What can damage a car engine?

7 minute read Published on Feb 6, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Car engine parts

Responsible drivers know how their cars work, including what types of damage they are at risk for. Since the engine is one of the most important parts of a car, protecting your engine from damage is of the utmost importance. But what causes engine damage and does your insurance cover your engine? These are the questions we seek to answer today.

The main car engine components

Before we dive into what can damage your car’s engine, such as oil, overheating, revving the engine, and more, we must first explain how a car engine works. Keep in mind that internal combustion engines are major feats of engineering. Each one contains hundreds of moving parts. However, there are three main engine components that you should know of as a driver, and they are the cylinder head, the cylinder block, and the oil sump. The cylinder head is the part of the engine where gas enters its chambers and where emissions exit as they make their way to the car’s exhaust. Meanwhile, the cylinder block is the place where air and gas are mixed together to generate power i.e. where the combustion process takes place. Finally, the oil sump is located at the bottom of the engine and this is the place where engine oil builds up. Each unique component of the engine is at risk for different types of damage.

What can damage a car engine?

Below, the BrokerLink team has put together a list of a few things that can damage your car’s engine. Given the important role that an engine plays in a vehicle, regular car maintenance is extremely important if you want to make sure that your engine is in tip-top shape:

Not having enough oil in your car

Not having enough oil in your car is one of the first things that can damage the engine. Oil is responsible for lubricating the engine, which in turn, prevents it from overheating, helps to clean it, and overall, helps it run smoothly. When there is too little oil in your car, however, it is pushed around more. This causes it to become hotter because it doesn’t have enough time to cool down before heading back into the engine. As a result of this process, the oil wears down faster, leading to greater oxidation, compressive heating, and thermal degradation. This is how car engines end up full of tar, sludge, and soot, which then coat various parts of the engine and create friction. This build up of sludge, also referred to as carbon build up, can cause unnecessary wear on your engine. If left untreated, you could end up needing to replace your entire engine. For this reason, regularly changing and topping up your car’s oil levels is important. Experts say that you should change your filters every 5,000 kilometres. However, there is a chance that your oil levels will become too low before you reach this threshold. The best way to tell if your engine is running on too little oil is to look for the engine oil light on your dashboard. In most vehicles, this light will turn on when your car does not have enough oil in it.

Having too much oil in your car

Having too much oil in your car can also cause damage to your engine. Engines require a very specific amount of oil to function properly. When you put too much oil in your engine, it is possible that the oil will begin to froth or bubble due to the rods and crankshaft that are disseminating air into it. In turn, when the oil contains air bubbles it is unable to act as a lubricant, preventing the metal parts of the engine from rubbing together. Overfilling the oil in your car can also lead to splashing, resulting in various parts of the engine becoming coated in burnt oil. This, too, will minimize its effectiveness and can lead to problems with the engine. Thus, it is important to only fill up your oil to the level that your automaker recommended. Regular oil changes can help you prevent issues caused by overfilling. Please note that oil changes can cost $45-$75 on average and an oil change can take 30 minutes to an hour.

Filling your car up with the wrong type of oil

Filling your vehicle up with the wrong type of oil is yet another thing that can damage your engine. Using the wrong oil can reduce how effectively the oil lubricates your car and can even shorten the overall lifespan of your vehicle. Although the brand of the oil shouldn’t matter, you should pay close attention to the viscosity grade.

A dirty air filter

A dirty air filter is another common cause of engine problems. The purpose of an air filter is to filter out dirt and debris before it gets into the fuel and burns in the engine. However, over time, the air filter can start to wear out, allowing debris and pollutants to enter your engine. When dirt and debris enter the engine, it can wear out the cylinders, pistons, and more. A dirty air filter can also cause an engine to overheat, the effects of which we will describe more below. Thus, be sure to change your filter regularly.

Excessive heat

Overheating is a surefire way to damage your engine. Although a certain amount of heat is required for your engine to function properly, too much heat can wreak havoc. Excessive heat can cause the metal parts in the engine to swell, warp, expand, and even crack. Various causes of an overheated engine include clogged hoses, a broken water pump, or a failed cooling system, including a worn out air filter. Prolonged periods of excessive heat can completely destroy an engine. However, shorter periods of overheating can still be fixed, so long as you take the necessary steps to cool your engine. For instance, if you notice the telltale signs of overheating, turn off your car’s air conditioner and roll down the windows. Next, turn on the heat and blower so that the heat from the engine starts to transfer to the rest of the car. If you notice steam emanating from the hood, pull over as soon as possible and call a mechanic.

Revving the engine

Revving the engine is not only annoying to other drivers but it puts a lot of stress on your engine. It can have an even more significant impact when done before the engine has warmed up. The outcome of regularly revving your engine is that it can cause many parts of it to wear.

Driving before the engine oil has had a chance to warm up

Putting your car in drive before the oil in your engine has had a chance to warm up can cause problems in the long run. Oil can’t effectively lubricate an engine when it is cold. Thus, it’s good practice to turn on your car and let it warm up for a minute or two before pulling out of the driveway. This is especially true in the winter.

Driving through water on a regular basis

Driving in wet conditions and through water on a regular basis may also lead to problems with your engines. For example, if you often find yourself driving in large, deep puddles of water, it’s possible that some of this water will end up in your engine’s cylinders. The purpose of your engine’s cylinders is to compress the air and fuel inside of them so that when the pistons squeeze, the pressure increases. However, water does not compress, so if water gets into the cylinders, when the piston tries to squeeze, it won’t be able to. Thus, driving through water regularly can result in water in the cylinders that in turn, causes the pistons to bend or break, which can be very expensive to fix.

How to prevent car engine damage

Now that you know the possible causes of damage to your engine, let’s consider what you can do to avoid engine problems:

Do not ignore the check engine light when it turns on

If you notice the check engine light in your car, don’t ignore it. We know it can be a hassle and an inconvenience, but if the light is on, there could be a serious problem, and ignoring it could only lead to more expensive repairs down the line.

Regularly maintain your cooling system

The cooling system in your car is what prevents your engine from overheating, which as you now know, can wreak havoc on your engine. Thus, if you want to keep your engine in tip-top shape, you need to first take care of your cooling system. Make sure to schedule regular maintenance appointments so that a professional mechanic can assess your cooling system, checking it for leaks and topping up coolant levels.

Check for leaks on a regular basis

Checking your car for leaks can help you prevent a minor issue from turning into a major one. To look for a leak, glance at the ground beneath where you were parked when you pull out of the driveway, or pop the hood and use the flashlight function on your smartphone to see if there are any leaks.

Keep your fluids topped up

Fluid levels naturally go down with time, but if your car doesn’t have enough fluid - especially oil - it can cause problems for your engine. So do your best to keep your fluid levels topped up.

Contact BrokerLink

To increase the lifespan of your car and ensure your engine functions as it should, regular maintenance is important. It is also the best way to prevent damage to your car or to prevent minor damage from turning into major damage. Should something go wrong with your engine, your car insurance policy will help. An insurance broker in Ontario will make sure that you purchase the best possible coverage for your needs at the most competitive rate.

As auto insurance experts, we can let you know how much car insurance costs per month in Ontario and even give you tips on ways that you can save money on car insurance, such as by buying multiple auto insurance policies from the same provider.

Ultimately, whether you’re looking to purchase comprehensive coverage, third party liability coverage, accident benefits coverage, or something in between, BrokerLink is here to help. Reach out today to request a free car insurance quote. The BrokerLink team can be reached by phone, in person at any one of our 200+ locations across Canada, or online. You can also visit our website to take advantage of our accurate and reliable online quote tool, which will give you a free auto insurance quote in as little as five minutes.

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