How Long Can I Drive With Bad Piston Rings?

Piston rings are small rings attached to your engine and hold utmost importance for your
vehicle’s engine. Piston rings generally last for 50,000 to 150,000 miles, however, they can get
worn out at times. You might have wondered “how long can I drive with bad piston rings?” if
you see your piston rings going bad.

If your piston rings are faulty, the best option is to replace them with new ones as you cannot
drive for a longer period with faulty ones. Faulty or bad piston rings influence the performance
and efficiency of your car.

How To Identify Bad Piston Rings?

identify bad piston rings

Piston rings can be worn out as your engine does over some time. It is essential to replace a bad
piston as soon as you notice it is faulty. There are various indications on how you can identify
an issue with the piston rings of your engine, some of them are:

1. Extra Smoke Emission

If you observe a little too much smoke emission from the exhaust of your vehicle, the most
possible cause can be faulty piston rings. Thick and dark smoke of grey color with minor blue
color is seen in this case. This is because with faulty pistons engine oil gets its way into the
pistons, causing it to burn along with fuel. That is why a burning smell is also reported.

2. Issues with Acceleration

Piston rings promote lubrication for your vehicle, which in return eases the process of
lubrication. Broken piston rings cause issues with the acceleration of the vehicle. Hence, you
would observe the need to press extra hard on your gas pedal to accelerate your car. The
time to speed up your car also increases due to this.

3. Extra Consumption of Oil

Piston rings control the consumption of oil, and with them being faulty, oil leakage into the
combustion chamber occurs. Your check engine light will also be lighted a bit early than
completing the general 4,000 mileage criteria due to this. If your engine light is on more
frequently, have it checked by a mechanic to get to the root cause.

4. Weak Performance of Engine

With faulty piston rings, your car stops performing and functioning properly over time. Bad piston rings sometimes lead to towing your vehicle after a while. However, this only happens if
you neglect the initial symptoms of your piston rings being faulty. That is why it is
recommended to get a professional look at your vehicle as soon as you observe a fault.

How To Maintain Piston rings?

It is important that you take every possible step to take care of your piston rings. In this way,
you can prevent yourself from a big expense or damaging your vehicle in a permanent manner.
Take the following steps to prolong your piston rings:

1. Regularly Change Engine Oil

Punctually change the oil of your engine to get rid of any dirt build-up. This also makes your
engine clean and smooth, preventing any metal parts to rust or damage.

2. Check the Air Filter

The dirt that accumulates in the engine mainly comes from the air filter. Keep an eye on your
dirt filter to ensure no build-up, this will keep your piston rings intact.

Replacement of Faulty Piston Rings

The actual piston rings are not that expensive, ranging from $30 to $150 for the rings
themselves. However, the replacement process results in being quite expensive due to the

whole labor costs. The process of replacing your piston rings is extensive and consumes long
hours. This is because the piston rings are situated deep inside your engine and are hard to get a grip

The labor cost for replacing your piston rings ranges from $100 to $350 per hour varying on the
location. If you do the math for 10 hours of work for replacement, you get a hefty amount of
$1500 to $4000 in total. Hence, it is recommended to take your vehicle for repair by an
experienced and professional mechanic to get the best service.

Do not try to do the task yourself as you might end up increasing the issues due to less
expertise. Go for a professional mechanic only!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How can I temporarily fix my piston rings?

To get a temporary and cost-friendly solution to your faulty piston rings, you can use heavier
oil. A thicker or heavier oil aid in providing strength to your engine and guard the combustion

2. Can your engine be damaged by bad piston rings?

Having bad pistons for a long period of time can cause your engine to completely lose all its
power. The lubricating process done by the pistons is very essential for the correct functioning
of your engine.

3. What will happen if I continue to drive with bad pistons?

Your vehicle will slowly get worse and lose its complete power to function. The engine of the
vehicle due to not being able to accelerate properly will lose its strength and performance.
Eventually, you’ll have to tow your care.

4. Can piston rings be replaced without the removal of the engine?

Yes, they can be, but you would need an experienced and professional mechanic for that. A
a mechanic can get to the deep layers of your engine by dissembling it, the process requires
expertise and time.

5. Why do piston rings go bad?

The usage of bad engine oil or fuel and contamination of dirt are the main causes for piston rings to
go bad. Dirt gets into the engine through air filters and continues to build up.


To conclude, piston rings are an essential part of your vehicle engine. It is important that you
keep a check on your vehicle and catch your pistons being faulty at an early stage. Instead of
just wondering “how long can I drive with bad piston rings”?

As soon as you see the signs, get your vehicle to a professional to avoid any damage to your
engine. Replacing your piston rings can be tricky and expensive, hence it is recommended to
use a professional technician only.

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