Getting an oil change is usually a quick and painless process. So why do many people delay in replacing their oil until there’s a visible problem?
A lot of drivers rely on mileage as a gauge for when their oil needs to be replaced, but there are a lot of other factors come into play–the quality of the oil, the age of the car, how the car is driven. Over time, the fluid breaks down and has difficulty performing its duties. Once this breakdown starts, your car likely will exhibit some of the warning signs below. Here’s how to know it’s time for an oil change:
1. Check Engine or Oil Change Light
The most obvious sign that there’s a problem with your oil is a “Change Oil” light, like the one above. This is usually triggered when there’s not enough oil in the system, so be sure to check the dipstick to see what’s happening. In worse cases, the check engine light will turn on. This is usually the final warning that it’s time for an oil change. At that point, things have gotten so bad that the engine is at risk of damage.
2. Engine Noise or Knocking
Oil provides a protective layer between engine parts, to help prevent metal-on-metal contact and keep the engine quiet. If your oil is too old, or there’s not enough oil in the system, the engine noise will increase. In severe cases, you may even hear a light knocking sound.
3. Dark, Dirty Oil
Clean oil is a translucent, amber color that turns darker as it gets old and becomes filled with debris. If you’re vigilant about monitoring and you check your dipstick regularly (we recommend checking your engine oil at least once a month) you’ll notice when this starts to happen. If you can’t see the dipstick through the oil, it is time for an oil change.
4. Oil Smell Inside the Car
If you smell oil inside the car, it can often signify an oil leak. If you also smell gas or exhaust fumes, the vehicle may be overheating. Either way, you will want to schedule maintenance immediately.
5. Exhaust Smoke
Seeing some translucent vapor training your vehicle is totally normal. But if the vapor changes color or starts to become a thick, dense cloud it’s time for an oil change. You may have an oil leak.
6. Excessive Mileage
If you’ve taken any long trips recently, or you’ve just done a lot of running around in the last month, you should consider getting an oil change sooner than normal. Every car has different requirements so you should check your owner’s handbook for specific guidelines. You might also consider using a high-mileage oil if you drive an older vehicle.
At V&F, we strive to provide our customers with a well-rounded knowledge of all things automotive. Since 1988, our family-owned and operated service center has been providing top-quality auto repair services to Agawam, Feeding Hills, Southwick, West Springfield and the surrounding Massachusetts communities. Learn more about our oil change services.
This article was originally published in May 2020.