McCullough NAPA Auto Care

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Serving Metro Atlanta Since 1969

Signs that your car needs an oil change

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Every car relies on oil to lubricate its engine and keep it running smoothly. However, with time and use, this oil degrades and collects impurities, which can lead to reduced efficiency.

If you neglect to change your car’s oil, you risk damaging the engine and facing expensive repairs. It’s essential to know the signs that indicate it’s time for fresh oil to ensure your vehicle’s optimal performance and extended lifespan.

Signs That Your Car Needs An Oil Change

Regular oil changes are crucial for the health and longevity of your car’s engine. Over time and usage, the oil can degrade and lose its ability to properly lubricate and protect engine components. Here are some signs that your car might need an oil change:

  1. Change Oil Light or Check Engine Light is On: Modern cars have sensors that monitor the quality of the oil. When it’s time for a change, the “Change Oil” or sometimes the “Check Engine” light might illuminate.

  2. Dark, Dirty Oil: Fresh oil is a translucent amber color. Over time, as it collects dirt, debris, and other contaminants, it turns darker and loses its transparency. You can check the oil’s color using the dipstick: remove it from the engine, wipe it clean, reinsert it, and then pull it out to see the color.

  3. Loud Engine Noise: Oil provides a protective barrier between engine parts. You may hear an increased engine or a louder valve noise when this barrier degrades due to old or low oil.

  4. Oil Smell Inside the Car: It could indicate an oil leak if you smell oil inside the cabin. If you also detect the scent of exhaust fumes or gas, it might suggest that your car is burning oil, which is a severe issue.

  5. Exhaust Smoke: While it’s normal for some vapor to come out of the tailpipe, especially on cold days, noticeable blueish smoke can indicate oil burning, suggesting that you might need to check the oil (and possibly other engine problems).

  6. Oil Level Drops: If you need to add oil frequently between scheduled changes, it could mean there’s a leak or the engine is consuming oil. Either way, addressing the underlying problem is crucial and ensuring the oil is replaced if contaminated.

  7. Excessive Mileage: If you’ve driven more miles than the recommended interval for an oil change (often between 3,000 to 7,500 miles, depending on the oil type and vehicle), it’s time to change the oil. Always refer to your car’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

  8. Ticking Sound on Startup: If you hear a ticking or tapping noise right when you start the engine, it could mean that there isn’t enough oil in the system to lubricate components properly. This noise should decrease as the engine runs and circulates the oil, but if it is persistent, an oil check/change might be in order.

  9. Sluggish Performance: Oil helps ensure smooth engine operation. The engine might not operate efficiently if degraded or insufficient, leading to sluggish or reduced performance.

  10. Oil Change Sticker/Reminder: If your last oil change was at a service station, they might have placed a sticker on your windshield indicating the next recommended change date or mileage. If you’ve reached or surpassed that point, it’s time for a change.

Schedule Your Oil Change With McCullough NAPA Auto Care

Regularly checking your oil level and condition using the dipstick is a good habit for every driver. If you notice any of these signs, scheduling an oil change with McCullough NAPA Auto Care can ensure your car’s engine remains in good condition.

FAQ About Changing Your Car's Oil

Look for signs such as a dark, dirty appearance of the oil on the dipstick, increased engine noise, decreased performance, or the oil change reminder light illuminating on your dashboard.

Your car may become less efficient, produce louder engine noise, exhibit sluggish performance, or you might notice decreased fuel economy.

Overdue oil changes can lead to the engine’s oil becoming too dirty, which may result in increased wear and tear on the engine components, decreased fuel efficiency, potential engine damage, and decreased overall vehicle lifespan.

It’s recommended to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s guidance, which is typically every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. However, modern engines and synthetic oils can sometimes extend this interval. Always consult your owner’s manual for specific guidance.