Signs that Indicate Your Car Needs an Oil Change

An oil change is a routine maintenance procedure that involves draining the old, used oil from your car’s engine and replacing it with fresh, clean oil. This process is crucial for keeping your engine running smoothly and efficiently. Over time, engine oil becomes contaminated with dirt, debris, and combustion by-products, which can lead to increased friction and wear on engine components. By regularly changing the oil, you ensure that your engine remains properly lubricated, reducing friction and heat buildup, and extending the life of your vehicle.

Also Read: How to Get LTO Motor Vehicle Inspection Report (MVIR)

You need to make sure that your car’s oil is at the correct level and in good condition to maintain optimal engine performance and longevity. Regularly checking the oil level using the dipstick and monitoring its appearance and color will help you identify when it’s time for an oil change. It’s important not to ignore signs that indicate the need for an oil change, such as dark or gritty oil, engine noises, or warning lights on your dashboard. Keeping up with oil changes according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations will help prevent costly engine repairs and keep your car running smoothly for years to come.

signs that show your car needs an oil change

Getting an Oil Change

An oil change is usually done by experienced automotive technicians at service centers or automotive shops. During the oil change procedure, the technician drains the old, used oil from the engine, removes and replaces the oil filter to ensure optimal filtration of contaminants, then refills the engine with the precise type and quantity of fresh oil recommended for your vehicle. This maintenance procedure must be done by professionals because using the correct oil helps maintain engine performance and longevity.

Photo by Daniel Andraski/

Professional oil changes also involve a comprehensive inspection of the oil system. Technicians will carefully examine for any signs of leaks, damage, or other issues related to the oil. Detecting and addressing these problems early can prevent more significant engine issues down the road. Entrusting your oil change to skilled professionals ensures that the procedure is conducted accurately and efficiently, giving you peace of mind knowing that your car’s engine is properly lubricated and protected. Additionally, service centers often keep records of your oil change intervals, helping you stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule for optimal performance and reliability.

20 Signs that Your Car Needs an Oil Change

So, how can you tell if it’s time to get an oil change? Well, you simply need to listen to what your car is trying to tell you. Keeping track of your vehicle’s maintenance needs can save you from costly repairs down the road, as one of the most critical aspects of car care is ensuring that your engine oil is clean and at the right level. 

Here are some signs that it might be time for an oil change:

1. Engine Noises

If you hear knocking or rumbling sounds coming from your engine, it could indicate that the oil is not properly lubricating the moving parts.

2. Exhaust Smoke

Excessive smoke from your exhaust, especially if it’s blue or gray, might signal burning oil due to low levels or poor quality.

3. Low Oil Level

Check your oil dipstick regularly. A low oil level means it’s time to top up or change the oil.

4. Check Engine Light

This light can indicate various issues, including low oil pressure or degraded oil quality.

5. Dark and Dirty Oil

Healthy oil should be amber-colored and relatively clean. If it’s dark and gritty, it’s overdue for a change.

6. Overheating

Insufficient or old oil can’t effectively dissipate heat, leading to engine overheating.

7. Shaking While Idling

If your car shakes or vibrates while idling, it could be a sign of poor lubrication.

8. Warning Lights

Aside from the check engine light, other warning lights like the oil pressure warning could indicate oil-related issues.

9. Gritty Oil

Rub some oil between your fingers—if it feels gritty, it’s likely contaminated with dirt and debris.

10. Oil Life Indicator

Modern vehicles have oil life monitors that alert you when it’s time for an oil change. Pay attention to these warnings.

11. Change Oil Promptly

Don’t delay changing your oil beyond the recommended interval.

12. Burning Smell

The smell of burnt oil inside or outside the car could mean oil is leaking onto hot engine parts.

13. Car Stalling

Insufficient lubrication can cause engine components to seize up, leading to stalling.

14. Color of Oil

Healthy oil is amber; if it’s dark brown or black, it’s time for a change.

15. Odor Inside the Car

A persistent oil smell inside the cabin could indicate a leak or spill.

16. Excess Exhaust

Blue smoke in your exhaust is a classic sign of burning oil.

17. Ticking Sounds When Starting

This could be due to oil not properly lubricating the engine components.

18. Dark Oil

The color of your oil can tell you a lot about its health. Dark oil needs replacing.

19. Loud Engine Noise

Unusual engine noise, especially when accelerating, could be due to inadequate lubrication.

20. Decreased Performance

If your car feels sluggish or less responsive than usual, check the oil.

Oil Change Safety Tips

To maintain your car’s health and safety on the road:

  • Check for Leaks Regularly: Keep an eye out for oil spots under your parked car.
  • Follow Manufacturer’s Recommendations: Adhere to the oil change interval suggested in your vehicle’s manual. 
  • Inspect Other Fluids: Don’t forget to check other fluids like steering oil and gear oil.

Video: What happens if You Forget to Get to Get Your Oil Changed

For more information about the consequences of failing to get an oil change on time, you may check out this video from Engineering Explained.


Keeping your car’s oil fresh and at the proper level is crucial for the longevity of your engine. Regular oil changes can prevent costly repairs and keep your car running smoothly. Pay attention to these signs, and don’t hesitate to schedule an oil change when needed. Your car will thank you for it!

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