Grudge Purchases 101: What Happens If You Put Off an Oil Change

If you’re reading this, you might be one of the 35% of drivers who report prolonging necessary vehicle maintenance. The good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is that putting off your vehicle’s tune-ups and repairs can drastically reduce the performance and longevity of your vehicle.

To help you better understand the importance of routine maintenance and vehicle care, we’re going to dive deep into the grimy details of what happens if you put off an oil change.

WHAT DOES ENGINE OIL DO?

Before we dive into the effects of putting off an oil change, you’ll need to understand what engine oil is and what it does.

Conventional vs. Synthetic

Historically speaking, motor engine oil was a mixture of a base oil and additives designed to lubricate engine parts. This kept the engine relatively friction-free, clean, and cool. As vehicles have developed, motor oil has had to keep pace. 

Modern synthetic oils are man-made using chemical compounds that feature the best aspects of crude oil, which is what conventional oil is refined from. One major feature of synthetic oil is that it contains fewer contaminants which lead to a lower risk of engine sludge.

Keeps Things Smooth

Like WD-40 on a creaky door, motor engine oil keeps the moving parts of your engine lubricated. The friction of metal-on-metal tends to generate friction and heat, so without oil, they would weld themselves together and stop the engine from functioning properly.

Keeps Things Clean

Engine sludge is exactly what it sounds like – something you don’t want building up in your vehicle’s most crucial components. In addition to keeping moving parts lubricated, engine oil keeps dirt and debris from building up inside your vehicle’s engine.

What Are the Cons of Putting Off Your Oil Changes?

What happens if you put off an oil change? Since all of your vehicle’s components work together, neglecting proper maintenance in one area will cause a domino effect down the road. Below are a few common and major issues that can arise from continually neglecting an oil change.

VOIDING YOUR CAR’S WARRANTY 

This one only applies to owners of a new vehicle, but it’s often one that many vehicle owners are unaware of. Failing to keep up with your manufacturer’s guidelines for extended use can void your vehicle’s warranty. This includes regular maintenance like oil changes, but can also extend to brakes and general tune-ups.

WARPED ENGINE COMPONENTS

When your vehicle’s oil reaches critically low levels, the lack of lubrication between the parts causes the metal components to grind against each other. This leads to warping and, if left to persist, causes the engine to seize. This often causes mechanical failure and requires a full engine replacement.

BLOWN HEAD GASKET

Since low oil levels can cause warping, neglecting an oil change can warp the head and cause it to blow. Head gasket replacements can range from $1,400 to as high as $2,500 depending on the type of engine. All of this makes the average cost of up to $60 for an oil change and the mild inconvenience of dropping your vehicle off at the shop for a few hours well worth it.

ENGINE RUNNING INEFFICIENTLY

Since one of the purposes of engine oil is to transport dirt and debris to your engine’s filter, low oil levels (or no oil) will cause build-up and a decline in driving quality (vehicle shaking) and engine power.

COMPLETE ENGINE FAILURE

Once your motor oil becomes sludge, it’s likely your vehicle will experience complete engine failure and you’ll need a full replacement. In severe cases, you may even need a new vehicle if the cost of the replacement doesn’t justify the value of the vehicle.

How Often Should You Get an Oil Change?

The easiest way to remember how often you should change your oil is to follow the recommended date and mileage marker placed on your front windshield after each oil change. On average, you should get an oil change every 5,000-7,500 miles. For vehicles requiring full-synthetic oil, it may be possible to push it closer to every 10,000 miles.

In the past, the recommended mileage marker for an oil change was around 3,000 miles. As vehicle technology and parts progress, this is becoming an outdated recommendation.

Other signs your vehicle may require an oil change include:

  • Check engine or oil change light is on
  • Engine noise
  • Dirty oil
  • Oil smell
  • Exhaust smoke
  • Excessive mileage 

Some vehicles have two different oil change lights: an oil pressure light and an oil life light. An oil life light will come on when it’s time to drop your vehicle off for an oil change. The oil pressure light is often a bit more serious, as it could mean an oil leak or that something else has gone awry. To know which light is which, check your owner’s manual or look up your vehicle’s make and model online.

The easiest way to relieve the worry of future issues stemming from neglecting your oil change is to simply make sure you’re following the mileage and date recommendations. If you do that, you won’t have to wonder what happens if you put off an oil change.

Oil Change Fast Facts

As long as you follow the general best practices when it comes to how often you should get an oil change, you won’t have much to worry about. But to help you feel fully equipped on the road, we’ve compiled a few interesting motor oil facts below.

  1. Short Trips. While most people prefer a quick daily commute, short drives can begin to take a toll on motor oil because the engine never gets to warm up. If you find yourself frequently driving for a few minutes at a time, your vehicle may actually benefit from a longer drive every so often.
  2. Color clues. While changing your oil isn’t doable for many people, you can perform regular checks to ensure the health of your engine oil. If the color is a milky brown, then your vehicle’s coolant may be seeping into the oil. If this is the case, we recommend dropping your vehicle off to get it looked at by an experienced technician.
  3. Towing. If you’re driving a vehicle that’s towing a heavy load, then this can shorten the lifespan of your engine’s oil as it causes the engine to work overtime.
  4. Extreme Temperatures. Cold temperatures can stall or prevent the flow of your engine’s oil. This puts a lot of stress on your engine and can cause problems if left to persist. That’s why one of the best cold-weather remedies for your vehicle is an oil change when the temperature starts to drop.

So, what happens if you put off an oil change? You’ll be late for an important meeting. You’ll miss your kid’s big game or recital. You’ll have to spend a lot more money on repairs than you had budgeted instead of the minimal amount you could have spent. 

The truth is, neglecting regular auto maintenance has a real-life impact. It’s not so much about keeping your vehicle running for the sake of it. It’s about keeping you safe and making sure your vehicle runs smoothly so your life does too.

At K&W Tire, we understand an oil change is a “have-to” purchase. That’s why each of our locations makes it easy for you to drop your vehicle off and get back on the road in no time. If you need an oil change, contact us today to schedule an appointment.