How Does The Engine Oil System Work? - Subaru Service Questions in Salt Lake City, UT

You probably hate when your car nags you that it's time for yet another oil change -- after all, it's an interruption to your busy day. We understand it's a pain. The team at Nate Wade Subaru wants you to understand just exactly why engine oil changes matter so much. It's because the oil system plays a vital role in not just keeping the engine lubricated, but also keeping it running clean, smooth and quiet over time. At Nade Wade, our talented service team will respect your time, help keep your car in the very best shape and make it as convenient as possible for you.

There are basically four essential parts of a vehicle's oil system, and we'll take you through them all below. You'll get a better idea of why engine oil changes are so critical to keeping your engine running strong.

Oil Change Dashboard Reminder

4. Oil Filter

At the bottom of the engine, the oil sits in the oil pan when the engine is off. Oil flows down into the sump where it can be picked up by the oil pump -- but before it can be sent back to the engine, it has to be filtered. Over time, very small particles of dirt, debris and carbon deposits can build up in an engine. The oil picks up these particles and carries them to the filter, keeping the engine clean. As the oil ages, it becomes dirtier and dirtier, and so does the filter. That's why it's important to get the filter replaced with a high-quality replacement every time you get the oil changed on your vehicle.

Draining Old Oil

3. Oil Pump

The oil pump picks up oil from the bottom of the oil pan, draws it up into the pick-up, through the filter and up to the top of the engine. There, it splashes and sprays all over moving parts in both the valvetrain and the crankcase, keeping them lubricated. This keeps your engine running smoothly and efficiently.

If you ever see an oil pressure warning light come on in your dashboard, that's often a sign that your oil pump is wearing out or there's a clog in the system, like a very old oil filter. Because this means the engine's moving parts aren't getting the right lubrication, we recommend shutting down the engine as soon as it's safe to do so to preserve its condition. Engines with insufficient oil pressure can quickly overheat and blow gaskets.

2. Oil Galleries

The various channels that oil flows through to reach the upper parts of the engine are called galleries. They have to allow oil to flow next to moving parts to help keep them cool, but no oil should be allowed inside the engine's cylinders.

Similarly, coolant flows through channels in the engine to help keep it cool. Keep in mind that the flow of oil also helps with engine cooling, but old oil that's filled with sludge doesn't flow as well and doesn't do as good of a job at keeping the engine cool. We'll find out why that's so important below.

Plastic Jug Of Motor Oil

1. Gaskets & Seals

Where various parts meet the engine, like between the engine block and the oil pan, the valve cover and the cylinder head, or the cylinder head and the engine block, you'll find various gaskets. These gaskets seal the engine's various parts together. Different parts are often made of different metal compounds, and will swell, contract and flex differently as the engine heats up. The gaskets are designed to keep a perfect seal even under extreme temperatures.

However, an engine that starts running too hot can deform too much, causing a gasket or seal to rupture. This is the cause of problems like a blown head gasket or a leaking valve cover gasket. Regular oil changes are important because the oil coats and conditions the material on these seals, so they remain flexible and long-lasting.  Furthermore, engines that haven't had the oil changed in too long may overheat due to poor oil flow. When engines overheat, they put additional strain on gaskets, making them more likely to rupture. For the best chance at a very long life for your engine, be sure to get the oil on your Subaru changed regularly at a trusted dealership service center like ours!

Nate Wade Subaru

1207 South Main St
Directions Salt Lake City, UT 84111

  • Sales: (801) 658-9379
  • Service: (801) 328-1327
  • Parts: (801) 328-0061