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How to Tell When You Need an Oil Change

Getting a regular oil change is one of the best and easiest ways to keep your car running well. Here are some signs that your oil needs to be flushed and refilled.

One way to tell is just to keep track of when your last oil change was. Engine oil needs to be changed about twice a year or every 3,000 to 8,000 miles depending on the car and type of oil used. If it’s been that long since your last oil change, it might be time to get one. Check your owner’s manual or ask your dealership technician how often your oil needs to be changed.

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While going by mileage is a good method to make sure you always get your oil changed on time, you can also tell by going under the hood and checking the oil quality yourself. When the engine is cold or has been sitting for at least 10 minutes, open up the hood and pull the oil dipstick out. Wipe it off, put it back in, and pull it out again before you check the level to get an accurate reading.

While you’re doing this, you should also check the quality of the oil. New oil is a light honey color, and while it darkens quickly, black oil isn’t a major concern until it’s gritty or you can see particles in it. If it is gritty, it’s time for a change.

You also might need to change your oil if you notice that your engine is louder than usual, or if you hear any unusual metallic sounds like clicking or grinding. A louder ride or more revving on startup can indicate old oil, and if it’s really old and dirty, it may be totally ineffective at lubricating your engine, causing parts to rub against each other.

Another issue caused by old oil is sputtering performance. You may notice it’s hard to maintain speed. This is because the dirty oil can clog the oil filter and keep oil from passing through.

Get an oil change if you can see or smell engine exhaust while you’re driving. Cars are much cleaner today than they used to be, and they don’t produce visible engine exhaust. So, if there’s black smoke coming out of the tailpipe or you smell burning oil in the exhaust, see a technician—you may just need an oil change, but you could also have a major mechanical problem.

If you notice any of these signs, get to your dealership or mechanic and get your oil changed soon! Your car will run much better and more efficiently with fresh oil.
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