A vehicle’s engine doesn’t need engine oil the same way we need blood, but it is still an apt comparison because, without it, an engine is likely to fail. Most engines can’t run more than 15 minutes without engine oil, and they can accumulate months’ worth of damage in those 15 minutes. This is why it’s crucial that you change your engine oil regularly. Ideally, you should do an oil change before your vehicle starts indicating that it needs an oil change. But we don’t live in an ideal world. So to prevent any serious damage to your vehicle, you should watch out for a few signs that indicate that you need an oil change.
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Signs You Need An Oil Change
An engine is a complex machine with several moving parts. Many of these moving parts are fitted quite snugly with others. These parts need engine oil to provide crucial lubrication that allows them to move without excessive friction and keep the engine functioning smoothly. You are required to change your engine oil for two main reasons:
- There is not enough engine oil.
- The engine oil has lost its consistency or has become too dirty from overuse.
In both cases, your engine will become overheated due to the lack of lubrication, which is harmful to your engine for various reasons. Without lubrication, the moving parts will grind against each other, leading to wear and tear that significantly reduces the life of your engine.
The ideal oil change interval is suggested by car manufacturers. Most of them recommend oil change intervals of 5,000 miles to 7,500 miles. But some other factors, like your vehicle’s age, condition, the engine oil you use (synthetic/conventional), etc., can also determine how frequently you need an oil change.
Whether or not you stay on top of your oil changes, you should know about the signs which indicate you need an oil change.
1. Unusual Engine Noises
If you hear a knocking sound from your engine, it’s a clear indication that you need an oil change. The engine produces knocking sounds for various reasons, and one of them is low engine oil. Without enough lubrication, the metal parts start grinding against each other and produce this sound.
Unfortunately, this is like DEFCON 1 for an oil change because in several cases, if you can hear the knocking sound, that means your engine has already accumulated significant damage. Nevertheless, whenever you hear that sound, it’s prudent that you take your car to a mechanic right away. If you are lucky, the sound might go away after the oil change.
2. Consistency And Color of Engine Oil
If you are unsure whether you need an oil change or not, check your oil dipstick. It will tell you about the oil level, as well as the consistency and the color of your engine oil. The color is the most obvious marker. It gets dark from overuse (which is a normal process), and when it gets too dark, it usually means it’s too old and needs to be changed.
Sometimes, oil contamination is also an issue, which can darken the oil way before your vehicle hits the requisite mileage. In that case, the problem might be deeper than a simple oil change. Also, as oil gets older, it can lose its viscosity and feel “thinner.”
3. A Smoking “Hot” Exhaust
A smoking exhaust is a clear danger sign. It’s very different from the translucent vapor you get during winters. The exhaust smoke which tells you that you need an oil change is grey or black in color, significantly thicker, and would have a characteristic aroma. Bluish smoke indicates that the engine oil is burning along with your fuel (which shouldn’t happen).
4. Oily “Aroma” Inside The Vehicle
If you can smell oil inside the cabin, there might be an issue with the engine oil. It might be leaking, seeping to other areas, or burning. It can be difficult to distinguish gasoline smell in certain old vehicles but in most modern cars, you may be able to pick up the characteristic engine oil smell (unless it’s masked by the car air freshener).
5. Warning Lights
A check engine light is bad for multiple reasons, and one of them is low oil. There is also a low oil indicator, which lights up when the vehicle detects low oil pressure. Both of these are signs that you need an oil change. Even if you don’t rush to change your oil, you should at least check the level using the oil dipstick. If the warning lights persist after the oil change, your vehicle might be craving a visit to the mechanic.
6. Declining Fuel Economy
A relatively subtle sign that you need an oil change is the declining fuel economy. If you are not getting as many miles per gallon as you used to, and nothing else has changed (your route, elevations, load, etc.), your vehicle may need an oil change. With low oil, your engine works harder and overheats. As a result, it would consume more fuel to achieve the same mileage as before.
7. Ticking Sound And Overheating
Your temperature warning light will let you know that your engine is overheating, but there are other indicators as well as a hot hood, thumping noises, less power, a stench, etc. Overheating is one of the most common side effects of low oil, and if your engine is overheating constantly, you might need an oil change.
If your engine is producing ticking sounds when it’s heating up instead of the usual “purring,” it might also be a sign that you need an oil change.
Not Sure Whether You Need An Oil Change Or Now? Call Us And Find Out!
Many of the signs you need an oil change may also overlap with others and are deep-rooted and costly issues. Executing an oil change without identifying other causes for those signs can actually mask the real problem. Frequent oil changes can increase your engine’s life and save you more in terms of fuel economy than it would cost to add more oil changes to your rotation. Its maintenance 101, and if you want your vehicle to keep functioning smoothly and don’t cost a significant amount in repairs down the road, try to stay on top of your oil changes.
If you are unsure whether you need an oil change or simply want a thorough examination of your vehicle to rule out any permanent damage that low oil might have caused your vehicle, feel free to contact us.
If you are in Hilliard, OH, and want to treat your vehicle to an expert examination and professional oil change, you may drop by anytime.