How Long Can You Go Without an Oil Change After the Light Comes On?

How long can you go without an oil change after the light comes on? It can be stressful when your car’s ‘change oil’ light turns on. The time you can wait varies from car to car. In this article, I’ll describe exactly how long you can go without an oil change after it comes on.

How long can you drive without an oil change after the oil change light comes on? After your car’s oil change light comes on, you should get the oil changed within the next two weeks. At most, once that light comes on, you should get the oil changed before the next 500 miles of driving.

If your car does not have an ‘oil change’ light, but only an oil pressure light, you have to pull over and turn off the engine. If not, you will ruin the engine.

It may also be possible that the oil light does not really indicate that you need to change the engine oil but just to top up the oil. But if the light actually indicates that the oil really needs changing, you need to do it within the next 500 miles. The recommendation is: the sooner, the better.

Read on to learn more about how long can you go without an oil change after the light comes on.

How Long Can You Go Without an Oil Change After the Light Comes On?

Most car manuals indicate that under normal car operations, the ‘change oil’ light turns on after every 3,000 miles. That means the friction-reducing properties of the engine oil has already reached its limits. Thus, it needs to be replaced.

If your car manual did not specify this clearly, it might be that you just need to top up the oil. However, most cars do not have this ‘change oil’ light. What they have is just an oil pressure light, which only indicates the level of the engine oil. If this light turns on, you really need to pull over and call for a towing service. But if you insist on running the car, you will ruin its engine.

Moreover, if your car shows a ‘change oil’ light, it is best to change the engine oil within 1 to 2 weeks. This oil change light is different from the oil pressure light. It is the manufacturer’s safe strategy to urge you to change the oil within the next 500 miles or so. So 500 miles is how long you can drive your car without changing the oil when it lights up.

One important thing that you must not neglect in operating your car is to regularly replace its engine oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Regular oil change means a longer and more efficient performance of your car.

What Are the Reasons Why the Change Oil Light Comes On?

As we have already mentioned, there’s no need to worry. If you have a newer car model, there will be two oil lights on your dashboard. One of them is to remind you that it is time for an oil change. If this is the one that lights up, you still have some time to change the oil.

But if the other oil light comes on, there is an issue in your car that you must address immediately. Usually, the color of this light is red to show you that the situation is critical. This is what we’ll discuss in this section. What if this red light suddenly turns on? Here are some of the probable reasons:

  • The car’s oil pressure is low
  • There’s a low oil level 
  • The oil pump needs to be replaced
  • There’s a faulty oil pressure sensor
oil light on, how long can I drive
Oil light on – how long can I drive?

How long can you go without an oil change after the light comes on? If a red light comes on, don’t ignore it. As soon as it is safe, pull the car over and stop. Turn off the engine, open the hood, and check the oil level. You should know how to do this since you are advised to do this every day before driving your car. 

The oil level will be indicated in the dipstick of the engine. Pull it off the engine, and if the oil level is below the minimum level, open that engine oil intake at the top of the engine and add some oil.

Topping Up Your Car’s Engine Oil

Also, you need to have a can of engine oil in your car that you can use in these cases. If not, drive the car over to the nearest gas station and have it topped up by a service attendant. After topping up the oil, turn the ignition on and see if the red light will still come on. If not, then you can drive away. But you still have to check your car. It would help if you were sure that there’s no other reason why the light came on.

Check for Leaks, Smoke, and Burnt Oil Smell

Check if there’s a leak somewhere, especially if you have to add oil when it’s not yet time to do so. If you have parked the car in your garage or the office car park, check if there are oil stains or oil puddles on the floor underneath your car, especially at the engine section.

In addition, watch out for blue smoke coming out of the car’s exhaust pipe, or the smell of burnt oil from the engine. These are two signs of an oil leak. If one of them is present, take it to a car service shop to fix the problem.

If the red light is still on even after topping up the engine oil, there is another problem that needs to be addressed. You will have to call for a towing service. But what are the probable problems? One of the apparent reasons is that the oil pressure sensor is malfunctioning, or it may have been disconnected, broken, dirty, etc. It has to be replaced in this case.

Another reason could be a faulty oil pump. This issue is more expensive to repair. Perhaps you may need to replace it. But consider that this is less expensive than having to repair the car engine because you didn’t solve the red oil light issue. That’s how important this light is.

How Long Can an Average Car Go Without Requiring an Oil Change?

In the past, the maximum limit between oil changes is every 3,000 miles. But recent advances in car engine technology made it possible to stretch this limit from 5,000 to 7,000 miles per oil change. Moreover, if the car uses synthetic oil, it can last from 10,000 to 15,000 miles before it is changed.

But bear in mind that the given figures are relative. They are just general guidelines. These figures will vary and will depend on the car model, and the type of engine oil used. Also, it’s always best to check the operator’s manual to get a safe estimate.

What It Means to ‘Change the Oil’

The engine is the primary motive force that drives your car. While the car is running, there are pistons that go up and down the cylinders inside the engine hundreds of times per minute. This activity causes tremendous friction, considering that both cylinders and pistons are made of steel.

Car engines are composed of many parts moving together–most of them at the same time. As they move, they rub against each other, causing friction, which in turn creates heat. Engine oil is designed to absorb this heat and to lubricate these parts. It enables the engine to work efficiently without overheating.

If there is no oil lubricating on these engine parts, the pistons will stick to the cylinders in just a few minutes. It will stop, and your car can’t move forward or backward. As the engine oil does its work, given enough time, it is contaminated by the residue from the unburned fuel.

You see, not all the fuel introduced inside the cylinders get burned. In time, the engine oil gets dirty and black. That is why it should be changed regularly. Running your engine with dirty engine oil will cause damage to the engine. It is cheaper to replace this oil than to repair a damaged engine.

What Is the Benefit of Changing the Oil Regularly?

If you change your car’s engine oil regularly, the engine will be kept clean. With clean oil lubricating and circulating inside the engine, it will function smoothly and efficiently. Its internal parts will all be working efficiently, and it will last longer.

Effectively, you will get the following benefits if you regularly change your car’s engine oil:

  • Your engine will enjoy a longer life span, and so will your car. If you want to sell it after many years, it will be able to fetch off an attractive price.
  • The performance of your engine will improve.
  • You will reduce the carbon emission of your car.
  • You’ll have increased mileage.
  • Your engine will be cleaner.
how long can i drive with my oil light on without an oil change

We’ve answered the questions, “how long can you go without an oil change after the light comes on”; next, let’s look at what happens if you wait too long to change the oil.

What Happens If You Wait Too Long to Change the Oil?

If you put off changing the engine oil for too long, the engine will burn up all the oil. This issue can cause major problems in your engine. The engine oil is designed to lubricate, clean, and cool the inner parts of the engine. To do that, it must be clean without soot, unburned fuel, and other contaminants.

Not changing the engine oil for too long will also be too taxing to the engine. It will surely cause long-term problems or maybe complete engine failure. If you have a turbo engine in your car, it is even more critical to change its oil regularly.

At the very least, your car’s emission will catch government regulators’ eyes, and you will be penalized. But worst, your engine could cease up, overheat, catch fire, and melt down. Which one would you like to experience?

How to Make Your Car Go Longer Without Frequent Changing of Oil

The type of engine oil you are using in your car will also determine how long you can go without frequent changing of oil. If you don’t want to change oil frequently, use synthetic engine oil on your engine. There are four kinds of engine oil: standard, high mileage, synthetic, and synthetic blend. If you use synthetic oil, you will enjoy the following:

  • You will reduce frequent oil changes
  • Your engine will be fuel-efficient
  • The engine oil will be more resistant to coagulation
  • Your car will produce fewer emissions
  • You will have a cleaner engine
  • Your car’s performance will improve in cold conditions

Considering all factors, you can expect a change oil frequency of 10,000 miles to 15,000 miles if you use synthetic oil. But always remember that these are just general figures. A lot will depend on the type of your car, how old it is, your driving habits, and so on.

You Can Change the Oil Yourself

Changing the engine oil is a straightforward job. If you are an average person, you can do it. Certainly, you will need the required tools and the rudimentary skills to do the job. You will also need to purchase a new engine oil and a new oil filter.

The basic tools you need are an oil-filter wrench, an oil pan, and an oil funnel. To elevate the car, you will need a jack and some ramps. Changing the oil is a dirty job, so be prepared to get soaked in dirty oil. Here are the basic steps in changing a car’s engine oil:

  1. Prepare all the tools and materials. Ensure that you have the right engine oil type to replace the old one.
  2. Elevate your car using the jack and some ramps.
  3. Locate the oil filter and the drain plug.
  4. Remove the filter and loosen the drain plug.
  5. Drain the oil.
  6. Screw back the drain plug.
  7. Change the oil filter.
  8. Pour in the new engine oil.
  9. Check the oil level.
  10. You have finished the job.

If you want more details regarding the steps, you can do an online search. It will be cheaper to change the oil yourself than ask a car service shop to do it.

Conclusion – How Long Can You Drive Without an Oil Change After the Light Comes On?

So, to recap and answer the question: How long can you go without an oil change after the light comes on? The recommendation is to schedule an oil change for your car within the next two weeks. Or, within the next 500 miles at most.

But if your car does not have an ‘oil change’ light and only an oil pressure light, you have to pull over and turn the engine off at once. If not, you will damage the engine.