Amongst the cars that come to us for maintenance services, it is observed that the most occurring problem (approximately 25% of the cars) is low or dirty engine oil and dirty oil filter. You might know engine oil is vital for your vehicle and it’s essential for the function of your engine, but ever thought what happens if you run out of engine oil? And if you’re driving an old car it really shoots your chances of finding yourself in a mess, unless of course, you look after your baby well.
The Role Engine Oil Plays
It lubricates the dozens of metallic parts in the engine to reduce friction so that they move smoothly. Also, resultantly reducing the noise produced by the metal components working together. It disperses heat that the engine generates, thereby as an effect, cooling it, preventing the parts from melting or being damaged by the heat. It collects dirt and debris and relocates it to the engine oil filter, thereby cleaning it.
What does dirty, gunky, old, grimy oil do?
- It causes more friction.
- It causes more heating.
- It causes dirt to deposit.
You see it’s doing exactly everything it was meant to replace.
Let’s understand the science behind.
When an engine is running severely low on oil, whatever limited oil there is, it goes around the engine doing its chore, ceasing to prevent heating effectively, and overheating in turn. Even if you weren’t the scientific genius of your class in high school, you would still probably remember that a large portion of the oil is carbon.
Owing to excessive heating several reactions happen to the oil, (to include oxidation, thermal degradation, and compressive heating); and all of this causes oil to degrade way faster.
All of this breakdown creates the regular: tar, sludge, varnish, soot, etc. – all that a TVC would probably show as nasty little creatures! So all of these nasty carbon creatures start depositing on the internals of your engine, such as the rings, bearings, cylinder walls … anywhere oil would normally flow, thereby creating more friction on these parts. So now instead of cooling/lubricating/cleaning, the broken-down oil due to more friction is now heating, creating deposits, and making the engine a really filthy place.
So what happens when a car runs out of engine oil?
If you run out of engine oil, it will start to grind, seize up, and then fail; stalling your vehicle. Your engine will be damaged and possibly ruined, and you could be stranded in the middle of nowhere!
Whoa! That’s some damage. So how does one look out for it?
Signs Your Engine Needs Oil
‘Low oil’ warning light on the dashboard. (When you first turn your engine on, the low oil pressure warning light automatically lights up but then should go off within a couple of seconds. If it stays lit or comes on while driving, is when you need to worry.)
- Strange engine noises.
- Low level of oil on the dipstick.
- Colour of oil on the dipstick is unusually darker.
- The oil on the dipstick has grit or hard particles.
Low Oil Pressure Warning Light Could Mean More
- Either you are losing oil: If there is an oil leak, you might need gaskets and seals replaced, or perhaps the oil filter simply wasn’t installed properly during your last oil change.
- Or burning oil, which is a major problem: Any number of internal engine parts might need to be replaced, including valve guides or piston rings.
- Or the oil pressure unit that sends the alert has failed: It is a relatively minor problem, and just maybe you should feel in luck.
The problem also might be a worn or broken oil pump, a plugged oil pickup screen in the engine’s crankcase, possibly a plugged oil filter or excessive bearing wear. But you probably won’t know which problem it is unless you get it checked out.
And There Is A Correct Way Of Checking The Oil Level
When checking the dipstick, it is important not to get a false reading. It should be removed from its holder and wiped with a cloth before being put back in to get the reading. There are usually two lines on the dipstick: an upper level and a lower level. The oil level should be between those two lines.
Let’s say, for the lack of argument, you anticipate your car is about to give up on you – well, you probably haven’t been looking after her well enough. (Don’t swear at her!) What do you do then?
Get to a safe place and turn the engine off immediately.
And if it’s gotten to that point, it’s best to have your vehicle towed and let us figure out what is wrong before any further damage is done.
Just so you know, if worst comes, engine overhauling may cost you a bomb. You want to oil thy engine, not their hands!