Having good, clean oil at all times is one of the easiest ways to ensure your car's engine stays healthy and happy. Having the oil changed on a regular basis is ideal, but regardless of how long it has been since the last change, there are signs to alert you that it is time to take your car in for a change. When one of these signs appears, it is important to have the oil changed or you will run the risk of causing major damage to the engine. This will not only result in a dent in your pocketbook, but you might also find yourself stranded.
The Oil Is Very Dark
Just a glance at the dipstick can tell you a lot about the condition of your oil. New oil has the colour of honey or amber and it should never appear to have water in it. If you are checking your oil and notice it is very dark, or even black, a change is in order. The same is true if you see bits of debris, water or other particles floating around. Contaminated oil can cause the oil filter to clog up, which can cause major engine damage. While an oil change might seem expensive, it will not cost nearly as much as engine repair, or even worse, a new engine. Oil should also remain smooth and if it feels or appears gritty, it is contaminated.
The Engine Is Louder than Usual
After driving your car for a while, you automatically know what it sounds like during an average drive. If you notice your car running rough or louder than usual, check the oil. If the oil is breaking down or not lubricating the engine as it should, it can cause the engine to grind and run roughly. The first step is checking the oil to make sure it is at the proper level until you can get it in for a change. Driving with too low of an oil level can cause the engine irreversible damage. Take care to use the right type of oil as recommended by your owner's manual.
You Cannot Remember the Last Change
If so much time has passed since your last change that you cannot remember when it occurred, it is most likely that time again. Having your oil changed on a schedule goes a long way in ensuring too much time does not pass in between changes. Often times, repair shops place a sticker in the window to remind you when a change is needed. If this is not the case, put a calendar reminder in your phone or place a sticky note on your dashboard to remind you when it is needed.
The Engine Light Comes On
That dreaded engine light coming on can ensue panic and make you wonder if the car is going to get you where you need to go. There is usually no reason to panic however, as it can indicate something as simple as a needed oil change. Before rushing to your local repair shop, check the oil. Pay close attention to the oil level and the colour of the oil itself. If the oil is low, black or appears contaminated, get the oil changed to see if that remedies the problem. If it does, you are in luck. Even if it does not fix the issue, it never hurts to have the oil changed. Most manufacturers recommend oil changes every 4 800 to 16 000 km, but doing it more often will not cause any harm.
The Oil Pressure Changes
Many vehicles have an oil pressure gauge on the instrument panel. The vehicle's owner's manual often indicates where the pressure should fall during driving. If the pressures falls or rises far beyond the recommended mark, check the oil. While other issues can cause the oil pressure gauge to drop, checking the oil is the easiest and most inexpensive place to start.
The Level Is Low or the Oil Leaks
You should check your oil on a regular basis as driving with too low of oil levels is risky and can end up leaving you stranded. Take a few minutes to check the oil once a week or so. If the oil level drops on a regular basis, get it changed. If the problem continues, have the vehicle checked for leaks. If you know that the vehicle is burning or leaking oil, take care to keep the reservoir full at all times until you can get the car the repair that it needs.
Keeping your oil clean and at the proper levels goes a long way in keeping your car ready for the road. Even if you have regular changes, there are signs that can indicate a change is in the near future. Knowing the signs and staying aware can save you from damaging your engine.