, as the oil ages, it can accumulate harmful deposits and sludge, which can clog the engine and restrict oil flow. This can result in reduced engine performance and fuel efficiency.
Oil Change Time vs Mileage
Traditionally, mileage has been the primary factor used to determine when to change the oil. Most vehicle manufacturers provide recommended mileage intervals, typically ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on the make and model and type of oil recommended by them.
While mileage is an important factor, time also plays a significant role in determining when to change your oil. Even if you haven’t reached the recommended mileage interval, it’s still important to change your oil regularly. This is because oil can degrade 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
If you frequently drive in those driving conditions, it may be necessary to change your engine oil more frequently. These conditions can accelerate oil degradation and increase engine stress.
So, it’s better to pay a little for an oil change every year than to pay thousands to get a new change.
Advancements in engine and oil technology have led to longer-lasting oils that can withstand higher mileage before needing to be changed.
However, to be on the safer side, the general guideline is to change your oil at least once a year (if oil is synthetic), regardless of mileage. For semi-synthetic engine oils, you should change them every 6 months. This ensures that your engine is always running with fresh, clean oil.
Additionally, if you use your vehicle infrequently and accumulate low mileage, it’s still necessary to change the oil regularly to prevent it from becoming contaminated with moisture or other harmful substances.
Oil change only requires less than $50. So, I think it is worth noting that regularly investing in this maintenance can result in long-term savings. Considering the purpose it serves, such as extending your car’s life span, enhancing efficiency and performance, and potentially preventing catastrophic damage to your vehicle’s engine, the cost of an oil change can actually be viewed as significantly minimized.
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:
Loss of Additive Effectiveness
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.
Oxidation and Thermal Breakdown
When engine oil is exposed to high temperatures, it undergoes oxidation and thermal breakdown. Oxidation occurs when the oil reacts with oxygen, leading to the formation of sludge and varnish.
Thermal breakdown refers to the oil’s inability to withstand high temperatures, leading to a loss of viscosity and lubricating properties. Oxidation and thermal breakdown can result in decreased oil life, reduced engine protection, and increased engine deposits.
Contamination Of Fuel and Water Vapors in Oil
Let’s say you have only driven 1000 miles in a year but all those miles have been covered in stop-and-go traffic, it will add more contaminants into the oil.
Those contaminants are fuel and water vapors. Stop-and-go traffic involves frequent acceleration and deceleration, which requires the engine to work harder to keep the vehicle moving.
When you accelerate, more fuel is injected into the engine to provide the necessary power. Conversely, when you decelerate, the engine consumes less fuel. This constant fluctuation in fuel consumption can lead to incomplete combustion, where some fuel remains unburned and finds its way into the engine oil in the crankcase.
During stop-and-go driving, the engine may not reach its optimal operating temperature for extended periods. This leads to the formation of water vapor during combustion within the engine, which can mix with the oil.
This is because when engines don’t reach their operating temperature, they have less combustion efficiency, due to which water vapors and unburnt fuel exist after the combustion. They mix with the oil in the crankcase and contaminate it.
Additionally, short driving distances do not allow the engine to fully heat up and evaporate the accumulated condensation, further exacerbating the issue.
So, whenever possible, try to incorporate longer drives into your routine. This allows the engine to reach its optimal operating temperature, helping evaporate any condensation and burn off excess fuel. Moreover, when the vehicle is cruising on long routes, the engine is running at operating temperatures, the oil is flowing and lubricating everything.
Reduced Lubrication and Increased 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.
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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.
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.