Don’t remember when your last oil change was? It’s easy to take things for granted when your car seems to run normally; soon enough you’ve driven several thousand miles over your recommended oil change schedule. This isn’t ideal, as the “lifeblood of your engine” clean and fresh engine oil helps to keep parts from grinding together and overheating. Even if you have enough oil in your engine, if it’s old it could be causing harm.

1. Dark or dirty oil

Clean engine oil is a bright amber color. If your oil is looking dark and almost black then it needs changing, even if you have enough. This can be checked easily enough by removing your oil dipstick and inspecting the color – when you’re finished wipe with some paper towel.


2. Metal on metal noises

There are dozens and dozens of noises that can come from various components in your car. When you hear a noise that’s caused by old or low engine oil that’s not good news. It means your engine parts are no longer being lubricated sufficiently and metal parts could start to become damaged as they grind against each other.

These sounds can be described as:

  • Grinding
  • Ticking
  • Tapping
  • Knocking
  • Clunking

If your engine components grind together then tiny fragments of metal can find their way into the oil and circulate around the engine, increasing risk of damage.


3. Bad fuel economy

Getting through gas a lot quicker than usual? It could be down to outdated engine oil. As the oil ages it thickens and becomes “sludge-like”, this provides resistance against the components of your engine causing them to work harder. A harder-working engine is an inefficient one and will mean you use more fuel than usual.

Bad fuel economy can be caused by all sorts of reasons, not just engine oil, but combined with other factors it’s a possible tell-tale sign you need an oil change.


4. Smell of burnt oil

A smell of burnt oil inside your car usually suggests you have an oil leak. The smell your noticing is probably being caused by leaking oil dripping on hot engine parts. Don’t ignore it, with low engine oil your car can soon overheat and cause all manner of problems.


5. Smoke coming from the exhaust

Save for cold weather, your exhaust shouldn’t be pumping out gray smoke – this most likely means that you have an oil leak, again this may come along with the smell of burnt oil inside the car.


6. Overheating

According to “” the normal operating temperature for most modern vehicles is 195 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Though this doesn’t usually show on the dashboard, a general rule is

“at or near the center when the engine is at normal operating temperature, which usually takes at least a minute or two to reach after starting a cold engine.”

Low engine oil, or old engine oil can lead to overheating, making your engine work harder and risking it’s components.


7. Engine warning light

This should be obvious, but it’s easy to neglect or forget, particularly if you’ve not seen it before. Many modern vehicles have sensors that keep a track of engine oil or use designated intervals to remind you to change the oil.

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