What happens if You use the wrong Oil in your Car?

Engine oil is crucial to the optimal functioning of any motor, as it ensures thorough lubrication and safeguarding of its components. However, it’s not unusual for individuals to mistakenly use or mix incorrect fluids in their vehicles. The consequences of such actions can range from inconvenient to disastrous, depending on the type of oil used incorrectly- but what happens when the wrong oil is used? This article describes the symptoms of wrong engine oil and how to fix it.

What is Engine Oil?

Engine oil, also known as motor oil, is a lubricant specifically designed to lubricate engine parts. Its primary functions are to reduce friction and wear on moving parts, provide protection against corrosion, and help cool the engine by distributing heat.

Using Wrong Engine Oil

All engines need the right amount of oil, and the type and thickness of the oil depend on the engine model. Nowadays, engines mostly use thinner oils than they did 8, 18, or 25 years ago.

Engine oil is as important for your car as coolant. The moving components within the engine demand a steady supply of oil for effective operation. This lubrication minimizes friction between the parts, ensuring optimal performance.

Symptoms Of Wrong Oil in Car 

Engine oil plays a vital role in car maintenance, particularly in ensuring the use of the correct oil. The engine’s moving parts generate friction when they come into contact, which in turn creates heat. Over time, this friction and heat can lead to the wear and tear of crucial components. Adequate lubrication with the right engine oil is essential for mitigating friction and providing protection.

The specific brand of motor oil is less important than the viscosity grade (e.g., 10W-20). To maintain optimal performance, adhere to the motor oil recommendations outlined in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

When you use the wrong engine oil, your vehicle produces one or more below-given symptoms:

1) Poor Engine Performance

Poor Engine Performance, symptoms of wrong engine oil

Engine oils vary in viscosity and contain additives that safeguard the engine against wear and tear. If you use an oil that is either too thin or too thick for the engine, it can result in decreased engine performance, such as reduced acceleration and power.

 2) Oil Leaks

engine oil leak

When the incorrect engine oil is used, it can lead to oil leaks because synthetic oils have varying flow characteristics. You may observe an oil leak under your parked car or in the location where it was parked.

Using synthetic oil in an incompatible engine can result in leakages from gaskets and seals. The presence of oil leaks beneath the vehicle and white smoke from the exhaust could be indications that you’ve utilized the incorrect oil.

Read More: Engine Oil Leak Symptoms and Causes

3) Engine Noises

Insufficient coating of moving parts by the engine oil can result in engine noises. When the car is started up or in cold weather, tapping or knocking sounds emanating from the engine indicates inadequate lubrication.

The engine oil’s viscosity, which is indicated by a number accompanied by the letter “W,” reflects how smoothly the oil flows at a given temperature. The thinner the oil, the lower the viscosity number. Therefore, if you use the wrong oil in your car, your vehicle is likely to have a difficult time starting (if it even starts) during freezing temperatures.

4) Poor Fuel Economy

Poor Fuel Economy

If you experience a decrease in fuel economy following an oil change, it may be due to the use of incorrect oil. Using engine oil that has a higher viscosity than what is recommended can lead to reduced fuel efficiency in your car.

Highly viscous oil requires more energy to pump, resulting in increased fuel consumption. The engine will require additional fuel to overcome the resistance of the moving parts.

Switching to a moderately thinner oil can enhance fuel efficiency. It’s essential to utilize the appropriate weight and type of oil for your vehicle.

5) Shorter Engine Life

Using motor oil that is either too thick or too thin can lead to reduced lubrication and a shorter engine lifespan. If the oil is too thick, it may not flow into areas that thinner oil would, resulting in metal-on-metal contact that causes engine parts to wear out.

Conversely, if the oil is too thin, it may not have the shear resistance necessary for your engine, causing metal-on-metal contact and reduced oil pressure. In summary, it is essential to use the correct oil to avoid engine damage and premature wear.

6) Engine Overheating

Engine Overheating

Using incorrect oil for your engine can lead to overheating. In addition to lubrication, engine oil absorbs some of the heat produced by the engine, preventing parts from overheating.

If a thicker oil than recommended by the manufacturer is used, there may be reduced flow and the oil may be unable to regulate temperature effectively.

Using a thicker oil than recommended can also generate more resistance and heat, especially if it is not appropriate for the engine. Therefore, it is crucial to use the correct oil to prevent overheating and ensure optimal engine performance.

7) Burning Smell

oil smell

Lower-viscosity motor oil may not perform well under extremely hot conditions, just as higher-viscosity oil is not suitable for colder climates. When the oil starts to break down, it loses its cohesive strength and is unable to lubricate all moving parts effectively. This excess friction between metal components can cause the oil to “burn,” resulting in a distinctive smell.

Burning oil has the potential to cause long-term damage to your car’s engine, which can be very costly to repair. Therefore, it’s crucial to use the correct oil to prevent such damage and ensure the proper functioning of your car’s engine.

8) Increased Engine Wear

Engine oils are specifically formulated to lubricate and safeguard the internal components of your engine. However, using the incorrect oil can cause accelerated wear and tear on the engine, leading to long-term damage. Therefore, it is essential to use the recommended oil type to maintain optimal engine performance and prevent potential engine damage.

9) Excessive Smoke from Exhaust Pipe

Black Smoke from Exhaust

Using the incorrect engine oil can cause the engine to emit smoke. Inadequate lubrication due to the wrong oil type can cause the engine to overheat, leading to smoke generation. Using oil with inappropriate viscosity or additives can also cause increased wear and tear on engine components, which can eventually result in engine damage.

Furthermore, the use of the wrong oil type can cause oil leaks and burning, which can lead to smoke emanating from the engine.

Oil leaks can occur if the oil is too thin and runs out of seals, or if it’s too thick and fails to circulate efficiently through the engine, causing it to burn off. Therefore, it’s critical to use the appropriate engine oil to prevent engine issues and ensure optimal engine performance.

Read More: Causes of Black Smoke From Exhaust

How to Fix if I Put Wrong Oil in My Engine

If you have put the wrong type of oil in your car, it is important to act quickly to avoid any potential damage to the engine. If you suspect that the wrong oil has been added to your car, follow these steps to fix the issue:

  1. Do not start the engine: If you have not started the engine since the wrong oil was added, avoid starting it to prevent further damage. If you’ve already driven the car, stop driving it as soon as possible.
  2. Drain the oil: Park your car on a level surface and allow the engine to cool down if you’ve recently driven it. Locate the oil drain plug, usually found on the bottom of the oil pan. Place a container beneath the plug to catch the oil, then remove the drain plug using a wrench. Allow the oil to drain completely.
  3. Replace the oil filter: The oil filter may have absorbed some of the wrong oil, so it’s a good idea to replace it as well. Locate the oil filter, which is usually on the side of the engine block. Use an oil filter wrench to remove it and replace it with a new one.
  4. Refill with the correct oil: Consult your owner’s manual or look up your vehicle’s make and model online to determine the correct type and quantity of engine oil to use. Refill the engine with the appropriate oil using a funnel to minimize spills.
  5. Replace the oil drain plug: Once you’ve refilled the engine with the correct oil, replace the oil drain plug and tighten it securely using a wrench.
  6. Check oil level: Start your engine and let it run for a few minutes to circulate the new oil. Turn off the engine and wait for a few minutes for the oil to settle. Then, check the oil level using the dipstick to ensure it is within the recommended range.
  7. Dispose of the old oil: Transfer the drained oil into a sealed container and take it to an authorized oil recycling facility. Do not pour the oil down a drain or onto the ground, as this is harmful to the environment.

FAQ Section

What happens when I add a thicker oil to a thinner oil?

In the event of accidentally mixing thicker and thinner motor oil, the engine of your car is not likely to be damaged (at least not for that one instance). However, it is important to note that this mixture may deviate from the oil viscosity or thickness recommended by the car manufacturer. This deviation can be problematic as it may result in less optimal engine performance.

What happens when I add synthetic oil to conventional engine oil?

Mixing conventional motor oil with synthetic motor oil is generally not a cause for concern. However, it may not be cost-effective to do so, as synthetic oil is typically more expensive than conventional oil. By mixing the two, the benefits of the synthetic oil may be compromised, as the conventional oil may dilute or diminish the refined, distilled, and purified qualities of the synthetic oil.

What type of oil do I need?

When selecting the appropriate engine oil for your vehicle, it is essential to consider various factors such as the recommended oil type, viscosity grade, standards, and specifications for your particular vehicle type and driving conditions. If you are uncertain about which engine oil to use, it is advisable to refer to your owner’s manual and follow the recommendations provided by the manufacturer.

Can wrong engine oil cause smoke

Yes, using the wrong type of engine oil can cause smoke to come out of the engine. This is because the oil is not able to lubricate the engine properly, causing it to overheat and generate smoke. Using oil with the wrong viscosity or additives can also cause excessive wear and tear on engine components, which can eventually lead to engine damage.

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