6 Signs that Your Car Needs an Oil Change

As you know every vehicle needs a power source to run – be it an 50cc Aprilia SX50 or a 3900cc 488 GTB. Most often, these vehicles are powered by an engine (You can read about how electric vehicles run here). The engine works, in simple terms, by the action of a detonation/explosion inside the engine cylinder, pushing the piston down to rotate the wheels indirectly.

Do this a thousand times a minute and you have a properly functioning engine. But all this movement creates friction between the mechanical parts. Enough wear and tear and your vehicle is as good as a man without a heart – you need to keep this friction to a minimum, and luckily, we have solutions for this.

Mechanic servicing a car

No matter what kind of vehicle you own, or aspire to own, every piece of automobile out there requires some kind of layer that protects the engine’s parts from wearing off due to rubbing against each other.

The engine oil you put inside the engine serves this very purpose. But the engine oil deteriorates with time due to all that heavy action. It gets contaminated with carbon, metal, suffers oxidation (becomes acidic), and the additive package gets used up.

Even though you can change your engine oil during your regular service, and replacement is not needed for many months altogether sometimes, but you have to know when your oil is done and dusted.

There are a lot of factors that affect how your engine oil will perform, and you can’t really put a number around exactly when you’ll need to change it – we’re talking extreme climate conditions, traveling a lot more than you used to all of a sudden, starting your vehicle after a long time, and many more.

But don’t worry, there are certain indications that will help you identify almost immediately that a checkup is needed, and in this article by Motoring Junction, we’re going to take a look at those signs. So let’s get started.

Dropping of oil level

If you’re doing a good job with regularly checking your oil level and topping it up, then your vehicle will reward you by extending the amount of time between an oil change. The reverse is also true. If you don’t keep a check on your engine’s oil, there are chances you’ll suddenly face a drastic drop in oil level.

Oftentimes, this is the result of damage to the oil system, and you may have to bear with some additional charges that come with replacing or taking care of this issue.

Increase in engine noise

The engine oil basically lubricates the engine for its components to function smoothly as a whole. It also helps manage heat away from the critical areas of the engine. If you start noticing that the oil is turning into something thin, old, or is rather poorly textured, the oil is getting damaged.

You might get an indication for this when you start noticing that the vehicle is getting noisier every time you take it for a spin.

If you still choose to bear with the noise and drive your vehicle like you usually do, sooner or later a ticking sound will be audible. This is nothing but the piston inside the engine knocking against the engine’s inner wall as it moves up and down.

Because there is no oil left to maintain a cushion between the piston and the wall, friction is greater and the parts wear and tear much sooner. So it’s better to keep looking at the signs.

Irregularity in oil texture

One other thing you need to know about your engine’s oil is that it will continue to get darker and darker as it’s being used, or as it runs through the engine.

This is because of the constant heat it’s subjected to when the engine is running, and also the residue from the wear and tear of the engine components (yes, it will inevitably happen regardless of the presence of an engine oil – the oil merely slows down the process).

So one surefire way to find out if your engine needs oil replacement, is to check for the oil color and texture. If it’s absolutely dark and thick, you need an oil change.

Low oil level

Your dashboard indicators don’t lie. Even though it might seem like an easy task to change your engine oil – and in most cases it is – you must still keep a check on the oil level in the reservoir. This will lead to low oil pressure. Learn how to diagnose and fix low oil pressure

If it has been a long time since you changed the oil, the indicator is going to blink bright red, or show up on the low side. You’ll need to take care of this right away, because prolonged running of your engine without oil will sooner or later cause an engine seizure or a vehicle breakdown. This is especially true during warmer climates, so you’d do good to not let it get to that level.

Any sort of turbulence while driving

You can avoid looking at the engine light, you can run away from checking the oil’s texture, you can ignore the engine noise, you can do it all – but you simply cannot ignore how the vehicle feels when you’re driving it on the road. Overheating engine will show up on the dashboard reading but also cause increased engine knocking.

The sheer unpleasant driving experience will let you know that something is wrong with the vehicle, and the first place that you need to look when diagnosing your vehicle, is the engine oil.

See what happens if you forget to change your engine oil (Play the video below):

White Smoke coming out of exhaust

If you’re too late in your oil change or running low on oil it will cause damage to piston rings first. A vehicle in need of help will show you smoke, quite literally.

So if there’s any sign of oil, or smoke that comes out white instead of the regular colorless gas, you know you’ve been running low on oil. White smoke usually indicates that your vehicle’s piston rings are damaged and leaking oil into the combustion chamber.

If you ignore this and keep running your car, it will soon result in more mechanical damage to engine. It better to take care of piston rings as soon as possible and replenish it with engine oil.

Closing Thoughts

If by any chance you come to notice any kind of combination of the warnings listed above then you must immediately schedule your vehicle for an oil change, or even a general service as soon as possible in order to prevent damage to the engine.

Going by the service schedule mentioned in the vehicle owner’s manual is a good practice. But it’s better to get your car serviced early if your driving conditions are not normal. For example, if you drive mostly on mountain roads, drive short distances often, drive on racetrack, pull cargo often.

And when you go in for an oil change you must also discuss the needs of your vehicle with the technician in order to ensure that the next oil change happens right on time. A good practice is to also make sure that you are using the correct grade and specification engine oil for your car.

Also checkout these top 10 signs of a failing transmission

Siddharth Sharma
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Siddharth Sharma

Siddharth has always been passionate about Cars and Bikes. He was the kind of kid that always had the latest Auto magazine in his school bag. He had this dream- to become a professional racecar driver. Finally, in 2012 he found himself racing as a rookie driver in the Polo R Cup national racing championship. Over time he had to readjust the sail and get into automotive journalism to continue enjoying machines on wheels.