12 Signs You Need an Oil Change in Your Vehicle

Changing the engine oil on a car is very important. A lot of people are not aware of this and they simply over-drive their engine oil. They drive their engine oil past the life that it offers and that can be detrimental to the overall life of the engine.

It’s important to keep your car well-maintained so that it runs smoothly and lasts for a long time. One of the most important maintenance tasks is changing the oil regularly. If you’re not sure whether or not you need an oil change, check out this list of 12 signs that it’s time for one!

12 Signs You Need an Oil Change in Your Vehicle

1. Engine oil life indicator on the dashboard

The first sign that your vehicle needs an oil change is an illuminated engine oil life indicator on the dashboard.

On most modern vehicles there is going to be a section in the dash computer where you can see the remaining life of the engine oil. It is usually in percentage (the oil has 30% life left) and that is based on the number of miles you drive in between oil changes.

A general rule of thumb is to schedule an oil change as soon as the engine oil life gets down to about 15%. By the time you get your appointment, your engine oil will be down to about 5 to 7%. By no means you should change your engine oil when it reaches 0%.

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lif...
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters?

2. Engine oil below minimum line on dipstick

12 Signs You Need an Oil Change in Your Vehicle

A great way to tell that your vehicle needs an oil change is by checking the engine oil dipstick. Every vehicle has an oil dipstick and it is located in the engine bay. If you are unable to locate the dipstick, you can check the owner’s manual.

Remove the engine oil dipstick and check the level of the oil. There is a minimum and maximum line. You don’t want to be above the maximum line or below the minimum line. The sweet spot is somewhere between those two.

Make sure that your vehicle is cold and parked on a leveled ground when checking the engine oil level.

If your vehicle has an engine oil below the minimum line, you can either add some more engine oil or perform an oil change.

3. The color or consistency of your engine oil has changed

Your engine oil should be clear and without sediment or debris. If you’re using a new type of engine oil, it may have a slightly different color than your old oil. However, if your engine oil is cloudy, thick, or has streaks or particles in it, then it’s time to change it.

You can check the color or consistency of your engine oil by pulling the dipstick and inspecting it.

Fresh engine oil has a transparent brown kind of color whereas dirty engine oil has a dark brown color. If you check the dipstick and your engine oil has good color and consistency, you can simply add some more. However, if your engine oil is dark, you should do an oil change.

Dirty engine oil can damage your engine and lead to decreased performance and shorter engine life. Be sure to always check your owner’s manual for the correct type of engine oil and viscosity level for your vehicle. You can also take your car to a trusted mechanic for an oil change if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

4. You are beyond your mileage limit

Every engine oil has a mileage limit where the manufacturers guarantee that their product will perform best. In general, conventional engine oil should be changed every 5000 miles, synthetic engine oil should be changed every 7,500 – 15,000 miles, and blends should be changed every 5000-7500 miles.

If you surpass the mileage limit of your engine oil, you will need to perform an oil change. If you are not doing the oil change yourself, you should ask your mechanic what type of engine oil they are adding to your vehicle and what is the mileage limit.

Conventional oil is the most affordable and is made from crude oil. It can be used in newer cars but needs to be changed more frequently than synthetic or blend oils.

Synthetic oil is made artificially and can last longer than conventional oil. It is more expensive but can be worth the price for its extended longevity.

Blends are a combination of both conventional and synthetic oils and offer a happy medium between the two. They cost more than conventional oil but less than synthetic oil.

5. You are beyond your time limit

Just like there is a mileage limit, there is also a time limit. Meaning, you have to change your engine oil every certain amount of months even if you didn’t surpass the mileage limit.

In general, you should change your engine oil twice a year, even if you don’t surpass the mileage limit. This is because when engine oil gets old, it gets thin and can’t hold oil pressure anymore. In that case, the oil pump can’t pump the oil throughout the engine to lubricate it. If the engine isn’t getting the needed lubrication, it will fail over time.

If your engine oil is beyond the time limit, you need to perform an oil change.

6. The engine oil is gritty

Before you pull out the engine oil dipstick in order to check the oil grittiness, you have to make sure that the engine is cold. The engine oil gets to about 250 degrees and you don’t want to be touching it while it is hot.

Once the engine is cold, pull out the dipstick and inspect it or open the oil cap. You can either wipe the dipstick or the oil cap with a clean white towel or just rub it between your fingers. Fresh engine oil will feel super smooth. However, as oil gets old, it turns almost gritty and you will be able to feel it between your fingers.

If the engine oil feels gritty to the touch, it is very bad and the engine oil has to be changed. Just imagine gritty engine oil going through all of the components of the engine.

7. You hear a knocking noise coming from the engine

A knocking noise or overall increased engine noise coming from the engine compartment is definitely a sign that you need to change your oil. Engine oil does a lot of things. It lubricates engine parts, helps to keep the engine cool, and cleans the engine. When you change your oil, you are essentially doing a “tune-up” for your car – and it can make a big difference in how your car runs.

If your car’s engine is making strange noises, it could be a sign that the oil needs to be changed. If you hear knocking or ticking sounds, especially when starting the engine, it’s time for an oil change.

Oil changes are one of the most important maintenance tasks you can do for your car. By changing your oil regularly, you can extend the life of your engine and improve its performance, and avoid any knocking noise coming from the engine.

8. Your MPG has decreased noticeably

12 Signs You Need an Oil Change in Your Vehicle

Dirty engine oil can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency. In fact, it has been estimated that a dirty engine can reduce fuel economy by as much as 20%. The reason for this is that dirty oil creates friction and resistance within the engine, which in turn causes the engine to work harder and use more fuel.

Fun fact: The wrong type of engine oil can reduce your vehicle’s fuel economy by up to two percent.

If your car is using more gas than usual, it could be because the engine isn’t running as efficiently as it should be. This could be a sign that the oil needs to be changed.

So if you’re looking to improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, one of the best things you can do is keep your engine clean and well-maintained. This means changing your oil regularly (ideally every 5000 miles or so) and using the correct type of oil for your car. Additionally, if you notice your car’s fuel economy starting to drop, it may be time for an oil change.

9. The engine seems to be running hotter than usual

When the engine oil is dirty, it becomes a barrier to heat transfer. This means that the engine has to work harder to achieve the same level of engine temperature as when the engine oil is clean. A layer of dirt and grease on the surface of the engine oil can reduce its ability to absorb or dissipate heat by up to 50%. As a result, the engine will run hotter and wear out faster. In extreme cases, this can lead to overheating and serious damage.

It’s therefore important to keep your car’s engine oil clean and change it regularly according to your car manufacturer’s recommendations. Not only will this improve your car’s performance and fuel economy, but it will also help protect your engine from excessive wear and tear.

If you’re not sure how to change your car’s engine oil, or if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can always take it to a qualified mechanic. They’ll be able to do it for you quickly and easily, and they’ll also be able to dispose of the old oil properly. So there’s really no excuse not to keep your car’s engine oil clean!

10. Your car smells like burnt oil

If your car smells like burnt oil, it is likely due to an oil leak or your engine is burning oil. Oil leaks can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a loose oil drain plug or gasket, or an issue with the engine itself. If you notice an oil leak, be sure to have it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. Continuing to drive with an oil leak can cause serious damage to your engine.

Burning oil can damage your engine and lead to more expensive repairs down the road. Prevention is always the best cure, so be sure to check your oil level regularly and have your car serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If you notice that your car’s exhaust smoke is darker than usual, it could be a sign of dirty oil. Clean oil should be a golden color, so if you see black or dark brown smoke coming from your car, it’s time for an oil change.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could mean that your engine is burning oil: black smoke from the exhaust pipe, reduced fuel economy, or puddles of oil under the car.

11. The Check engine light is on

If your check engine light is on, it could be because your engine oil is low. This is a common problem that can be easily fixed. Simply add more oil to your engine or perform an oil change and the light should turn off. If the light does not turn off, then you may have a more serious problem and you should take your car to a mechanic.

Checking your engine oil level is easy and only takes a few minutes. You can do it yourself at home or at a gas station. All you need is a clean rag or paper towel and your car’s owner’s manual.

First, locate the dipstick on your engine. The dipstick will have a loop or handle at the end of it. Pull the loop out and wipe it clean with your rag or paper towel.

Reinsert the dipstick all the way back in, then pull it out again. Check the oil level indicator on the dipstick. The oil level should be between two lines on the stick. If it’s not, you need to add more engine oil or perform an oil change.

12. Your car is leaking oil

If you see any evidence of leaks around your car’s engine, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong with the seals. Leaks can be caused by low levels of oil, so if you notice any leaks, make sure to get an oil change right away.

If your car is leaking oil, it could be due to a few different things. The most common cause of an oil leak is simply due to age and wear and tear on your vehicle. Over time, seals and gaskets can break down and allow oil to seep out. Another possible reason for an oil leak could be an improper oil change. If the new oil isn’t filled to the correct level or if the old oil wasn’t drained properly, it could cause leaks.

Car Care Hacks

Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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