Regular oil changes
are a crucial part of basic vehicle maintenance, and staying on top of them can save you money in the long run by keeping your car in good repair. That’s a big deal for Northern California car owners looking to keep the cost of living—and driving—in this area in check.
If you’ve lost track of when your last oil change was, or you have purchased a used car with incomplete service records, it can be tricky to figure out when you actually need that all-important oil change. If the little sticker on your windshield that reminds you when you’re due for an oil change has blown away on the wind, here are some signs to pay attention to. Think of these signals as your car’s way of trying to tell you to come in for an oil change, STAT.
Your “Check Oil” Light Is On
Many cars come with an indicator that it’s time to check the oil. This light could mean your levels are low, in which case it’s crucial to top off your oil. Running out can wreak havoc on your engine and even cause it to seize up. Newer vehicles often come equipped with service reminders based on mileage, so use these to your advantage. If the “check engine” light comes on, it’s another sign that it’s time for an oil change and check-up.
Your Oil Looks Black or Dirty
If you pop the hood and have a look at your oil, take note of its color. Nice, clean engine oil looks like honey and is a golden brown. If your oil is very dark brown, black or appears to be filled with grit and grime, the time to change it has come. It’s done its job filtering dirt from your engine and is well past its prime. If your dipstick is showing a low reading, you also need to add oil to keep your engine running smoothly.
You Hear Grinding Sounds
When your oil runs low, parts of your engine are subject to increased friction, which may add a new symphony of sound to your driving experience. If you hear metal grinding together, your engine could be in trouble. Even worse, if the grinding and rubbing is so bad that your car starts to shake, you definitely need to get the oil changed.
It’s Been More Than 6 Months
Even if you have really low mileage on your vehicle—are you sure you’re from California?—you still need to change your oil at least every six months. Engine oil degrades over time, so it’s important to replace it even if you’re not meeting the standard 3,000 mile mark within a few months. The same is true for lubing the chassis and changing your air filters, so if you can’t remember the last time you brought you car in for basic service, the time is definitely now.