Using the correct oil for your car is important for a number of reasons. You want the oil to do its job—lubricating the engine—the right way. You might even think you’re doing the right thing by choosing a high viscosity or weight as the temperatures change throughout the year. Maybe you even attempted mixing different oil weights. Regardless of how the mistake was made, it is rarely ever a good thing to put the wrong oil in your vehicle. Putting the wrong oil in can have serious consequences, including engine damage and decreased performance. For that reason, you should know the wrong oil in car symptoms, so that you can correct the issue as soon as possible.

**Note** – A quick hello to anyone reading this, I’m Alastair and this is my site Synthetic I started this site to help people with their oil questions, and hopefully what you’re about to read will help answer your questions. This page may include affiliate links to the likes of Amazon, which if you make a purchase I qualify to earn a (typically small) commission. Don’t worry as this won’t cost you anything, the likes of Amazon pay any commissions. Thank you in advance for your support as this helps bring you more (hopefully) helpful content.

What are the Symptoms of Putting the Wrong Oil in Your Car? Header Image

Poor Engine Performance

If you use oil that is too thick or too thin for your car, it can cause a decrease in engine performance. The engine may feel sluggish and unresponsive, and you may notice a reduction in acceleration and overall power.

For example, you may notice after an oil change that your vehicle does not want to accelerate as you are entering the highway. Perhaps you are sitting at a red light and notice that the engine feels like it’s shaking a little. These are signs of poor engine performance that should not go ignored.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency

Another symptom of the wrong oil in your car is poor fuel economy. Similar to decreased performance, when the engine has to work harder to move the oil through the system, it naturally burns more fuel. You will notice that your gas runs out a bit faster than usual. This can also lead to an increase in emissions.

Louder Engine Noise

Using the wrong type of oil can cause your engine to make more noise than usual. This is because the oil cannot properly lubricate the engine components, causing them to rub against each other and create more friction than normal.

Burning Oil Smell

If you notice a burning oil smell coming from your car, it may be a sign that the wrong type of oil is being used. This can occur when the oil is not able to properly lubricate the engine components, causing them to overheat and potentially burn. The burning oil smell may be accompanied by smoke or fumes coming from the engine or exhaust, which can be a sign of serious damage to the engine.

Oil Leaks

Yes, using the wrong type of oil can also cause oil leaks. Why does this happen? Because the oil does not flow, particularly if you went with a higher-than-recommended weight. The oil will build up at certain points in the engine, increasing pressure. Eventually, that pressure will compound, and the oil has to find a way out.

Oil leaks can be identified by oil spots on the ground under the car or by low oil levels on the dipstick. If left unchecked, oil leaks can cause serious damage to the engine and other components, so make sure you stop the leak soon.


One of the purposes of engine oil is to reduce the amount of heat that builds up in the motor during operation. If you use the wrong kind of oil, it will not be able to regulate the heat within the engine properly. This causes the engine to get hotter than average, potentially causing damage.

Check Engine Light Comes On

If your car’s computer detects that the wrong type of oil is being used, it may trigger the check engine light. This warning light can indicate a variety of issues, including oil pressure problems, engine misfires, or other issues related to the use of the wrong type of oil. If the check engine light comes on, it’s essential to have the car inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible to determine the cause of the issue.

Struggling to Cold Start

In colder weather, engine oil needs to be thin enough to properly lubricate the engine components, while also being thick enough to provide sufficient protection. If the oil is too thick, it can take longer to flow through the engine during a cold start, which can cause increased wear and tear on the engine components and lead to decreased performance and fuel efficiency.

As such, struggling to cold start is another symptom of the wrong oil in your car. Additionally, if the engine struggles to start, it can cause damage to the starter motor or battery, which can lead to expensive repairs. Using the correct type of oil for your engine can help prevent these issues and ensure that your car starts smoothly in cold temperatures.

How to Fix Wrong Oil in Car Symptoms

If you accidentally swapped 5W20 for 10W30, the only way you can correct the issue is to get rid of the wrong oil. Then the symptoms will stop.

Luckily, this often means redoing your most recent oil change and double-checking which oil your car is meant to have. If you are not sure which oil is best for your vehicle, consult with a qualified mechanic. Remember to also replace the oil filter during this new oil change to ensure no sludge from the wrong oil remains.

Final Thoughts on Wrong Oil in Car Symptoms

Using the wrong type of oil in your car can have serious consequences for your engine’s health and performance. From poor engine performance to overheating, the symptoms of using the wrong oil can be costly and potentially dangerous. It’s important to always consult your car’s owner’s manual before changing the oil. If you suspect that you have used the wrong type of oil, it’s important to have your car inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. By using the correct type of oil and being aware of the symptoms of using the wrong oil, you can ensure that your car stays in good condition for years to come.


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