Oil is like the blood of your car. The human body has the ability to purify the blood and generate new blood as required, but your car does not have that capability. Oil changes are the most important part of your continuous routine car maintenance. They may appear comparatively basic, but in reality, they are the most essential types of vehicle maintenance. Failure to regular oil changes can lead to multiple problems, starting from decreased fuel economy to severe engine breakdowns and even entire engines crashing.
But the question is how will you know your car is asking for an oil change? This article will provide you with 10 symptoms that will give you an alarm to change your oil, or your car is demanding additional maintenance work. It is important for you as a driver to know what is engine oil. What are the main categories of oil available in the market? And why do you need to change your oil on time?
What is Engine Oil?
Engine oil is a viscous fluid that provides cooling and lubrication to your car’s engine. All automobiles need oil to work, but the requirement of oils of thickness and type changes from engine to engine. It also depends upon the manufacturing date of the engine. Best engines have thicker oil requirements for oil consumption and fuel economy which means it creates narrower clearances in the engine. Today modern engines need thinner oil than they would a few decades ago.
Types of Engine Oil
There are two main classes of engine oil:
- Mineral Oil
- Synthetic Oil
Mineral oil is a product of Petroleum, obtained from crude oil just like gasoline. On the other hand, synthetic oil is prepared artificially in a laboratory. Some mixtures are also available in the market that blends the two oil types together.
Commonly, mineral oil is less expensive than synthetic oil but does not endure. Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is pretty expensive, but hangs on with you longer (maybe several thousand miles in some cases) and reduces the requirement for natural resources.
Your call engine has a particular oil weight requirement, which is normally indicated in your owner’s manual, or sometimes on the engine oil cap. It will state as 5W20, 5W30, or 0W20.
Some engines may ask for even heavier weights like 10W30, 10W40, 20W50, etc, but they are rarely available in the market today. However, you should use the oil weight as specified by your automaker or otherwise, you may result in reduced fuel economy or even larger damage to your engine with time.
Why engine oil is important for my car?
Engine oil is essential for plenty of reasons:
1. It provides the necessary lubrication. It will keep your moving parts secured and will not allow them to rub against each other. If there is no oil, metal-on-metal rubbing will destroy your engine within no time. Engine oil formulas in atoms layer between all the driving components in the engine, avoiding their full contact and ensuring the longevity of your engine.
2. Engine oil provides essential cooling to your engine. Although most of the required cooling is provided by the coolant system which includes a thermostat, water pump, and radiator. However, engine oil provides additional cooling for some specific areas where the coolant system is unreachable.
3. Engine oil also helps the engine to keep itself clean. It removes small particles such as metal finings and other possible damaging precipitates.
How often should I change my oil?
There is no specific time interval recommendation for an oil change. Generally, most mechanics suggest changing your oil every 3000 miles or three months, whatever is reached first. However, the scenario has changed nowadays. One can drive more between oil changes. Few heavier oils such as high-end synthetic oils can allow you to drive up to 10,000 miles between oil changes.
However, a good practice is to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation, which you can easily find in your owner’s manual. If you don’t find it in your manual, use the basic criteria of three months or 3000 miles for conventional oil and follow your technician’s recommendation for synthetic oils.
7 Warning Signs Your Car Needs an Oil Change
Now that you are quite familiar with engine oil, why an oil change is important, and what are different types of oils available in the market, let’s look into how can you tell if your engine is asking for an oil change. Following are the 10 warning symptoms that will help you know when an oil change is due for your engine:
1. Keep an Eye on Your Mileage Sticker
Possibly the easiest way to keep a check on your upcoming oil change is to just keep an eye on the oil change sticker from your previous service. Mostly oil change services and mechanics put a sticker on the inside of the driver-side windshield of your car. You can easily find the date and mileage from the sticker when you must return for an oil change. Some oil change agencies will also write oil weight and maybe your vehicle’s emission statistics which are important for environmental concerns.
2. Dark and Dirty Oil
One indication of new oil is that it is clean and gives a dark gold color in the light, all the color depends on the thickness and weight. But with the passage of time and due to its usage, oil darkens in color. The change in oil color is also due to heat in the engine and the potential impurities and particles picked up by the oil. You can easily check the condition of the oil and its color by checking the dipstick on a regular basis. If you find the oil is dark on the dipstick, it is time to change it.
3. Engine Noise/Knocking Sounds
The primary job of engine oil is lubrication. When your engine is low on oil, the moving parts will not get enough lubrication. This will lead to metal-to-metal physical interactions causing metallic or knocking sounds. You may also hear bearing noises and lifters due to low engine oil levels.
The incorrect air-to-fuel ratio will cause unusual pinging sounds which are different from the typical engine knocking sounds. If you continue to hear engine noises, you must check your own level and change it immediately before the damage is too big. This will be a warning symptom for an oil change. This can be way too serious than you imagine, and you may have to add oil just to reach the mechanic shop.
4. Smoky Exhaust
In most cases, your power will produce an invisible exhaust, although it can have a slight smell to it. It is important to note here that gasoline engines e really produce colored exhaust, unlike diesel engines, which produce soot-like black-colored exhaust. During cold weather, you can sometimes notice visible cloudy exhaust from your tailpipe. It is not smoke, but water vapor and they will possibly disappear as your engine reaches the operating temperature. However, if you observe a bluish smoke coming from your exhaust tailpipe, it’s a symptom that there is something more serious.
Normally, blue smoke is produced when oil seeps into the engine and starts to burn with the fuel. This can also happen when your engine is low on the oil level. There is also a chance that you have an external leakage and the oil is trickling directly into the exhaust system. It is also worth noting here that if the exhaust is grayish in color, it is probably due to an incorrect fuel-to-air ratio. Your engine is burning rich and too much fuel is combusted.
5. The Smell in Your Passenger Cabin
If there is a smell in your passenger cabin, there is only one possibility that you have an oil leakage. The oil is trickling into the hot part of your engine or exhaust system and is burning. There can be multiple places where oil leakage can take place, such as:
Oil plug: It is a drain plug in your engine’s oil pan. Usually, oil changing agencies take out the oil plug during all changes and replace it. They usually do not tighten it properly, which may lead to oil leakage. You may also have a degraded gasket causing the oil to leak.
Oil filter: It is the responsibility of the oil filter to clean all the particles from the oil as it passes through it. The oil filters should be replaced at each oil change. Sometimes the oil filter is not properly placed or has deteriorated which can the oil leakage. The oil filter can also be damaged causing an oil leak.
Valve Cover Gasket: The valve cover gasket can also cause oil leakage around its edges or at the top and bottom sides of your engine. Your car may have more than one valve cover gasket depending on your engine size.
Oil Transmitting Unit: A pressure switch or oil-sending unit is normally situated at the back of the engine. It can cause oil leakage down the block if the gasket is broken.
Oil Pan Gasket: It seals the oil pan to the bottom of the engine. Oil leakage can take place anywhere around its edges.
Gasket Head: Oil leakage can also take place at the head gasket and flow down to the at off the engine. In order to fix this oil leakage, you may require to fix your engine breakdown.
Rear/Front Seals: If your front or rear seal is leaking, it can cause the engine oil to leak. This type of oil leakage will flow to the left or right, or the front or back of the engine depending upon your drivetrain category.
There are many other minor oil leakages, but it’s better to leave them here and let your mechanic monitor them during all changes. However, if you are smelling burning oil smell in the passenger cabin of your car, then this is something serious and must be fixed immediately. If you make a delay with this sort of problem, it can result in damage to your entire engine. In some severe cases, it can cause vehicle fire, if the oil is constantly trickling over the engine ignites.
6. Oil Light is Blinking on your Dashboard
Your dashboard contains a number of important warning lights, such as battery light, engine check light, and oil check light. This light is red in color and has a shape like oil dripping from the spout. Obviously, this is the easiest symptom for an oil change, because your car is itself asking for an oil change.
If you are trying across the highway, and the oil check light turns on, try to turn off your engine as soon as possible. The oil change check light can symbolize plenty of things, but normally it turns one when the oil pressure in the engine drops below the same limits. The low oil pressure is an alarm that your engine has a very low oil level. However, in some vehicles, this can also indicate that the sending/pump unit is defective and need replacement.
Check the oil level as early as possible. If it is low in level, try to replace the oil and fill it to the appropriate level in the first place. However, if you can’t get it immediately replaced, add some oil to help it reach the safe limit and see if the light goes off. If it does, immediately head towards the workshop for an oil replacement and ask the mechanic to check any financial leaks that have led to the low oil level.
If the light does not turn off, the best solution is to call for road assistance, there can be potentially low oil pressure in your engine due to a collapsed oil pump. Some car models can even work with low oil pressure without making too much damage, but most cannot. It’s a better idea not to play with your car and call for a tow service.
7. Oil Change Warning Light
Today modern vehicles generally have two oil lights. One is a red warning light as explained above but the second is an oil change reminder light. This light will not give you any idea about the oil level for oil pressure in your engine. It will automatically turn on when you have achieved the specific mileage, to give you a warning that now you should go for an oil change. You must ask your mechanic to reset this light during each service.
If you observe that the oil change reminder light is on then it means you have crossed the service interval mileage limit as specified by your manufacturer. It can also be because your mechanic does not reset the light during your past service. You should check for any oil change sticker on the driver’s side of your windshield and compare the mileage of your odometer with the sticker. If the odometer reading is higher, you have unfortunately missed the oil change interval and you need to have it replaced soon. If the sticker mileage is higher, your mechanic does not reset the light in your last service.
8. Low Oil level
You must know as a driver the location of your oil dipstick, and how to check the oil level on a regular basis. This will help you to keep observing the oil color, condition, and oil consumption, and to address problems before they become too severe. A general perception is that you must check your oil level at least once a week, but once a month is almost mandatory.
If you find a low oil level with your dipstick, this can indicate a number of things. Firstly, your car might be among those models where it is considered safe to have a small amount of oil between oil change periods. The lowest possible oil limit alters from model to model and the year of their manufacture. For example, some early 2000s Honda Accord models were considered safe to combust up to a quart of oil between oil change intervals. This was not due to oil leakage, but due to consumption.
If you find the oil below the safe limit on the dipstick, you should refill it. You must also know how to read a dipstick reading. Some sticks use hash marks to indicate the safe limit while others have full and safe marks. In most cases, a quart of low oil is displayed by the bottom mark on the dipstick. If you have not yet achieved the mileage limit, as specified by your manufacturer, you can only top it off to the appropriate level.
However, if you are beyond the mileage limit, you must go for an oil change. As a reminder again, you must ask your mechanic to check for all the possible oil leaks during service. As explained above, some oil consumption may be considered normal but in most cases, it is caused by oil leakage.
9. Excessive Mileage
We are totally dependent on cars for our everyday needs— going back and forth from work and driving to the market for shopping. We also use our cars for long drives, to spend our annual location, for example. However, long drives put a lot of wear on the engine oil and the engine itself. Hence, it is highly recommended to have an oil change immediately before and after the trip. But the question is, why?
There is a simple answer, extended use of engine oil at high temperature deteriorate it quickly the regular use. As a result, the oil will accumulate the impurities faster, darken immediately, and will lose its capacity to lubricate in a lot quicker time. If you change your oil before and after the trip, you will possibly negate all the chances of damaging the engine due to bad oil.
If you are planning to have a trip on a used car, you must be more careful about the oil changes. Since there is a high chance that your car has already achieved some mileage. It is therefore recommended that as the odometer of your used car increase, you should perform oil changes more often. You must also use the oil which is designed particularly for high mileage vehicles.
10. Car Stalling
Many vehicles have built-in “fail-safe” features to ensure engine protection in the worst conditions. One such feature is the automatic engine shut-down when the oil pressure falls to a specific level, or otherwise, the oil level drops very low. It is important to note here that this is not true for all cars. The low oil level makes the engine stall and ultimately die.
However, installing itself is very harmful to the engine, as it could possibly damage the head, piston, and other important components. Therefore, if your power is stalling even after lubricating it with an appropriate oil level, it might be time to purchase a new vehicle.
Engine overheating is the biggest enemy of your vehicle. However, normally overheating is not due to low oil levels, but due to problems in the coolant system. In the worst cases, low oil levels can also cause engine overheating even if your cooling system is working fine. It may be due to the fact that if your engine has a very low oil level, it will continue to heat because there is no chance to cool. This will even give a tough time for your engine coolant to absorb excessive heat. The result is that you will observe your temperature gauge rise. It is important to know that the temperature gauge doesn’t express the oil temperature but the coolant temperature.
If you note that your temperature gauge is going into risky levels such as yellow or red on the gauge, park your car on the roadside and let your engine cool down. While you are waiting for your engine to cool, check the oil level the meantime (be careful to open the oil cap if the engine is too hot). If you find your oil level excessively low, you have to add oil to your engine to the required level before driving to the workshop.
You must also check your coolant level but never do this till the engine is totally cool. When the engine is hot, the cool can explode from the radiator and cause serious injuries. So, when the engine is cool, examine the coolant level and refill it, if necessary. Never drive your car if your engine is overheated as it can cause severe damage to your engine.
Jiffy Lube Oil Change Cost
Jiffy Lube is famous for its signature oil change service. In this service, a customer gets a lot more than just an oil change, it will give complimentary services such as oil filter check, air filter check, and serpentine belt inspection.
Jiffy Lube oil change prices depend upon a variety of factors. Firstly, it depends on your residential state, city, or town in the US. There is no doubt in the fact that some states have a high inflation rate, and therefore, have a high cost of labor, automotive parts, and other materials.
The cost is also dependent on your car model and make, and the size of the engine oil tank. You will also have to pick up your desirable engine oil from a variety of available oils at the Jiffy Lube. Usually, three types of files are available at the Jiffy Lube; synthetic oil, conventional oil, and high mileage oil.
The good news is that Jiffy Lube accepts discount coupons and keep on announcing amazing promotion and discount packages. You can also try your luck with plenty of available Jiffy Lube coupons.
Also, Read more helpful automotive tips:
Oil viscosity is a general term to show your oil’s capacity to lubricate your engine and secure all the moving parts. With the passage of time and due to heat in your engine compartment, oil becomes thin and less viscous. This reduces its ability to secure your engine and prevent wear due to metal-to-metal interactions. Therefore, you need to change your oil regularly.
If you drive with a low engine oil level, it may result in excessive wear to essential engine parts. However, this is highly dependent on the current level of the engine oil level. You are normally safe up to approximately a quart low. However, if you drive without engine oil, it would quickly seize and you have to replace your complete engine.
It is totally dependent on the type of oil you add to your car engine. In some cases, you will find no difference at all, while in others, there will be a sharp reduction in fuel economy. In very rare cases, you may damage your oil pump reducing the life of your engine.
For example, if your car is suitable for 5W20, and you use 5W30 instead, I will hardly find a difference. However, if you use 20W20, you would surely notice sluggish performance, a reduction in the fuel economy, and possibly strange noises from your engine. It is the best idea to use the oil weight as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.