What Happens When You Overfill Your Car With Oil?

Bad things can happen when your engine runs low on oil. Friction between moving parts increases, the engine heats up, and, worst case, it seizes if the moving parts can no longer be lubricated.

Too much oil can also cause bad things. Overfilling with oil can cause foaming, and slippery lubricants can become foamy liquids containing air bubbles, impairing their lubricating and cooling properties. Foamy oil also makes it more difficult for the oil pump to circulate throughout the engine, so some moving parts are not getting the required amount of oil, which increases wear and risks engine damage. 

How much oil does your car need? Depends. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for more information. However, for many engines, he needs 4-6 liters. The oil normally drains into a pan at the bottom of the engine below the crankshaft. When the pan is full, the crankshaft acts like a high-speed mixer, churning the oil and creating foam. 

The crankshaft is where the engine’s speed is measured and turns rapidly when the engine is running. For example, if the tachometer shows 2,500 rpm at 75 mph, the crankshaft makes 2,500 full revolutions in one minute. It goes over 5,000 rpm at full throttle. 

Also, overfilling increases oil pressure, which further stresses gaskets and seals, preventing oil from leaking out of the engine or going where it shouldn’t be inside. Over time, the added stress accelerates the wear of these gaskets and seals. Overfilling often occurs because garages pump fresh oil from bulk containers instead of quart or gallon containers. Holding the trigger on the pump too long makes it easier to add more oil, and the technician may not check the dipstick. And even if you check, you might still get the wrong oil because it takes a while to drain into the pan. The level will be displayed after the fresh oil has been injected. 

Checking the oil dipstick when a vehicle is on flat ground and the engine is cold will give an accurate level reading. If the oil level is below the full mark, that shouldn’t cause problems. If it’s overfilled by half a quart or more or foam shows on the dipstick, the best fix is to have the oil drained and refilled to the proper level.

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