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What Does Oil Do in A Car? All You Need to Know

Car Burning Oil

If you're wondering, “what does oil do in a car?” It helps lubricate the internal engine components and prevents friction that could cause engine overheating

Have you ever noticed a warning light on your dashboard saying that your vehicle needs oil? Maybe you've heard about the oil change. Of course, we all know that oil change is one of the most necessary maintenance practices that we need to perform regularly to keep the engine. But have you ever asked yourself, “what does oil do in a car?”

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This article will provide you with all you need to know about the purpose of having oil in your vehicle. In addition, we will clarify exactly why does your engine needs oil and what will happen if you skip an oil change.

What does oil do in a car?

Historically, any oil consists of specific base oil and some additives of different chemicals to help maintain your engine. The engine oil consists of seven years for 90% of base oil, and the rest makes up the additives. Some additives include antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, detergents, friction modifiers, viscosity index improver, etc.

According to experts at Pennzoil, oil is necessary to lubricate their engine's internal components as they interact with each other. However, when these components interact, they generate a lot of friction and cause increases in the temperature, which could damage the engine. Therefore, when oil prevents friction, it keeps the engine cool and maintains its extended lifetime.

The current modern engine oil lubricates the engine and provides additional characteristics that help maintain the engine longer without needing a frequent oil change. Have you heard about synthetic oil? This type of oil is more expensive, but it protects and cleans the internal engine components in any powerful engine.

What is the engine oil viscosity, and why does it matter?

Viscosity is one of the most important characteristics that you must learn about. Any represents how it feels much faster at lower temperatures, whereas it does not flow as fast when it's thick.

Thinner oil is great for colder winters because it prevents engine friction and helps your car get started faster without any problem due to low temperatures. On the other hand, thicker oil is recommended in vehicles equipped with high pressure and needs to support heavy loads. Therefore, choosing the right viscosity depends on your vehicle’s usage and your environment's weather.

One way to learn about viscosity is through what's known as the viscosity index. This index tells how much your oil viscosity differs as temperature changes. The higher the viscosity index, the better the oil because you don't need to worry about changing coils capabilities with temperature fluctuations.

Since the oil viscosity changes with temperature, a good oil consistently maintains this car series through different temperature ranges. That's why automotive experts and companies started adding specific viscosity index improvers that help keeps the desired viscosity despite the temperature change, so you must worry about engine damages at different temperatures.

Remember that these viscosity index improvers do not work all the time effectively. So at some point, the time you will need to change the oil to get a new viscosity index improver to maintain the right characteristics.

What are the different types of engine oil?

It's important to note that engine oil is not the same, and different companies produce different oil types with different characteristics. In the world of motor oil, you'll come across the following engine oil types:

1.    Conventional engine oil

The conventional oil is the common type that you'll find in any vehicle. Unless the manual has other recommendations, the conventional oil meets any Pi specifications in your vehicle owner’s manual. However, by relying on conventional oil, you'll have to change it frequently, and the only advantage of using this type of oil is the price because it's much cheaper than any engine oil.

According to automotive experts, although conventional oil does not get you the same characteristics as other better oils, you are still in good condition if you perform the right oil change at the right time. Conversely, ignoring and skipping a conventional oil change leads to significant damages in no time.

2.    High mileage engine oil

When vehicles reach a certain mileage threshold, they become more susceptible to damage, especially to engine problems. Therefore, you must consult your mechanic add to check with him when is the right time to use a specific type of oil referred to as the high mileage oil.

This oil has additional characteristics that are suitable for vehicles with 75,000 miles and more. Companies understand that vehicles with this high mileage need more care and might have internal cracks or problems that need specific chemicals to help maintain the internal components.

3.    Synthetic engine oil

Think about synthetic engine oil as the top type of engine oil that provides the best characteristics for any engine. The nice thing about this type of oil is that you don't have to change it frequently, which means it doesn't break down easily because it has internal additives that help provide all necessary characteristics for extended times.

The only drawback about synthetic oil is that it's relatively pricey, and not every driver can afford it. However, keep in mind that you don't have to if your engine does not use synthetic oil. In addition, some older models might develop negative consequences if you decide to use synthetic oil. Therefore, we advise that you consult your mechanic before switching to synthetic oil, thinking it will improve your vehicle's engine.

4.    Synthetic blend engine oil

Finally, the synthetic blend engine oil is somewhere between conventional and synthetic oil. Therefore, companies decided to develop a specific type of oil that provides good characteristics close to synthetic oil at an affordable price.

What happens when your car is low on oil?

After understanding the importance of engine oil, it's obvious that skipping or running at low engine oil is extremely dangerous. Your engine requires a certain amount of oil to operate properly and cool down with the right lubrication. When you supply an engine with lower oil amounts, this oil won't have the right capabilities to cool down the engine and provides all necessary lubrication.

Also, when your vehicle's engine oil is low, it indicates that the internal oil pressure is insufficient, which means that oil won't run with the right forces to reach inaccessible internal engine components and lubricated. Therefore, at the end of the day, when you ignore a low engine oil, you immediately will deal with significant damages in the engine loses overheating and internal grinding.

Can a car run without oil?

Absolutely no. Your engine won't stop working when you don't have oil, but the engine will completely fail in less than 30 minutes if you run it without oil. That's why automotive experts recommend that you stop the vehicle and turn off the engine immediately when you notice the warning sign indicating a low engine oil pressure.

If the engine continues to run and the internal components keep grinding against each other, there's a very high chance that the components will wear out, causing some cracks and internal problems. Thoughts, you will most likely end up with a completely failed engine.

How does oil make cars move?

Oil does not make your vehicle move, but it helps prevent the internal components responsible for moving your vehicle from getting damaged. In other words, if your vehicle doesn't have oil, it won't run because oil has the power to make it wrong, but without oil, the engine's internal components can't grind against each other and get damaged quickly.

Think about the oil as a lubrication material that allows the internal engine components to slip against each other easily without causing any friction.

How long will a car run with no oil?

Oil is not as fuel. In other words, if your vehicle doesn't have oil, it will continue running at one sudden stop. The time your vehicle will still have until it fails depends on your car's type and your engine's condition, along with the type of oil you're using. In general, your vehicle's engine might continue running up to 6000 miles.

Although it's very intuitive that no one will run the vehicle without oil, there is a very common situation that we might come across if you skip the oil change for extended times; it is like running your vehicle without oil. Many engine damages resulted from skipping an oil change rather than running a vehicle without oil at all.

What does a low oil pressure warning mean?

When your check your vehicle's dashboard and realize that the low oil pressure warning light is illuminating, it is a very critical and dangerous situation? It indicates that your vehicle doesn't have enough oil to help the engine cool down when needed.

The low oil pressure might happen because of a need for an oil change, which is not as dangerous as an oil leak. Oil leaks might be minor, and they could be internal that you do not realize until the low oil pressure warning light illuminates. However, oil leaks might be sudden and major, which means that you need to take immediate action to resolve the issue before damaging the engine.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you might not even have enough time to reach the repair shop, and that's why you must consult your mechanic by phone and check with them whether you can drive the car or have it towed to their independent shop.

When your car runs out of oil or runs at very low oil, you will notice additional symptoms that will grab your attention immediately. These are the symptoms include:

1.    Your engine will make loud noises

Since the engine oil is responsible for lubricating the internal components, when there is not enough oil, these components can bang against each other, causing some knocking or rumbling noises.

2.    Your vehicle will smell like oil

If the low oil pressure is internal or external, you will immediately notice some engine oil smell inside the vehicle.

3.    Weird smoke will, of the exhaust system

Since you've been driving your car for a long time now, you will immediately tell when the exhaust tailpipe emits weird vapors. Therefore, whenever you notice any different colors in the exhaust smoke, you must take immediate action because the problem could be related to an internal oil leak.

4.    The engine oil will be much darker

As we indicated before, sometimes, the low oil pressure warning light might be related to a need for an oil change. Therefore, if you performed a quick visual inspection and looked at the engine oil, you'll notice that it's much darker than before, which means it's dirtier and requires change.


Engine oil is an essential fluid in any vehicle. It helps lubricate the internal engine components and prevent them from getting damaged prematurely. In addition, the oil helps prevent friction that could cause engine overheating.

Suppose your car has major internal engine problems because of a skipped oil change or any related problem. In that case, you might want to consider evaluating the situation before spending a penny installing a new engine. As you might already know, new engines are extremely expensive, and sometimes repair costs might approach the vehicle's value. Thus, it might be worth considering selling your vehicle and using its value towards a better car.

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  • Describe your car’s type and condition
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