One of the easiest car maintenance tasks you can do at home is changing your oil. Maybe you already do it! When changing your own oil, though, one thing you have to be mindful of is overfilling oil. What if you overfill your vehicle with engine oil? It can actually cause significant damage to the engine components and even cause your engine to seize up. If you think you may have an oil overfill, in order to fix it, first you need to confirm that it is indeed overfilled, then begin to drain the excess oil from your oil pan.
How Overfilling Damages Your Engine
You car needs oil, so giving it too much might seem like erring on the side of caution. In reality, too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing. If you overfill engine oil, it can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. If an excess of oil floods into your vehicle's crankshaft, the rotation speed of the crankshaft begins to aerate the oil. This causes the oil to be whipped into a foam, sort of like making whipped cream from whipping cream in your kitchen. This change to your oil means your oil does not move through your engine well and can even lead all oil flow to cease. This causes your engine oil to get too hot and causes oil pressure loss. When the engine doesn't get the oil it needs for proper lubrication, it can seize up.
Checking Your Oil
If you have performed an oil change on your vehicle and you notice a thick, white smoke emanating from your exhaust pipe when you are driving, it is likely that you overfilled the oil. To confirm that too much oil is the problem, drive your vehicle long enough to let the engine get warm—about 10 minutes. Doing this allows oil to start moving through the engine and ensures a more accurate reading on your dipstick during what would be considered normal driving conditions. Park your car on a flat surface and pull your dipstick from the engine and wipe it with a rag, napkin, paper towel, or the like. Put the dipstick back in all the way and wait a couple of seconds before pulling it out again. Look at the dipsticks fill line. If the oil level is above the fill line, then you have indeed overfilled your engine oil.
Draining Excess Oil
Once you've confirmed that you have too much oil in your vehicle, the next step is to drain some until you get it to the right level. If you change your own oil, you'll know where to start, but if you have overfilled the engine because you added too much when you were low, you'll need to start by grabbing a 3/8-inch drive socket wrench and sliding under your vehicle. Once under there, locate your oil pan. At the bottom of the oil pan, there will be a large bolt; that's the oil plug. When you locate it, put a plastic oil pan—it's different than you car's oil pan—under the oil plug. Use your socket wrench to start loosening the oil plug. You want the overfill oil to start trickling out slowly. Let it drip until you think you have drained enough oil, then tighten it back up. If you loosen the oil plug too far too fast, you run the risk of actually taking it out. At that time, all of your engine oil will start pouring out. You don't want that.
After you have drained some oil, check your dipstick again. If it is still too full, repeat the process. If you drained too much, add some more oil until you get it in the right range.
Overfilling your engine oil can cause some serious engine problems if not corrected right away. Fortunately, with a wrench, a pan, and some elbow grease, this is something you can fix at home.
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