Depending on your car, it’s usually recommended you change your engine oil between every 3,000 and 5,000 miles travelled – but you should always consult your vehicle manual to be sure. That being said, it’s still one of the most forgotten car maintenance tasks, despite being a potentially expensive and dangerous check to miss.
The oil in your engine absorbs heat and lubricates the components, and if it’s not working effectively, there’s potential for a full engine failure. If you’ve lost track of your engine oil swaps, you might be wondering how to tell if it’s time for a change: here’s five of the most common signs your need to change your engine oil.
1) The Oil Doesn’t Look Right
One of the easiest ways to tell if your engine oil needs changing is to have a look at it. You’ll need to pop your bonnet and use your dipstick to examine the engine oil:
- Ensure your car is completely cool, and prop up your bonnet
- Locate the dipstick – it’ll look like a ring pull protruding from your engine
- Pull the dipstick out, and wipe it clean with a cloth
- Reinsert the dipstick completely
- Gently pull the dipstick back out of the engine
From here, you’ll be able to see the engine oil on your dipstick. Engine oil should be mostly transparent, with a light brown tint. It most commonly turns black when it needs to be changed, but any colour inconsistency should be checked. You can also touch the oil – it should feel smooth, without any grit or contaminants.
While you’re examining the oil, don’t forget to ensure the oil level is between the minimum and maximum indicators on the dipstick. Incorrect oil levels are just as damaging as oil that needs to be changed.
2) The Oil Replacement Dashboard Light Is On
Conveniently, plenty of modern makes and models are able to let you know when it’s time for an oil change. Some cars can keep track of their oil changes, and will illuminate the oil replacement indicator on your dashboard, according to the replacement schedule recommended by the manufacturer.
Usually the oil replacement light looks like a red, dripping oil can – if you see this light, you should turn your car off as soon as possible, and ensure you change your engine oil before turning it on again.
3) Increased Engine Noise
As engine oil is used to lubricate moving parts, when it starts to fail, excess friction can occur. Without proper lubrication, your engine might start sounding louder than usual. Listen out for any knocking or ticking noises, or any sound that generally strays from the norm for your car. This issue can become particularly noticeable when your car is idling, and can be accompanied by excess vibration or shaking.
4) Dropping Oil Level
If you notice that you need to top up your oil more frequently than usual, this could be down to your oil being old. Oil that’s lost its lubrication qualities will be used up more quickly as the engine attempts to compensate. Change your engine oil with a fresh batch and check if the problem persists.
If this doesn’t help, and your engine oil level continues to drop quickly, there may be a more serious fault or leak within your engine, so don’t hesitate to take a closer look (if you’re qualified) or take your vehicle to a mechanic for professional assessment.
5) Smoking Exhaust
If you notice smoke coming from your exhaust – not to be confused with the regular white vapour commonly produced – this can be a major indication of an engine issue.
A thick grey or black smoke coming directly from your exhaust, or an oil smell inside of the car is a common symptom of old engine oil, or more serious issues such as cracked gaskets.
If you think it might be time to change the engine oil in your car, you can find a wide range available for a great price at Euro Car Parts. Type your registration number into the fast finder, and we’ll find the correct oil for your make and model. Looking for more information about motoring and car maintenance? Take a look at our other blogs today.