Reduced engine power after an oil change? Here’s why

As a car owner, you may be frustrated when you feel your vehicle has less power than usual. Reduced engine power results in limited performance, compromising acceleration and top speed.

Naturally, when you realize your car’s engine is performing sub-optimally, you want to diagnose the cause of the issue. Most modern cars usually come with a “reduced power” mode along with a dashboard light that illuminates when the car operates in this mode.

This fail-safe measure aims to protect the engine from damage and force the owner to diagnose and correct any issues with the car.

Some considerations for limited engine power would be if you recently had an oil change. Reduced engine performance results from a multitude of problems, and incorrect oil change is among them.

Let’s go through some of the consequences of incorrect oil changes and all the possible causes of reduced engine power.

Every car requires an engine oil change after a specific mileage. Engine oil serves several critical functions, including the lubrication of moving parts.

The oil protects the engine part from wear and tear by ensuring no direct metal-metal contact. When done correctly, the engine oil improves performance and prolongs the engine’s life.

Possible causes of reduced engine power after an oil change

However, an incorrect oil change can result in reduced engine performance. The three common mistakes when making an oil change are:

1. Using oil with the wrong viscosity

Engine oils come with specific viscosities where oils for large and diesel engines are more viscous than oils for smaller gasoline engines.

Furthermore, engine oil viscosity determines its behavior at certain temperatures and pressures. As a result, replacing your engine oil with one of the wrong viscosity will hinder engine performance, resulting in limited power.

There are different oil viscosities and what they mean to different cars. 

2. High or low oil levels

Modern engines rely on oil pressure for optimum variable valve timing system function. Incorrect engine oil levels disrupt this balance leading to reduced power.

Also, low oil levels mean the engine parts are not adequately lubricated. As a result, it operates with more friction, bringing down the car’s performance. 

3. Failing to replace the oil filter

If you don’t periodically change the oil filter during an oil change, the filter can become severely clogged with debris. A blocked oil filter compromises the amount of oil flowing to the engine; thus, the engine operates with low oils and increased friction harming its performance.

How do I get rid of reduced engine power?

Several reasons can lead to limited engine power:

  • Incorrect oil changes, low or high levels of engine oil, and clogged oil filters. A mechanic can check the engine oil to ensure it is the right for your car. Correct levels and a new oil filter can help fix the reduction in engine power.
  • Faulty spark plugs. Ensure the spark plugs work efficiently, as worn-out plugs hamper engine performance.
  • Faulty Mass Airflow (MAF) sensor. The MAF sensor calculates airflow to the engine to help the ECU determine the correct air-fuel mixture for the engine for maximum performance. Replace the defective sensor to fix the low engine power issue.
  • Other issues that the car dealer can help diagnose for reduced engine power include faulty throttle actuator control system, malfunctioning oxygen sensors, loose fuel cap, and loose coil wires.

How much does it cost to fix this?

The cost varies depending on the issue causing the reduced power in the engine. The cost, including labor, for an engine oil change usually varies between $35 and $75, depending on the area and engine oil.

Synthetic oil changes are more typically between $65 to $125. If you were to do it yourself, the cost varies from around $20 to $45. An oil filter change is relatively cheap at $10 to $20. 

Can you drive on reduced engine power?

You can drive on reduced engine power; however, it is not recommended. At limited power, the car’s performance is reduced as it performs on a “limp mode.” It also causes accelerated engine wear in the case of incorrect oil changes, damaging the engine.

Ideally, when you notice the car’s performance is limited, or the reduced power mode light illuminates, take your car to a car dealer. They should diagnose the problem and inform on the best way to fix the issue.

Take away

When done incorrectly, an oil change can cause reduced engine power. Incorrect engine oil compromises performance by affecting the lubrication and the engine pressure necessary for optimum performance. However, refilling the engine oil will resolve the issue caused by an incorrect oil change.

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