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How To Tell If You Are Overdue For An Oil Change

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over due oil change symptoms

Cars require regular oil changes to function well. If you don’t do them, the engine can become contaminated with deposits, wear out, and eventually fail. Oil is to a motor much like blood is to a mammal. It needs it to function. In the case for blood it carries nutrients but for oil it carries wear and detergent packages to keep the motor healthy and clean. This is an over simplification, there is a whole industry built around motor oil and a lot goes int to its formulation. Just have a look at the Liqui-moly site too see all the different formulations.

But how do you know if your vehicle is overdue for an oil change? That’s what we discuss here. You will learn the various symptoms, some consequences of not changing your oil, the types of oil changes available, and what to do if your vehicle leaks oil after a change.

Ways to track you oil changes

The easiest way to know when you oil change is due is to track via mileage counter or your odometer. Most mechanics and oil change shops will put a sticker in the upper left hand corner of the front windshield stating the data of the oil change and the mileage when it will be due next. This mileage can change depending on the type of oil used and recommended intervals.

Its not rocket science to track it, my father used to keep a small 2″ flip note book in the glove compartment of when the last oil change was done and when the next is due. But that is a bit manual and old school.

Most newer cars even have the oil change reminder built in. Though it mainly shows the maintenance required light when the oil change is due and that can scare some people.

Finally some oil change shops will actually track it for you and remind you in the coming months about an oil change. This is based off of time and not mileage but is still helpful.

Symptoms of an over due oil change

For some instances you may not always know whether your vehicle requires an oil change. Fortunately, many of the symptoms are easy to spot.

  • Engine overheating: First I would probably check the coolant level and go right to a mechanic. An engine that gets too hot can indicate internal friction and unwanted heat generation. Old and low oil levels can add to overheating issues
  • Unsteady idling: Unsteady idling when you come to a stop at junctions or lights indicates an engine that cannot maintain its performance. A lack of oil prevents the motor from reliably ticking over. Dirty motors can have this issue and sometimes an engine flush may help. Again consult a mechanic.
  • Bad smells: Unusual odors, such as a burning oil smell, suggest the engine has too little lubrication or an oil leak.
  • Excessive exhaust smoke: Low oil levels can cause gray or blue smoke from the tailpipe, usually a sign of burning oil. 
  • Poor performance: High levels of friction in the engine prevent it from working efficiently and could cause sluggish acceleration and lower fuel efficiency. Components could also start to wear, requiring costly replacement. 
  • Cockpit warning lights: Warning lights on modern vehicles use sensors to tell you when engine oil levels are running low. 
  • Loud noises: Engine components that don’t have enough oil may start knocking against each other or grinding, causing damage and many of the symptoms described above. 
  • Changing oil color or texture: Brown or excessively thick oil may contain contaminants from the engine or environment that could cause further internal damage. 

If you have an older vehicle, you may need to check oil levels manually. Many classic cars do not have dashboard lights, telling you that you need to make an oil change. 

Hopefully you are not experiencing any of these issues. Above all when in doubt (such as buying a new used car from a private sale) just go ahead and have the oil changed any ways. This is so you can have that peace of mind going forward.

What happens if you don’t change your oil?

Neglecting to change your oil can lead to some rather unpleasant consequences. For example, you may experience oil breakdown. This occurs when the oil becomes contaminated with combustion byproducts and dirt. Over time, it loses its ability to reduce friction, and engine parts experience increased wear and tear. 

The main parts of the engine susceptible to damage from a lack of oil (or contaminated oil) include the crankshaft, camshaft, and pistons. While the damage can occur slowly, it reduces the engine’s lifespan significantly, forcing early replacement. Metal parts become prematurely worn, preventing them from functioning optimally. Re-boring piston cylinders is possible but often prohibitively expensive. 

Another consequence of failing to change the oil is overheating. Engine oil is essential for dissipating heat and preventing heat-causing friction. If you allow it to degrade or don’t use enough of it, it cannot do its work, and engine components may become too hot, again causing engine damage. 

Reduced fuel efficiency is also a problem you might encounter if you fail to change your oil. A poorly lubricated engine requires more energy to do the same quantity of work, increasing how often you need to go to the gas pump. This process, in turn, will add to emissions and may cause your car to fail emissions tests. 

Finally, failing to change your oil can lead to outright engine failure. Your vehicle may cease functioning if internal components experience too much damage due to a lack of lubrication. Figures suggest that engines can only run for 30 minutes without oil and that damage can start to accumulate after just 5 to 10 minutes of driving. Extensive damage may render your vehicle beyond economical repair, forcing you to replace it.

How long does it take to change oil?

Professionals require 15 to 45 minutes to change the oil in your vehicle. The process involves draining existing oil, removing the oil filter, and putting new oil in the engine. Changing oil by yourself will likely take considerably longer if you haven’t done it before, up to 90 minutes.

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