Perhaps the most important facet of car maintenance is regularly changing the oil. Many vehicles alert you when an oil change is due, but if yours doesn’t, you will need to keep track of both time and mileage. If you do not drive a lot, you may need to get an oil change simply because of time. Otherwise, you need to do it once you get to a certain number of miles, which can range from 3,000 to 10,000 depending on your vehicle, the location, and the type of oil that you use. However, it is important to recognize that these numbers are simply suggestions of when an oil change is necessary, and you may end up needing one sooner than you think. For that reason, it is important to recognize the following signs that you may need an oil change.
1. A ticking engine
As soon as you start your vehicle, the engine will begin to circulate oil to ensure that everything is properly lubricated. If the motor oil does not have the proper texture, the entire process of lubrication will take more time and effort. The usual result is ticking or clicking noises coming from the engine immediately after starting. This noise is produced by the valves that are working extra hard to move the oil around the engine. If you continue to hear this noise, changing the oil should help. Make sure to address this issue quickly to avoid putting excess wear on engine components. Poor oil conditions may also result in an engine knocking sound, particularly when the vehicle is moving.
2. Engine shaking
You may also notice that your car seems to shake more than normal when it idles. When the oil needs to be changed, there is more friction in the engine than usual. This additional friction is what leads to the engine shaking. While the friction is always there, increasing the wear on your engine, it is typically most immediately evident when the car is idling. Address this issue quickly by getting your oil changed. Also, reduce the use of the engine as much as possible in the meantime. For example, if you are waiting in your car, shut the engine off instead of allowing it to idle.
3. Black exhaust
If you own a newer vehicle, you should never see exhaust coming from the tailpipe. When you begin to notice exhaust, especially if it is black, you may have a serious issue on your hands. One of the most common causes of this type of exhaust is motor oil that has become too oily, dirty, or viscous to work as it should. However, exhaust issues can also point to other serious engine problems, like a cracked gasket, so be sure to have a mechanic check out the vehicle as quickly as possible. Continuing to drive with black exhaust could lead to even more costly repairs down the line.
4. Abnormal oil
You should regularly check the oil in your vehicle. To do this, you will need to locate the dipstick in your engine compartment. Remove the stick and wipe it clean before replacing it in the engine and pulling it out again. You will want to make note of the level first. If the level is low, you should top it off with the same type of oil you usually use and get a change whenever you can. Driving with low oil levels is dangerous for your engine, particularly in hot weather.
The other thing to examine is the oil’s texture. Oil can turn black almost immediately upon going in the engine, so going by color is less reliable than texture for determining if it needs a change. Feel the oil between your fingers. If it is gritty, it is time for a change.
5. Check engine light
If your check engine light keeps illuminating and you are not sure why, it could be a problem with the oil. Though many vehicles have a light that will alert you when you need to change the oil, sometimes, in extreme situations, the check engine light will come on instead. Whenever you see the check engine light, have a mechanic read the code coming from the engine. This code will tell you whether the oil is the issue. The only way to prevent the light from reilluminating is to ensure the underlying problem is solved.