Oil Change: How Do I Know When I Need One?
Engine lubricant, or motor oil functions to lubricate the engine, which reduces friction and preserves the life of the engine. An oil change is one of the most basic, yet least expensive techniques for maintaining the life of a vehicle. However, many vehicle owners ignore this simple aspect of proper car care and maintenance until it is too late. Instead of waiting for a scheduled oil change, or strange noises in the engine, there are several indicators that can help determine the need for an oil change while the car is still running efficiently.
Vehicles operating under ideal driving conditions can go up to 7,000 miles without an oil change. However, extreme temperatures and traveling at constant high speeds can affect the frequency. In these instances, it is best to change the oil more often, at least every 3,000 miles, to ensure that the car’s engine can run at optimum performance.
However, there are a few indicators that vehicle owners should be mindful of when deciding if the car may need an oil change before its typical scheduled maintenance. The color of the oil is one of the most obvious signs that the engine may be due for maintenance. A vehicle owner can check the color of the engine lubricant by removing the dipstick, which reaches directly to the reservoir. Fresh, new oil appears light it color and looks similar to dark honey. However, older lubricant that has reached its lifespan appears murky and black.
As the engine lubricant is exposed to high temperatures and extreme conditions, it has a tendency to break down and deteriorate. Another sign that will suggest the need for maintenance is the level of fluid within the engine. Low lubricant levels are less effective at protecting the engine because there is less oil to lubricate the parts and keep the engine cool; it could cause the engine to lock up, or over heat.
Analyzing the dipstick can also help determine the oil levels in the engine. According to manufacturer specifications, the dipstick will have a small line at the appropriate fluid levels; if the lubricant does not reach these levels, the vehicle owner can simply add lubricant to the reservoir.
Never ignore warning lights on the car’s dashboard. Another very apparent indicator that a car needs maintenance is the warning light on the dashboard. Most cars today have an indicator, which lights up and warns the driver anytime the engine oil has become less effective.
Although recommendations for maintenance vary by car manufacturer, the average vehicle will need maintenance at least every 5,000 miles. Never wait to hear strange sounds from the engine to decide to have maintenance. It is a simple maintenance procedure that often takes less than 30 minutes, yet it is vital to the life of the engine.