How Does Car Engine Oil Work
Cars,  Auto Engines

How Does Car Engine Oil Work and Other Important Things to Know?

Interested to know how car engine oil works? I got you covered in the rest of this post. The discussions below will provide insights on how the oil travels to the different parts of the car’s engine. More so, it also covers the main functions of the oil. By the time you are finished reading, I hope that you will realize how oil is as important as fuel to optimize the performance of your car.

How Does a Car Engine Oil Work?

For a better understanding of the answer to this question, watch the short video below:

Based on the video above, here is the journey of the oil through your engine, which can take as little as five seconds:

  • It all starts in the sump of the engine, which functions as the reservoir. This is also known as the oil pan and you can find it at the bottom part of the engine. When the engine is turned off, this is also where oil is collected. Typically, the sump can hold four to eight quarts of oil
  • From the sump, the oil is pumped. The oil is sucked from the pump and it goes through a pickup tube. This happens as soon as the engine is turned on. This is also where the oil becomes pressurized.
  • The next part where the oil goes through is the oil filter. As with any filter, the main function of the latter is to get rid of the impurities that can possibly be present in oil, making sure that it is completely clean when it travels to the other parts of the engine. This removes the contaminants that can be damaging to the engine.
  • Once the oil is clean, it will be transported to the critical parts of the engine, which include bearings, pistons, and valve trains.
  • Through the oil channels, the oil returns to the sump. This is the point when the journey of the oil is completed.

What are the Main Functions of Oil?

Now that you know how car engine oil works, the next important thing you need to learn is the functions of oil. Why do you need oil in the first place? Here are some of the things that it does for your engine or your car in general:

What are the Main Functions of Oil


  • Reduces Friction: The engine is made of metal components. When they touch each other, friction is created. This makes it more difficult for the parts to move. With this, oil is used for the reduction of metal-to-metal contact.
  • Reduces Wear: As a result of the reduction of friction, wear throughout the drive is also minimized. In the long term, this can translate to huge savings. Otherwise, you need to replace the worn-out parts of the engine frequently.
  • Reduces Harmful Deposits: Oil is like a water filter. It absorbs the impurities that can be present in the oil. When these contaminants reach the engine, they can interfere with its optimal functionality.

What Are the Types of Oil?

Not all oils are created the same. There are different considerations that will help you to decide which type of oil is perfect for your needs. Two of your choices are:

  • Mineral Oil: This type of oil comes from petroleum or a by-product of petroleum. This is popular for budget-conscious people as this is generally a cheaper choice. It does not last long and cannot withstand extreme temperatures.
  • Synthetic Oil: On the contrary, this is not naturally derived but is made in a factory. It is more popular today and it makes use of different synthetic chemicals. In terms of lubrication, this oil does a better job.

When to Consider an Oil Change

When to Consider an Oil Change


In a budget-strapped economy, as much as possible, we would like to avoid expenses. However, keep in mind that an oil change is one thing that should not be ignored, and hence, you need to spend money on such. In the case of most cars, you have to change the oil once every three months, or at least after running 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

Is it time to change your oil? To make it easier for you to know when it is about time to do so, below are some of the things that you should be watching out for:

  • When the oil is already black – It does not take an expert to figure this out. A quick inspection will let you know that the oil is already dirty, and hence, a replacement is necessary. If not, the filter will be overloaded and the oil will no longer be able to perform its intended function.
  • When the engine produces a loud sound – As the owner of your car, you most probably know how the engine normally sounds. If it changes all of a sudden, to the point that it is already annoying and distracting, consider changing the oil.
  • When oil levels drop – Sometimes, all that you need to do is dip a stick and see if the oil is still at the right level. If it is too low, which means that the engine has eaten most of it, change the oil.
  • When the engine light is lit – If the engine light is constantly turned on, you most probably have a problem with the oil. In the case of newer models, there is a dedicated light that will notify you if you have to change the oil.


Engine oil enables the incredible performance of your vehicle. Whether you have a new or old car, having the right oil will affect the way it performs. From the sump through the other parts of the engine, oil journeys for about five seconds. As it passes through the different components, it reduces friction, minimizes the possibility of wear, and removes or reduces mineral deposits.

Do you learn from this post? Is there anything else that you would like to add? Let us know in the comments section, and let us talk more about engine oil.