Although it’s recommended that your motor oil be changed every 3,000 miles, in some cases that may be acting too soon. While once true for older engines, modern engines are often able to go long after the 3,000 mile marker before needing to have their oil changed. Knowing how to check the oil level and quality in your car can help you save money by only changing your oil when necessary.
The color of new oil is close to that of honey. When it’s changed in the shop, this honey colored oil helps filter out contaminants in the engine and over time, the oil darkens. The darker the oil gets, the less effective it becomes. If oil becomes overcontaminated with particles from the engine, it can clog the oil filter and dirt can make its way back into the engine. When oil becomes the color of Coca-Cola or darker, it’s probably time to change it. It takes a trained eye to learn the difference in oil color, but almost black oil is a sure sign that a change is needed.
You can check the color of your oil by removing the dipstick from your engine and wiping it clean on a paper towel or rag. Then, re-dip the dipstick into the engine and remove again. This time, check the color. You should only check an oil’s color after the engine has had time to warm up and after you’ve cleaned the oil currently on the dipstick.
Your engine needs motor oil to help its parts to run together smoothly. If you’re running low on oil because of a leak or because of overuse, your engine will start to make funny sounds or operate at a louder volume than you’re used to. While you may not be immediately aware of the change in engine noise, most drivers are unconsciously familiar enough with their engine sound to know when their engine is acting up.
Check Engine Light
Modern engines are controlled by computers and can cause a check engine light to come on and stay on, sometimes indefinitely. Instead of looking all over your car for potential problems, if everything looks normal, check to see if your engine oil is the right color or if there’s enough of it in the tank. Sensors are usually able to tell you if somethings wrong with your engine oil, so lifting your dipstick out of the engine for a visual check is a good place to start!
You can also take your car to a professional auto repair shop to have a free diagnostic test done on your car’s computer to see if the oil may be causing a problem.
Using More Than Necessary
Engine oil depletes progressively faster when the engine is running low. If oil becomes dirty, your car’s engine will pull more oil from your oil reserves to properly lubricate itself. As more oil gets pulled into the engine, even less makes its way through the oil filter and the cycle continues. If you pull your dipstick out of the engine and see that you’re running low on oil, even if your oil is clean, it’s probably time to top up with an over the counter oil or take your car into the mechanic for a proper oil change.
While it’s possible to add additional oil to your vehicle yourself, you have to be sure to use exactly he right kind of oil, otherwise you risk damaging your engine. Synthetic oils are used in high mileage vehicles for added security. Talk to your mechanic before adding extra oil because you’re running low.
Even if all of the visual checks of your oil check out, if you can’t remember when the last time you had a proper oil change was, it’s safest to bring your car in for a fresh filter and oil just to be safe. Although everything may look good when you pull the dipstick out of your engine, if your oil filter hasn’t been changed in a while, it may be close to dying without you even realizing. Talk to your mechanic about an oil change soon to prevent irreparable damage to your engine block.
In your owner’s manual for your vehicle should be a section about oil changes. Although oil-change places like Jiffy Lube will tell you 3,000 miles is the standard metric for when you should get your oil changed, your car’s engine may tell a different story. Within most owner’s manuals are charts to tell you not only which type of oil your car needs, but also when the optimal time to get the oil changed is. If you have a high mileage vehicle that requires synthetic oil, oil changes may not be necessary until the 5,000 or 6,000 mile mark.