Your car’s engine oil is essential for keeping it running smoothly and preventing costly repairs. It lubricates the engine’s moving parts, reduces friction, and helps prevent overheating. As time passes, oil degrades and loses its effectiveness. This is why changing oil regularly is crucial, according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
Overdue Oil Change Symptoms
If you’re unsure when your last oil change was, here are some overdue oil change symptoms that can help you decide if it’s time for another one:
1. Low oil level
A low oil level is one of the most common signs of an overdue oil change. You can check the oil level using the dipstick, which is under your car’s hood. If the oil level is below the “full” mark, it’s time for an oil change.
What causes a low oil level?
There are a few common causes of a low oil level:
- Oil leaks: Oil leaks can occur from various places, such as the oil pan, the valve cover gasket, or the oil filter.
- Oil burning: Oil can burn internally in the engine, which can cause a low oil level. Oil can burn internally in the engine, which can cause a low oil level. Worn piston rings or other engine problems can cause this.
- Evaporation: Oil can evaporate over time, especially in hot climates.
- Improper oil change: If your oil was not changed properly, or if the wrong type of oil was used, it could lead to a low oil level.
2. Dirty oil
Clean oil is amber in color. If the oil is dark and dirty, it’s a sign that it has broken down and needs to be replaced.
What causes dirty oil?
There are a few common causes of dirty oil:
- Normal engine wear and tear: As the engine runs, the moving parts wear down and produce metal shavings. These shavings can contaminate the oil.
- Combustion byproducts: When fuel burns in the engine, it produces byproducts such as soot and carbon monoxide. These byproducts can also contaminate the oil.
- Overheating: If the engine overheats, the oil may degrade and become contaminated.
- Coolant leaks: If the coolant system leaks, it can contaminate the oil with coolant.
3. Burning oil smell
If you smell burning oil, it could indicate that your car is leaking or burning oil internally. This is a severe problem and needs to be addressed immediately.
What causes a burning oil smell?
There are a few common causes of a burning oil smell:
- Oil leaks: Oil leaks can occur from various places, such as the oil pan, the valve cover gasket, or the oil filter. When oil leaks onto the hot engine or exhaust system, it burns, producing a burning oil smell.
- Worn piston rings: Piston rings are responsible for sealing the combustion chamber and preventing oil from leaking into the combustion chamber. If the piston rings are worn, oil can leak into the combustion chamber and burn.
- Worn valve seals: Valve seals prevent oil from leaking into the intake or exhaust ports. If the valve seals are worn, oil can leak into the intake or exhaust ports and burn.
- Overheating: If the engine overheats, it can cause the oil to break down and burn.
- Improper oil change: If the oil wasn’t changed properly, or if the wrong type of oil was used, it could lead to a burning oil smell.
4. Reduced fuel economy
When oil is old and dirty, it becomes more viscous or thicker. This makes it harder for the oil to flow through the engine and lubricate the moving parts. This causes the engine to work harder, which increases fuel consumption.
5. Strange noises from the engine
When your car’s engine is running properly, it should be relatively quiet. However, if you start to hear strange noises coming from the engine, it could be a sign of a problem. One common cause of strange engine noises is an overdue oil change.
How does an overdue oil change cause strange engine noises?
Oil’s ability to lubricate and protect an engine gradually declines as it ages. This can lead to increased friction and wear and tear on the moving parts. As a result, the engine may start to make strange noises, such as:
- Knocking: A knocking sound from the engine is often a sign of worn bearings. Bearings are located throughout the engine and help to support and lubricate the moving parts. When bearings become worn, they can make a knocking sound.
- Ticking: A ticking sound from the engine is often a sign of worn lifters. Valve opening and closing in an engine is the responsibility of the lifters. When these lifters become worn, they can make a ticking sound.
- Whining: A whining sound from the engine is often a sign of a worn belt. Belts are used to drive various accessories, such as the alternator and water pump. When belts become worn, they can slip and make a whining sound.
6. Engine overheating
If you’re overdue for an oil change, your engine is at risk of overheating. This is because old, dirty oil doesn’t transfer heat as well as fresh oil. As a result, the heat generated by the engine can build up and cause it to overheat.
Symptoms of engine overheating
There are a few common symptoms of engine overheating, including:
- Temperature gauge in the red: The temperature gauge is located on the dashboard of your car. If the needle is in the red, it means that your engine is overheating.
- Steam or coolant coming from the hood: If you see steam or coolant coming from the hood of your car, it’s a sign that your engine is overheating.
- Burning smell: If you smell a burning smell coming from your car, it could be a sign that your engine is overheating.
- Engine knocking: A knocking sound from the engine is often a sign of overheating.
Dangers of engine overheating
Engine overheating can cause serious damage to your car’s engine. If you continue to drive your car with an overheating engine, you could risk damaging the pistons, cylinders, and other engine components. This can lead to costly repairs or even engine failure.
7. Dark exhaust smoke
Dark exhaust smoke is a sign that your car’s engine is burning oil. There are a few common causes of dark exhaust smoke, including:
- Overdue oil change: When oil becomes old and unclean, it degrades and loses its ability to lubricate and protect the engine. This might cause additional friction and wear on the moving parts. As a result, the engine could begin to burn oil.
- Worn piston rings: Piston rings are responsible for sealing the combustion chamber and preventing oil from leaking into the combustion chamber. If the piston rings become worn, oil can leak into the combustion chamber and burn.
- Worn valve seals: Valve seals prevent oil from leaking into the intake or exhaust ports. If the valve seals become worn, oil can leak into the intake or exhaust ports and burn.
8. Illuminated oil change light
Most cars have an oil change light that comes on when it’s time for an oil change. If your oil change light is on, it’s important to get your oil changed as soon as possible.
Causes of an illuminated oil change light
The most common cause of an illuminated oil change light due to an overdue oil change is simply that it’s time to get your oil changed. However, there are a few other things that can cause the oil change light to come on, such as:
- Low oil level: If your oil level is low, the oil change light may come on. This can be caused by an oil leak or by simply burning oil.
- Dirty oil: If your oil is dirty, the oil change light may come on. This is because dirty oil is not as effective at lubricating and protecting the engine.
- Faulty oil change light sensor: If the oil change light sensor is faulty, it may come on even if your oil is clean and at the proper level.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to take your car in for an oil change right away. Driving with overdue oil can lead to serious engine damage, which can be costly to repair.
The Importance of Regular Oil Changes
One of the most essential car maintenance tasks is getting oil changes on a regular basis. Engine oil is responsible for lubricating and protecting the moving parts of the engine, reducing friction and wear and tear. This is why it’s important to change your oil regularly, according to your vehicle’s manufacturer’s recommendations.
Benefits of Regular Oil Changes
Regular oil changes have many advantages, including:
- Improved fuel efficiency: Clean oil helps the engine run more smoothly efficiently, which can lead to improved fuel economy.
- Reduced engine wear: Oil helps to reduce friction and wear and tear on the engine components. This can help to extend the life of your engine and save you money on costly repairs.
- Increased resale value: A well-maintained vehicle with regular oil changes will typically have a higher resale value than a vehicle that has been neglected.
How to Prevent Overdue Oil Changes?
It is very important to change the oil in your car on a regular basis. It helps to keep your engine running smoothly and efficiently, and they can also help to extend the life of your engine. However, it’s easy to forget about oil changes, especially if you’re busy. Here are a few tips to help you prevent overdue oil changes:
- Check the oil level regularly. You should check your oil level every month, or more often if you drive in severe conditions. To check your car’s oil level, locate the dipstick under the hood, remove it, wipe it clean, and reinsert it. The oil level should be between the “full” and “add” marks on the dipstick.
- Use high-quality oil and filters. Using high-quality oil and filters can help to extend the life of your engine and protect it from damage. When you get your oil changed, be sure to use the correct type of oil for your vehicle. You can find this information in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
- Set reminders for yourself. If you tend to forget about oil changes, set reminders for yourself on your phone or calendar. You can also set reminders in your vehicle’s infotainment system, if it has one.
- Pay attention to any changes in your car’s performance, such as unusual noises or reduced fuel economy.
- Have your oil changed immediately if you notice any signs of an overdue oil change.
By following these tips, you can help to prevent overdue oil changes and keep your vehicle running smoothly for years to come.
Here are some additional tips:
- Use a sticker or note on the dashboard to remind you when your next oil change is due.
- Schedule your oil change for the same day as another appointment, such as a haircut or doctor’s visit.
- Sign up for a service reminder program from your dealer or a local oil change shop.
By taking these simple steps, you can help to ensure that your car’s oil is changed on time and that your engine is properly protected.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil?
The frequency of oil changes will vary depending on your vehicle, driving habits, and climate. Most vehicles require an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. However, if you drive in severe conditions, such as dusty or stop-and-go traffic, you may need to change your oil more often. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Oil Changes?
When you get your oil changed, be sure to use the correct type of oil for your vehicle. You can find this information in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. You should also have your oil filter changed at the same time as your oil. The oil filter helps to remove dirt and debris from the oil, which can help to protect your engine.
Regular oil changes are an essential part of vehicle maintenance. By changing your oil regularly, you can help to improve your vehicle’s performance, extend its longevity, and save money on costly repairs.