What Makes Oil Changes Necessary?

You’ve racked up many miles and suddenly the dashboard oil light is on. When you check the dipstick under the hood, you notice the oil is black and gritty. It’s time for an oil change. You know the signs, but do you understand the physical degradation that makes oil changes necessary? Let’s assess the damage that can occur without routine oil changes.


Dirt and other harmful contaminants enter the engine through air cleaners, oil fill caps, and crankcase ventilation systems. In addition to dust and dirt, small metal particles from engine parts can make your motor oil less effective. Sludge and corrosion, which can ultimately change your motor oil’s viscosity, can also be caused by water vapor that has condensed on cylinder walls or by soot that forms through incomplete combustion.

Extreme Temperatures

In cold and freezing temperatures, your motor oil may thicken to a point where it cannot flow properly for several minutes. As the oil takes time to heat up and thin out, your engine could be in danger of wear and damage.

In extreme heat, viscosity may also increase due to sludge and chemical breakdown. High heat also increases oxidation, creating rust and harmful deposits that can damage your engine.

Stress and Pressure

Intense pressure between internal moving parts can break the protective layer of film formed by the oil. Air, especially oxygen molecules, can get trapped in the oil and cause oxidation or further prevent the oil from protecting metal surfaces from contact and friction.

Additive Depletion

Keller-Heartt’s catalog of automotive and heavy duty motor oils has a high level of quality additives that include detergents, corrosion inhibitors, antifoaming agents, and more. However, the effects of temperature, shearing, and other severe conditions can deplete additives and make the oil less efficient. It is important to use quality synthetic motor oil with strong additives that can withstand these conditions, but it is equally important to change the oil once depletion occurs.
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