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The Trouble with Old Oil in Your Car

The Trouble with Old Oil in Your Car

“Do you have old oil in your car?”  How many well-meaning grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and mothers have asked if we’ve changed the oil in the car recently?  Too many to count!  They don’t mean to be a bother.  They simply know that it is not wise to drive around town with old oil in the car’s engine.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Our family might be annoying asking if we’re changing the car oil regularly enough; it isn’t for naught, though.  The older and wiser generations know that car oil must be changed often if you want your car to last for years to come.

The last thing anybody wants is to be driving down the highway, fast and furious, only for the car to sputter, spurt, and die on the shoulder because you have been driving with oil way past its expiration date.

A Modern Take on the Old Oil in Your Car

Yes, in the olden days, old oil in your car was a frequent problem and changes were due more often. People also used to change the oil at home. 

Today’s cars are more complicated – the oil changes can often be done less often thanks to advances in engine technology.  However, changing the oil can be a bit more complicated than it was in the glory days of analog (non-digital) motor vehicles.

Due to the rapid progress, people have a lot of questions regarding old motor oil:

  • Is it bad to drive with old oil in the car?
  • How does old oil affect the car?
  • Is it bad to put old oil in the car?
  • What are the signs the car is being driven with old oil in the engine?
  • What happens if you don’t remove old oil from the car engine?
  • How often should one change out the old oil in the car? 

This blog intends to answer some of these commonly asked questions.  Let’s get the engine in gear and get to it!

Is It Bad to Drive with Old Oil in the Car?

Yes, it is bad to drive with old motor oil in the car engine.

What old means can be somewhat relative, however.  For example, if you are supposed to get an oil change every six months, and for whatever reason, you push it to seven months, nothing bad is likely to happen.

Don’t get it wrong.  It isn’t good to be late on an oil change.  The engine is a machine.  It requires fresh oil.  However, a week past the deadline isn’t going to cause damage if the car has no other problems.

Some say using once-used oil might be okay – but it isn’t good.  Most mechanics wouldn’t recommend it.

If you were supposed to get an oil change three months ago, six months ago, twelve months ago (yikes!), then you need to get one as soon as possible.  Old engine oil isn’t as effective as fresh oil, and the old oil could really damage the engine.

What Happens if You Drive a Car with Old Oil?

If you drive around with old motor oil in the car engine, you’re asking for trouble.

For starters, if you don’t change the oil, the engine could stop running.  Mechanics would say that engine “has seized.”  

The metal parts in your car are constantly rubbing each other causing a ton of friction.  Without oil, the parts lock up.  It will cost thousands to replace a full engine.  Is it worth it?

If you ruin your engine, and your car is already on its last leg, you might be better off sending that old car to the junkyard.  The parts of the car that do work, like the muffler or the passenger side door, can be recycled and repurposed.  Call an auto recycler that pays cash money for your old, broken car.

If you don’t want this to happen to you, don’t depend on the old oil in the car.  You should actually have your oil changed roughly every 3,000 miles (or three months).  Newer cars last longer – your mechanic should tell you when you’re due for the next oil change when you get one.

Some garages put a little sticker on the windshield to remind you to get your oil change at a certain date.  That’s helpful!

Some cars also have oil meters to tell you when the car is due for an oil change.  Don’t ignore these alarms.  They were designed to help you.  That being said, they don’t usually tell you anything about the quality of the oil.  They simply count miles.

Another situation that could happen if you drive around with old oil is that your car could overheat.  

Overtime, the oil’s molecular structure changes.  It makes the oil less capable of handling high-temperatures.  Depending on how much your car’s engine depends on oil for cooling, this could cause a big problem.

At best, your car engine isn’t being efficient with old engine oil.  This could lead to disaster down the road.  You might be facing problems related to corrosion due to impurities present in old engine oil.

Those impurities can cause a buildup.  After enough time, the oil becomes thick like sour cream.  How can you get that thick liquid out of the engine?  It isn’t very easy!

In general, your engine just doesn’t perform as designed with old oil coursing through its parts.  

Your old car won’t make it in the long run without regular oil changes.  This is due to the contaminated oil that builds up within the system if the oil isn’t changed often enough.

So, what could go wrong?  You could totally ruin your car.  

You could make it so that you cannot drive it – it will be near worthless in that condition.  Your family was right all along… change the oil in your car regularly!

Is it Bad to Put Old Oil in the Car?

This is such an important question… yes, it isn’t a great idea to put old oil in the car.  

People often ask this question because they find themselves in a sticky situation.  Perhaps they have an oil leak, and the car needs more.  All they have is the old oil in the garage from a recent oil change – can it be put in the engine?

Sure, of course it could be added to the engine – but why would you do that?  The old oil simply doesn’t have what it takes, on the molecular level, to keep up with the demands the engine will put on it.

Using old oil in your car could cause more harm than good.

You wouldn’t reinstall old brakes or bad tires and expect them to work.  Sure, perhaps in an extreme emergency, it could get you to the repair shop – but it isn’t a good way to fix the problem.

Long story short: yes, it is bad to put old oil in the car’s engine.

What are the Signs and Symptoms that the Oil in the Car is Old?

The health of a car is funny in that it can be diagnosed based on certain symptoms, leading to the question of what signs and symptoms occur when old oil is in the car engine.

The first sign that your car engine may be in trouble due to the presence of old engine oil is that the engine is louder than it used to be.  Of course, engines get to be a little louder over time.  It’s natural.  Newer cars have technologies that keep the engine nice and quiet as well.

Nevertheless, if your car seems to be louder, you may be overdue for an oil change.  

As the oil loses its ability to lubricate the engine, the noise caused by the moving metal parts is increased.   Some people say that if you hear “clicking” or “ticking,” that means it is oil change time!

The exhaust gives clues about engine health as well.  For example, if you notice more exhaust (that smell!), you should realize that something isn’t right under the hood.  If your car’s exhaust looks more like smoke, call a mechanic for further direction.  It could just be old oil in the engine. 

When the engine’s oil is very old, the car might start to sputter.  Why is the car doing that?  It needs new oil, not dirty old oil.

Other Warning Signs that Engine Oil in the Car is too Old

There are some general attributes that may let the driver know that the oil in the car is too old.

For example, there could be a knocking noise coming from the engine.  It will literally sound like somebody is at the door.  It’s the reality check that you need an oil change and stat!

How Do I Check for Old Oil in My Car?

You can check the oil yourself.  Refer to the car’s owner manual so that you know how to check the status of the oil.  Fresh oil isn’t black.  Dark oil or metal pieces in the oil could tell you that your car needs attention in the oil department.

If you smell burning oil, you need to call a mechanic to check if there is an oil leak.  

By the way, a puddle of oil, even a few drops, isn’t normal. If your car leaks oil, you need to seek professional assistance (if you’re not a mechanic yourself).

If the oil light appears on your dashboard, something is definitely wrong and requires inspection.

What Happens if you Don’t Remove the Old Oil in the Car?

What if I forget to remove the old oil from the car?  What if I skip an oil change?  How bad it can really be?

It is a grave mistake to think like this.  Regular car maintenance is important.  Sure, oil changes can disrupt schedules and cost anywhere from $35 to $105 dollars.  Yet, not changing your oil regularly could cost you thousands of dollars or render your car completely undrivable.  

You are definitely going to cause damage to your car’s engine by trying to drive with old oil in the car for too long. 

Change out that Old Oil in Your Car Often!

A regular oil change is so important because the old oil in the car must be removed regularly.  It’s like a therapy for the car’s engine – one that cannot be taken too lightly.

A lot of people hate getting their oil changed.  It’s inconvenient, for starters.  Who has the time to call off work to sit at a mechanic for one to two hours?

Some people don’t have the cash for an oil change, which is a tricky situation.  Find a way to get the money together because the truth is that you cannot afford to go without one.

To make the process a little easier, try bringing a good book or your laptop computer with you when you get an oil change.  Gone are the days where the best we had was an old coffee machine and some ripped magazines in the waiting room.  Waiting for the oil change to be done doesn’t have to be boring.

Another major benefit of the modern-day oil change is that is usually comes with a full inspection of the car.  You can ask your mechanic about the tire tread, the transmission fluid, the hoses, the valves, the exhaust, the weird noise coming from the right side of the car when you take turns too sharply.  

An oil change is kind of a like a checkup for a human or a pet.  When you head in just to get things checked out, you can avoid catastrophic problems down the line. 

Not changing the oil is risky.  It’s kind of like other high-risk activities.  Perhaps at first, nothing bad happens.  You can hardly tell the difference.  But every time you do it, the risk increases until one day it’s total engine failure.