What Are The Signs Of Needing An Oil Change?

Changing the oil in your car is usually a quick and painless procedure when performed in a modern automotive service centre. Lubricating oil in your vehicle is a vital part of your well-being. Good, clean oil improves the performance of your car and prolongs the life of the engine, so why do many people delay replacing their oil until there is a visible problem?

Many drivers rely solely on mileage as a measure of when their oil needs to be replaced, but other factors also come into play, such as the quality of the oil, the age of the car, and how the car is driven. Fresh, clean oil optimizes the performance of your vehicle by lubricating parts and keeping the engine clean and healthy. But, over time, the fluid breaks down and has difficulty performing its duties. Once this starts, your car is likely to display at least one of the warning signs below.

Dark and Dirty Oil

Clean oil is amber in colour, slightly translucent. As it is used, it is filled with the particles collected from the engine and darkens. It’s not going to be obvious when this starts to happen, so you need to be vigilant and check your engine oil at least once a month. To do this, remove the dipstick and wipe it off before returning to the oil tank. Take it out a second time now. If you can’t see the dipstick through the oil, it’s time for an oil change.

Ticking or Tapping Noises

After a while, engine oil gets old and worn. That’s why car manufacturers recommend that you change your oil every 5,000 miles or so. If you have old oil in your vehicle, it’s likely to get dirtier and thicker. This will make it harder for the oil to lubricate the components of your engine efficiently. As a result, your engine is starting to make different metals on metal noises because they’re not getting properly lubricated. Get an oil change right away, as serious engine damage may result if you ignore the issue.

Burnt Oil Smell

If your vehicle’s interior cabin begins to smell like burnt oil, then you know there’s a problem with your oil. Usually, it means that there’s an oil leak somewhere, causing the oil to drip onto hot engine parts. It also means that your engine is likely to be low in oil, causing your engine to overheat. Take care of the oil leak and put it in the fresh oil right away.

Exhaust Smoke

It’s common to see a translucent vapor coming out of your tailpipe when the weather gets colder. But if you notice the smoke being emitted, check your oil because there may be an oil leak in your engine. Smoke may also indicate faulty parts in your engine. So if you see enough oil in your vehicle, have a professional diagnose the problem and repair it immediately.

Oil Smell Inside the Cabin

Getting a whiff of oil inside the cabin is a big warning sign. Generally, the smell is strong and means that there’s a leak. However, this smell can also be mixed with the smell of gas or exhaust fumes. This indicates that your vehicle is overheating and oil is burning in the exhaust area. An overheating engine can cause serious damage to your car and even set fire to fire. So, once you smell the oil inside your car, get a change of oil right away.

Oil Change or Check Engine Light

An illuminated oil change light on the dashboard of your vehicle indicates that there is too little oil in the system. So, once you see this light, check your oil level with the dipstick, and if it’s not enough, change your oil as soon as possible. In more serious cases, your engine light will turn on to let you know that your vehicle is at high risk of engine damage due to a lack of fluid or damaged parts.

Excessive Mileage

If you’ve traveled a lot of miles in the last month, consider whether you need an oil change earlier than your normal schedule. Every car is different, but most of them should have their oil changed every 3,000 miles or three months. New vehicles usually require oil change every 6,000 miles or six months. Check your owner’s manual for specific guidance. Consider the high-mileage oil used in older vehicles.

Difficulty Starting Engine

If you notice that you always have problems starting your engine, you may need to check the connections on top of your battery for corrosion and clean them with a wire brush. If your battery is at least a few years old, it may be time to replace the battery. You may notice that the engine is hesitating before it starts while the lights on the dashboard dim a bit. Clearly, you need a tune-up that involves cleaning the batteries and the terminals, or even replacing the battery with a new one.


If you don’t have enough oil in your engine or if the oil hasn’t changed in a while, it’s not going to be a good job to lubricate the engine components. This will cause the engine to heat more and eventually overheat. Getting your oil changed with fresh oil will often take care of the problems.

Shaking While Idling

The high level of friction present in your engine when the oil needs to be changed can affect the quality of your ride. Specifically, when your car is idling, you may feel abnormal vibrations or shaking movements. Avoid idling as much as possible until you can change your oil.

By Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3177569

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