Waiting too long to change your car’s engine oil has dire consequences. It could lead to severe engine damage. So, do you know the many overdue oil change symptoms – signs to change the oil so you can act on it before any bad thing happen to your engine?
Here are some of the signs that your engine oil is due for a change:
- Engine oil is already dark and dirty.
- The oil level is low.
- Engine noise becomes noticeable.
- Overheating engine
- Stalling engine
- Decrease in fuel efficiency
- Black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe
- The smell of burning oil
- The service warning light turns on
- Oil consistency has deteriorated
- Ticking and tapping noises from the engine
- Car vibrates while idling
- Car manufacturer says it’s time for an oil change
- ‘Check Engine’ light keeps turning on
It is not okay to drive your car past its oil change. Car manufacturers usually recommend engine oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 driving miles. However, it is still safe to drive your car for another 100 miles if the check engine light turns on. Beyond that, you are pushing the engine to its limit.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms of an overdue oil change so that you won’t suffer the consequences of a severe engine failure.
What Are the Overdue Oil Change Symptoms
If you want your car to run without any problem efficiently, you must give it proper care and maintenance. Pay attention to its engine because it is the heart of your car.
Your car uses engine oil to run efficiently. In addition, car manufacturers recommend that you should change the engine oil every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.
If you don’t do this religiously, the engine will gradually develop internal problems and eventually fail. Do you know the signs that your engine oil is way overdue? Keep on reading, and you will know:
1. Dark and Dirty Oil
Lifting the dipstick from its tube is one of the easiest things to check if your change oil is way overdue. If the oil color is already dark and has some small dirty deposits, you need to change the engine oil immediately. This is one of the signs you need an oil change.
Fresh Engine Oil Is Bright Amber
The color of fresh engine oil is bright amber. Over time, it gets soiled by the heat and the residues inside the engine and changes its color. When it becomes dark and dirty, it has already acquired small particles from the engine.
Regularly Monitor the Engine Oil’s Color
You can monitor the color of the engine oil before it turns black and dirty by regularly checking the oil dipstick. Just remove the dipstick from its tube, and look at the color of the oil in it. To get a more accurate picture, wipe the end of the dipstick, put it back into the tube, and pull it out again.
The color you will see is the exact color of the oil inside the engine. If it’s dark and dirty, change the oil right away.
2. Oil Level Is Low
The dipstick can tell you if the engine oil level is still good or low. You can perform a test to see if the oil level is still okay. Before you do this, turn off the engine so that the engine oil will settle down at the bottom of the oil pan and will not continue circulating inside the engine:
- Pull the dipstick out of its tube and wipe its end with a rag. Its other end will still have some oil in it, so wipe this oil off completely so the end will be very clean.
- Put the dipstick back into its tube and pull it out again.
- Look at its end, and you will see that it is wet again with the engine oil.
The height at which the oil has touched the dipstick shows you the oil level inside the engine. There should be some markings at the end of the dipstick.
One of the marks is for the correct oil level, another for the middle level, and a third for the low level. Examine the mark in the dipstick that the oil has wetted. If it’s at or below the ‘low’ level, you need to change your engine oil or top it up.
3. Noticeable Engine Noise
Lubricate the Engine’s Internal Parts
An engine oil’s main function is to lubricate the engine’s internal parts. Putting it in another way enables the engine to run silently. You will notice an acceptable engine noise as you drive your car.
However, if there is an increase in engine noise, you need to be alarmed more than normal since this could mean that your car is low in engine oil.
Not Protected from Friction, Heat, and Material Stress
The engine’s internal parts are not adequately protected from heat, friction, and material stress as they run alongside each other at tremendous speeds. So, with less lubricant flowing, there’ll be increased friction between the metallic parts, leading to more heat produced.
Engine Can Seize Up
That’s dangerous because the engine can seize up. And when that happens, your car will be forced to stop suddenly. Pray that no serious thing happens to the engine, or you will be facing very costly engine repairs.
4. Engine Overheats
The previous condition that I have discussed, if not corrected, will lead to engine overheating. A car engine can overheat for two reasons: a problem with the cooling system or insufficient engine oil circulating inside the engine.
If you haven’t changed the oil in a while or there’s not enough oil in it, the engine is not receiving its proper lubrication. There’ll be more friction with the internal parts rubbing at fast-breaking speeds. The result: engine overheats.
5. Engine Stalls
An engine that keeps on stalling when it is cold can be caused by the following:
- Oil leak,
- Bad engine oil, or
- Insufficient engine oil.
If this problem comes up from time to time, don’t just ignore it. A simple oil change is needed to correct the problem in most cases.
But if the engine suddenly stalls without any warning, it could be caused by a bad spark plug or a clogged fuel filter. Replacing the spark plug or cleaning the fuel filter will instantly correct your stalling problem.
6. Drop-In Fuel Efficiency
If there’s not enough clean oil inside your engine, it won’t perform efficiently. You will notice that your visits to the gasoline station are more frequent.
Why is that? The culprit could be the exhaust system or your car’s fuel system.
But then again, don’t discount the possibility that the lack of oil or old engine oil is causing the problem because this is also one of the signs you need an oil change. If you’ve been on a long trip or are making long trips frequently, you should change your engine oil.
7. Black Smoke on the Tailpipe
If the smoke coming out of your tailpipe is dark or even black, it could be a problem with the catalytic converter. But it could also be caused by a lack of engine oil, or the engine oil is bad. If it’s the second reason, you need to change the oil right away.
If you are driving a late model car, it should not release visible smoke from its tailpipe. So, if you notice a trail of smoke that you are leaving behind, you need to determine the problem and fix it.
The most straightforward fix is to check the engine oil. If there’s not enough of it, top it up. But if you discovered that the oil has already reached the end of its life, change it. Other engine issues can also cause black smoke from the exhaust pipe, but they should be the subject of another article.
8. Smell of Burning Oil
Your car will acquire a certain smell over time. So, you need to have it detailed from time to time to ensure that it won’t acquire any foul smell. But when you suddenly smell burning oil, you should be alarmed.
The smell of burning oil inside the cabin means there’s oil burning somewhere in your car. The most likely place is in the engine. If the oil circulating inside the engine is already old and dirty, it will emit the smell of burning oil. It means your car is up for an oil change.
An oil leak can also cause this issue. If that’s the case, it will still require a complete oil change ASAP.
9. Service Light Turns On
Some modern vehicles are fitted with a dashboard light specifically related to the engine oil. This light will turn on when the car is due for an oil change. The ‘Check Engine’ or ‘Maintenance Required’ light will turn on in other cars. These lights may refer to other car issues.
To ensure that it’s the engine oil in question, bring your car to the nearest car service center and have the warning light checked. The car mechanic will use their specialized tools to ensure that the engine oil causes the problem.
10. Oil Consistency Has Deteriorated
You can also determine the condition of the engine oil by visual inspection. As you well know, the color of fresh engine oil is sometimes yellowish, sometimes reddish, and occasionally amber-like. Whatever its original color is, it gets darker as it is used.
In other words, it doesn’t mean that when engine oil gets darker, it is already bad. An additional element needs to be assessed to say that the engine oil has turned bad. It is its consistency.
Check for Consistency
So, how do you tell bad engine oil by its consistency? Here’s what you should do:
- Wait for your engine to cool down before popping its hood.
- Remove the dipstick from its tube.
- Wipe the bottom end of the dipstick with a clean rag and put it back inside its tube.
- Pull the dipstick out again.
- Examine the consistency of the oil.
It is still okay if the oil retains some of its original colors. It might still be okay if it got darker, with some reservations. You can still allow it to stay inside your engine. In terms of consistency, does it still appear smooth and silky?
Thick and Grainy
If it does, the oil is still okay. But if it is thick and grainy, change it. The engine oil circulates the engine and picks up dirt particles. So it becomes gritty and coarser over time. Before its condition gets worse, change it.
11. Tapping or Ticking Engine Noises
There’s a reason why car manufacturers recommend changing your engine oil at least every 10,000 miles or more frequently every 5,000 miles. The longer the oil stays in your car, the weaker it gets in performing its function.
As the engine oil gets weaker in its ability to lubricate its internal components, it will create different noises from metal-to-metal contact.
So, you will hear all sorts of strange noises such as ticking or tapping coming inside the engine. Before anything serious happens, change the oil to avoid spending money on expensive engine repairs.
12. Vibrations While Idling
If you are idling and your car is vibrating so much, it is a symptom of bad or lack of engine oil. With so many metal parts revolving and coming into contact with one another and with poor lubrication, it is natural that your engine will shake with vigor.
It only requires an easy fix – change your oil. And avoid idling as much as you can until you have it changed.
13. The Car Manufacturer Says You Have to Change It
You can’t be wrong if you will follow the carmaker’s recommendations. So, if you are unsure when to get an oil change, consult the manual that your car came with.
If you have already lost it, you can check it out on the manufacturer’s website. You don’t need the whole enchilada, only the part that discusses how and when to change the oil.
Perhaps there’s a sticker inside your car’s windshield that reminds you when to schedule your oil changes. Some car service centers do this as an extra service for their customers.
14. Check Engine Light Keeps Turning On
The ‘Check Engine‘ light on your dashboard can come on for many reasons. One of them is low or bad engine oil.
If your car doesn’t have an oil change light, you should also consider that the ‘Check Engine’ light could mean your car is up for an oil change. To be sure, consult a mechanic. They will tell you if the problem is the engine oil.
How Long to Let the Engine Cool Before Adding Oil?
Frequently Asked Questions
Browse through these frequently asked questions about oil change, and you will know when to change it:
If My Oil Change Is Overdue, How Long Can My Car Go?
If your car uses synthetic oil, you can drive it 10,000 miles or even a maximum of 15,000 miles before it is due for an oil change.
But generally, you can only go as far as 5,000 to 7,500 miles between oil changes. So, be sure that you don’t go over the maximum limit before getting an oil change.
How Long Can You Drive with the Oil Light On?
Is It Okay to Drive with a Car That Has an Oil Change Overdue?
Don’t drive it too much over its oil change limit if you value your car. You can drive your car over 100 miles of the limit prescribed by its manufacturer. But don’t play Russian roulette. You don’t know when the hammer will fall.
When Is the Safest Time to Change My Oil?
It depends on what the manufacturer has recommended for your car. To be safe, you should consult your car’s operator’s manual.
In the past, most car mechanics recommended changing the oil every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first. But today, with the advances in oil technology, they are now recommending oil changes every 5,000 miles and even every 10,000 miles.
What Happens When I Use the Wrong Oil?
In many cases, nothing noticeable will happen at first. But if you continue being neglectful about the carmaker’s recommendations, you will sense that there are certain effects. You may see it in loss of performance and reduced fuel efficiency.
The best is to use the oil grade recommended by the carmaker. There is a reason why engine oils are classified into different grades and viscosity.
They are designed to be used in different cars. You can use them indiscriminately from one car to another unless the cars are duplicates.
Conclusion: Overdue Oil Change Symptoms
Some of the symptoms that show your engine oil is due for a change are the following:
- Engine oil is getting dark and dirty
- Low oil level
- Noticeable engine noise
- Engine always overheats
- Engine always stalls
- Car is becoming less fuel-efficient
- Black smoke coming out of the tailpipe
- The smell of oil inside the cabin
- The service warning light turned on
- Change in oil consistency
- Strange noises coming from the engine
- Car vibrates while idling
- It’s time to change oil according to the carmaker
- Check Engine light is persistently coming on
Don’t wait for any of these things to happen in your car. Change the oil when it is due if you want worry-free driving all your life.
Oil Light Flashing When Braking