How often should I change my car's oil?

Although you can always count on professional servicing for a complete check-up, having a car requires constant care. Car owners should keep an eye on key components and procedures to ensure their baby is running at its very best while preventing everyday wear and tear from becoming too serious (and expensive) by the time you hit the workshop.

The oil change is one of these things. Even though it’s usually a quick and stress-free service, it’s often neglected even by longtime car owners, and done only when there’s a striking problem. 

Specialists are unanimous in agreement that a regular oil change is the most important thing you can do to make sure your engine lasts. Having good, clean oil lubricating your vehicle is vital to improve your car’s performance and helps engine run smoothly; best of all, you can do it yourself if needed!

The frequency varies for each car, but most of them should have their oil changed every 5,000 km or three months. For new vehicles, the service point is usually 10,000 km or six months. 

However, it’s a common mistake to believe that you don’t need to worry about an oil change at all if you’re on schedule with your mileage or date.

How do I know I need to change the engine oil?

It can be pretty easy to identify if your car needs an oil change. Look below for five warning signs to keep in mind:

Quick checklist

1. Excessive Engine Noise

The oil works as a protective layer between the parts of the engine. By avoiding direct metal contact, it keeps the engine quiet and working smoothly. If oil gets old, thin, or a bad texture, it will lose its lubrication properties, causing the parts to grind during the drive and creating an increasingly loud noise or even knocking or rumbling sounds in more severe cases.

You may also notice a ticking sound when starting the car, as the valves need to make an extra effort to move the old oil effectively.

2. Dark Exhaust Smoke

If you notice your vehicle has left a trail of dark smoke, chances are your oil change is due! It’s common to emit some exhaust, but modern vehicles or even old ones shouldn’t be emitting excessive exhaust if they are in shape.

This indicates the motor oil has become too old to run or that you may even have a leak or engine problems such as cracked gaskets.

3. Texture and Colour

Even “healthy oil” can become darker, so colour by itself isn’t always a reliable indicator that you need an oil change. However, a gritty texture is a sign that the liquid has started to accumulate small particles of dirt, which can damage the engine.

This is not an obvious sign, so bear in mind that you should have your oil tank checked once a month by removing the dipstick and wiping it off to check its consistency.

4. Unusual Mileage

If you’ve been travelling more than usual, it’s possible that you will need an oil change sooner than your regular schedule. Be mindful of the other signs we listed, and check your owner’s handbook for specific guidelines. Consider also including an oil check in your post road trip routine.

5. Persistent Lights On The Dashboard

Believe it or not, the most obvious alert is frequently missed. If the oil change light appears, it means there’s not enough oil in the system, so you need to take care of it before it becomes a bigger issue. If it gets to this point, you’ll also see the engine light on. In fact, this sign is also the one that indicates an oil problem in older vehicles with no specific oil light.

By keeping these five checkpoints in mind, you’ll be able to maintain your oil tank’s health and act quickly before any severe damage, whether by bringing your car to the shop or performing an oil change yourself (a topic for a future blog post, stay tuned!).