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14 Signs Your Car Needs An Oil Change

by Lily Morgen
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Engine Oil Change

As you know, your car needs regular maintenance, and the main job of the maintenance is to change the oil in the engine. So what’s the main role of oil, why do you need to replace it regularly, and how do you know when it’s time for an oil change?

The Function of Oil in Engine

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. It lubricates all the moving parts in the engine to keep them from grinding against each other, and helps prevent overheating by carrying away heat and then cooling the engine system. 

In addition, it also cleans the engine by taking away dirt particles that have entered the engine or worn & torn from the engine, preventing them from damaging the internal engine parts.

Why You Need to Change the Oil Regularly

In order to keep your car running smoothly and efficiently, you need to replace the oil in your engine on a regular basis. 

This is because, over time, the oil gradually loses its effectiveness at lubricating, cleaning, and cooling your engine due to its moving up and down with the piston, oxidization by high temperature, and accumulating dirt particles (residue of incomplete gasoline combustion).

Therefore, if the oil is not changed, sludge and some carbide residues will appear inside the oil, which will lead to the degradation of the oil’s performance. Then it will make the lubricating performance of the bearings, and the lubricating and cooling function of the mechanical transmission parts disappear.

At the same time, there will be a lot of impurities inside, such as iron filings, etc. In that case, the oil will not only fail to play a protective role, but will also accelerate the damage and injury to the internal parts of the engine. And eventually, reduce the lifetime of the engine.

If you don’t change the oil in your engine regularly, it can cause serious damage and even lead to costly repairs. To avoid this, you should be aware of the signs that indicate when it’s time for an oil change.

Signs Your Car Needs an Oil Change

Common signs include low oil level, dark and dirty oil, bad oil smell, sense of impure particles in the oil, check engine light is on, you drive more than 3,000 or 6,000 miles since the last oil change, increased engine noise and knocking, engine overheating, low engine performance, problems in changing gears, shaking when idling, increased fuel consumption, exhaust smoke, and a burning smell inside the car.

1. Low Oil Level

Check the oil position with the oil dipstick in the oil reservoir. If the oil level is just below the lower limit, the crankshaft will not be able to contact the oil, and the cylinder wall and piston pin will not be lubricated, which will accelerate the engine wear. 

If the amount of oil is very low, then the oil pump will not be able to get the oil, once the oil pump can’t suck oil, all the parts in the engine need lubrication cannot be lubricated, and the engine will be damaged in a few minutes.

2. Dark and Dirty Oil

Oil color is one of the best indicators to determine if you need an oil change. 

New engine oil is somewhat transparent and bright amber in color. Old engine oil is dark and dirty due to residue buildup. If your car’s engine has been overdue for an oil change, the oil will look a dark, almost-black color.

You can take a little oil out with the help of the oil dipstick, and observe the oil color whether it is black or clean. If the oil color is dark, then you need to change it as there are impurities in it. 

You can also take a clean white filter paper and put a few drops of old oil, letting the oil penetrates. If it has a smooth and clear yellow ring after penetration, it is a sign that you don’t need to replace it for the time being. However, if it is dark brown and has impurities, it should be changed.

3. Bad Oil Smell 

Take the oil dipstick close to your nose and smell the oil if it has a pungent burning smell or not, if it has, then the oil needs to be replaced.

4. Sense of Impure Particles in Oil

Take a little oil out using the oil dipstick, touch the oil, and feel whether there is a clear sense of particles. It indicates there are obvious impurities if you can touch the particles. It reminds you to change it.

5. Check Engine Light Is On

The check engine light that appears on your dashboard is your car’s way of telling you that there are problems with your engine. The oil change needed is one of the issues.

6. You Drive More than 3,000 or 6,000 Miles Since the Last Oil Change

It’s generally recommended that you get an oil change every 3,000 to 6,000 miles or 3 to 6 months depending on your car type and the oil type. 

You may need to change the oil every 3,000 miles/3 months if your oil is semi-synthetic motor oil, while you can get the oil replaced every 6,000 miles/6 months if your car uses full synthetic motor oil.

7. Increased Engine Noise and Knocking

Engine oil ensures the engine runs smoothly and quietly and prevents metal-to-metal brushing by lubricating the automotive engine components. 

When the oil becomes old, you will start to notice unnatural noises coming from the engine due to the reduced lubricating properties

This lack of lubrication can lead to engine noise such as knocking, ticking, or tapping. If you notice any unusual noises coming from your engine, it is a sign that the oil needs to be changed.

8. Engine Overheating

If your engine temperature is consistently high and you notice that the temperature gauge is climbing, it could be a sign that the oil has become too dirty to properly lubricate and cool the engine components. The overheating is caused by the increased engine components’ friction.

9. Low Engine Performance

Low or old engine oil can make your engine run roughly and decrease its overall performance. You may find it harder to start your car, or you may notice that your car accelerates slowly or sluggishly. This is a sign that it’s time for an oil change. 

10. Problems in Changing Gears

If you are having trouble switching gears when driving, it could be the result of a lack of oil in the engine. This can cause the transmission to slip or jerk when shifting from one gear to another. 

11. Shaking When Idling

When your engine is idling, it should remain relatively smooth. However, if the oil has become old and thick, you may start to feel vibrations coming from the car’s engine. 

12. Increased Fuel Consumption

There are many reasons that can contribute to a car’s increased fuel consumption, such as tire air pressure, engine system, fuel system, or driving habits. 

However, if all of these factors are in check and you still notice an increase in fuel usage, then it’s likely it is caused by the old oil. The sludge buildup caused by old engine oil can cause the pistons to move more slowly and require more effort from your engine to run properly, thus leading to increased fuel usage. 

13. Exhaust Smoke

If you see smoke coming from your vehicle’s exhaust pipe, it implies that the oil is burning off inside your engine. This can be a sign that the oil is too dirty or too low.

14. A Burning Smell Inside the Car

A burning smell inside your car indicates your engine may overheat. It could be due to a lack of oil, which can cause the engine to overheat as the reduced cooling function creates a burning smell.  

Oil can lower engine temperature, but when it ages, the engine parts will generate excess friction and the old oil can no longer keep the engine cool.

A leaking oil can also lead to insufficient oil.  Inspect your car to see if there is any oil leaking from the engine. 

Final Thought

Now hope you’re clear about when your engine needs an oil change. You can get a mechanic to inspect your car if your suspect your oil is low/old, or you don’t know whether you need to change the oil at the moment.

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