Many people rely on their vehicle on a daily basis for most or all of their transportation needs. If you are included in this group of people, you may use your car to commute back and forth to work, to shuttle the kids to school, to run errands and more. In some areas, public transportation fulfills such needs, but in many areas of the country, self-transportation through your own vehicle is a necessity.
In fact, it is estimated that the average American household owns approximately 2.28 vehicles. Because of your reliance on your vehicles, you do want to care for them regularly, and changing the oil regularly is one of the most affordable and simple steps that you can take to care for your car.
However, there is some confusion about when to change a vehicle’s oil.
The Cause of the Confusion
If you listen to the advice from car service shops, you will hear that it is best to change your oil every three months or every 3,000 miles, depending on which occurs first. If you read your vehicle’s owner manual, you may see that your car manufacturer recommends changing your car’s oil every 3,000 to 6,000 miles. There is some variation to this depending on the type of vehicle you drive and the type of oil that is recommended for your vehicle. This will help you when it time to sell your car or you are seeking car title loans.
However, the owner’s manual typically will state that your driving habits will dictate whether you should change your oil closer to every 3,000 miles or closer to every 6,000 miles. In addition, if you drive a late model vehicle, it may have an oil change indicator function. Through this function, your car’s computer may alert you when you need an oil change.
In most cases, the advice you receive from the car service shops, your owner’s manual and your car’s computer will not match up. Nobody wants to spend money on an oil change when it is not yet needed, so how can you tell when your car truly needs an oil change?
Here are four unobvious signs that your car’s oil needs to be changed.
1. The Color of the Oil
You can easily pop the hood of your car and locate the oil dip stick. Pull the dip stick up carefully, and wipe it with a clean, white cloth. Take note of the color of the oil. As oil is used by your engine, it can become dirty with debris from your engine. Further, it can also degrade with exposure to heat from the engine. Dirty, older oil is less effective at helping your engine run smoothly. Fresh oil has a fairly translucent appearance and is usually slightly darker than the color of honey. If your oil is murky in appearance and is dark brown or black, you are due for an oil change.
2. The Level of Oil
After checking the color of your oil, dip the stick back into the engine. Pull the dip stick out a second time, and take note of the amount of oil in the engine. Your dip stick should have a line on it that indicates if your oil level is full. As your engine runs regularly, much of the oil is recycled. However, a small amount of oil is burned off , and this can cause the oil level to decrease over time. Leaks can also cause oil levels to drop. If your oil level is below the full capacity line, it is time for an oil change.
3. Strange Sounds
Oil serves the important function of lubricating your engine. Regularly changing the oil can ensure that you enjoy maximum fuel efficiency, and it can prevent your engine from overheating. It also prevents operational fatigue of the mechanical components in your vehicle that can result in wear and tear on various engine components. If you hear strange sounds coming from your engine, this is a sign that the oil is not doing its part to properly lubricate the components in your engine. Getting the oil changed quickly is important when you hear strange engine sounds, as this can prevent additional damage from being done to engine components.
4. Dashboard Lights
Many modern vehicles have an indicator light that tells car owners when the vehicle needs to have an oil change. However, both newer and older models alike typically have a “check engine” light that may indicate issues with the engine’s performance. This may include if an engine is overheating or if other issues are present with the engine. While a “check engine” light may not mean that your vehicle is due for an oil change, if it has been awhile since your last oil change, the need for an oil change may be the cause of the indicator light.
While your own vehicle may not need an oil change every 3,000 miles or every three months as has been the common advice handed down to drivers from car service shops for years, changing it regularly as needed is vital to ensuring your vehicle functions well for years to come.