Why Do Cars Need Oil?

July 24th, 2023 by

Car maintenance is important because it helps your vehicle run smoothly and efficiently. One crucial aspect of this is regular oil changes. While this is a simple and inexpensive procedure, it’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your vehicle in good condition. In this article, we answer some of the common questions you may have about oil, such as its importance and how you can tell if changing it is necessary. If there are questions we haven’t answered, contact our oil change specialists at #1 Cochran and we’ll be happy to give you the information you need.

Why Does My Car Need Oil?

man pulling car oil dipstick

While electric vehicles are now gaining ground in the market, the majority of the cars on the road still use an internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline or diesel fuel. The engine is the heart of a vehicle, and it’s responsible for converting the fuel into power or energy that makes movement possible. Unlike an electric engine, this conversion process causes its various components to rub against each other, generating heat and friction that cause wear and tear over time. This is where oil comes in.

Oil acts as both a lubricant and a coolant. When you start your car, the oil pump sends oil to the engine, where it coats the moving parts and reduces the friction that occurs when these contact one another. It also cools the engine by absorbing the heat produced during the combustion process and releasing this once it reaches the oil sump and before it circulates again to the various parts of the assembly. It’s also worth noting that oil keeps the engine clean by removing dirt and other contaminants that can contribute to friction and wear.

How Can I Check My Car’s Oil Status?

Checking the oil in your car is easy, and you don’t need a mechanic to do it. It also doesn’t require specialized tools, as all you need is a clean rag and a dipstick. The dipstick is a long rod with a brightly colored handle at the end and usually an oil can symbol on it. It often has an orange or yellow handle, and it’s easy to spot when you raise the hood of your car. Here are the steps you need to take to be able to determine the condition of the oil in your car safely and accurately:

  1. Park your car on a level surface and turn off the engine. Make sure you engage the parking brake so there’s no risk of the vehicle rolling, which may lead to an accident.
  2. Wait several minutes so the oil settles to the bottom or back into the sump. This ensures that you get an accurate reading and prevents you from accidentally burning yourself.
  3. Raise the hood of your car and locate the dipstick. Pull it out of the tube and wipe it clean with the rag to remove residual oil, making it easier for you to see the color of the oil and determine the level.
  4. Reinsert the dipstick all the way down, then take it out again. Check the oil level by looking at the marks on the dipstick, and pay attention to the oil’s color.
  5. If the oil level is below the minimum mark or very close to it, it’s time to top it off or change it. Going above the maximum mark is also not recommended, and you should take your car in for servicing if this is the case.
  6. If the oil is dark or dirty, an oil change is necessary. If it’s clear, you can go a few more miles before you need to replace it, as long as you don’t go over the recommended mileage.

If you’re wondering when to change your oil, the answer depends on several factors. These include the age, mileage, make and model of your vehicle, your driving habits, and the type of oil you use. According to Car and Driver, the usual recommendation is every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

Nowadays, though, the acceptable interval has become longer, with some cars able to go up to 7,500 or 10,000 miles before a change is necessary, especially if they use synthetic oil. Ultimately, following the manufacturer’s recommendations and consulting professionals, such as the certified service experts at our service center in Youngstown, Ohio, is the best way to determine your car’s ideal schedule.

What Happens If I Drive With Too Much or Too Little Oil?

Maintaining adequate oil levels in your car can mean the difference between it running smoothly and efficiently for thousands of miles and breaking down unexpectedly because of engine failure. If you drive with too little oil and you fail to address the issue promptly, your car’s engine may become damaged and require major repairs that can be costly. Here’s a look at what can also happen:

  • Overheating.
  • Higher fuel consumption.
  • Increase in emissions.
  • Excessive engine wear.

Engine damage may also result from driving with too much oil. This is because the additional oil can create excessive pressure in the engine, resulting in leaks as the oil pushes through seals and gaskets. The crankshaft may also come into contact with, and aerate, the oil, creating a substance that can’t lubricate the engine effectively. To prevent these issues and save yourself from costly repairs, it’s a good idea to check your car’s oil regularly, bring your car to a mechanic if you think there’s a problem, and have the oil changed at the right time.

Schedule an Oil Change Today

If your car’s oil change is due or you noticed issues, such as an increase in engine noise, a burning oil smell, a drop in fuel efficiency, or an engine warning light, bring it to us at #1 Cochran Chevrolet in Youngstown, Ohio. Our expert technicians will assess your vehicle’s oil status and perform the necessary maintenance procedures, such as changing the oil and filter and refilling it with the recommended oil type. We can also answer your questions and address concerns about maintaining your vehicle. Schedule an appointment with us today for your peace of mind.

Man pulling oil dipstick to check engine oil level  by Ivan Radic is licensed with CC BY 2.0

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