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What Happens When You Put Too Much Oil in Your Car

Changing the oil in your car is a required maintenance routine intended to prolong the life of the engine and the car. Some vehicle owners are wary of taking their cars to repair shops to change the oil, as this service may be costly. Hence, they attempt to change the oil themselves. In doing so, they overfill the engine with oil. Unfortunately, operating a car with too much engine oil can have lasting consequences.

You can check the oil level in your engine using the dipstick test. The dipstick has an indication level for the minimum and maximum levels. If the test indicates that the oil level is above the maximum indicator, you should consider draining the excess oil. Otherwise, you risk experiencing reduced fuel economy, oil leaks, and engine damage.

Can You Put Too Much Oil in Your Car?

One of the common misconceptions about car health is the belief that too much engine oil in a car does not impact the vehicle’s performance. However, it is possible to put too much oil in your car. While adding oil is a routine maintenance to ensure proper lubrication and engine health, exceeding the recommended oil level can have negative consequences. Exact oil level requirements are typically stated in the car manufacturer documentation available to buyers or found online on the manufacturer's website.

What Happens If You Overfill Oil?

Adding too much oil to your engine can cause several issues. You may be able to identify these issues if you notice a white or blue smoke emission from your car's exhaust. A check engine light on your dashboard may also indicate too much oil in your car engine. Some potential issues caused by putting too much oil in your car include:

  • Aeration and Foaming: Too much oil in the vehicle can lead to the crankshaft whipping the engine oil into a froth, causing aeration and foaming. This results in the engine components not being cooled sufficiently as the oil's capacity to lubricate the engine parts reduces from the frothing and foaming.
  • Increased Oil Pressure: Excessive oil in the engine can lead to increased oil pressure, which may damage the oil seals and gasket.
  • Oil Leaks: Overfilling engine oil can push excess oil through the piston rings into the combustion chamber, causing oil burning and increased emissions. Oil leaks may also destroy other engine components, such as the catalytic converter. If the catalytic converter is damaged, you may spend more money on gas due to poor fuel efficiency.
  • Reduced Engine Performance: Too much engine oil can lead to increased resistance in the engine's rotating components, causing a decrease in engine performance and fuel efficiency.
  • Engine Damage: Although it only happens in extreme cases, too much engine oil in the car can lead to engine damage. As the rotation of the crankshaft is hindered due to excess oil, it can lead to friction, heat, and, ultimately, engine failure.
     

How to Fix Too Much Oil in Car

How to Fix Too Much Oil in Car

If you are comfortable changing your engine oil, you can remove excess oil from your car. However, you must be familiar with basic vehicle maintenance and have the right tools to complete the process.

First, park the car on a flat surface and use the parking brake. Lift the vehicle with a jack and place multiple jack supports underneath the frame of the vehicle. Check that the jack supports are stable by moving the vehicle from side to side. Once you confirm the jack is stable, slide under the car and put an oil pan under the oil drain bolt or sump. After the pan is in place, loosen the sump with a socket and drain some of the oil into the pan. After draining some oil, plug the sump back and use the dipstick to check the engine oil level. Repeat the draining process if the oil is still overfilled after the dipstick test.

Alternatively, you can remove excess oil using an oil extractor pump rather than draining the oil underneath the car. Remove the dipstick and plug the oil extraction pump into a power source to drain oil this way. Afterward, dip the extraction tube in the dipstick hole and place the oil pan underneath. Then, turn on the extractor pump and monitor the quantity of oil being removed. Stop and intermittently verify the oil level with the dipstick until you are within the car manufacturer's stated range.

Note that you should seek professional assistance if you do not have the required specialized tools or experience to remove excess oil.

Professional Assistance

You should consider professional assistance in dealing with too much engine oil in your car in the following situations:

  • Lack of adequate equipment: If you do not have the proper tools, such as socket, wrench, jack, and drain pump or extraction pump, attempting a DIY can lead to more damage to the car.
  • Lack of proper oil draining knowledge: If you do not have sufficient experience changing oils, it is recommended that you do not attempt draining excessive oil in your car by yourself but rather seek the help of a professional.
  • Complex engine placement or configurations: If you use a car with an uncommon engine configuration, you may need professional assistance draining excessive oil from such a car. A skilled mechanic with experience working with your car type would be better equipped to handle the task.
  • Uncertain diagnosis: If you are noticing certain signs that may indicate excess oil in your engine but are not certain, you should consider seeking professional help rather than troubleshooting the problem yourself.
     

How Long Can I Run My Car with Too Much Oil

The duration for which you can drive your vehicle with excessive oil in its engine varies depending on factors such as the extent of overfilling, the type of engine, and the driving conditions. Although some mechanics advise that you may drive for up to 1,000 miles if the excess amount is less than 1 quart, removing the excess oil as soon as you become aware of the condition is recommended.

Some short-term risks of operating your vehicle with excessive oil include oil foaming, increased pressure, smoke, or odor from your engine compartment area. These can cause wear and tear in the engine, reducing performance, sluggish acceleration, rough idling, and reduced fuel efficiency.

Long-term dangers of excessive oil in the vehicle engine include engine seal and gasket failures from oil leaks, damage to the catalytic converter resulting from excess oil burning in the engine, and engine damage resulting from prolonged operation due to increased oil pressure and foaming.

Conclusion

Overfilling the oil in your car's engine can significantly impact the engine's operation. Too much engine oil can cause aeration and foaming, reducing the lubricating properties of the oil. Also, excess oil in the engine can lead to increased oil pressure, which may damage the seals and gasket, which cost a fortune to repair.

To address issues that may arise with too much oil in the car, you can use DIY methods involving specialized tools to drain excess oil. However, seeking professional assistance is advisable when you do not have adequate tools or sufficient knowledge to drain excess engine oil.

Overfilling engine oil poses immediate risks, such as decreased engine performance, and long-term effects, such as catalytic converter damage or engine damage. While some automobile professionals suggest driving up to 1,000 miles with no more than one quart of oil beyond the recommended level poses no serious damage, you should consider prompt removal or draining of excess oil to preserve your car's short and long-term health.

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