When it comes to caring for your car, regular oil changes are vital to keeping your engine in good shape. You can put your whole engine at risk if you skip this service. The problem is, you may not realize you need an oil change until you see, hear, or smell something out of the ordinary. Life gets busy, right? If your car’s been acting up lately, pay attention. One of these six signs could mean it's time to get an oil change ASAP.
1. Your engine is making noises it hasn’t before.
Motor oil keeps your engine parts lubricated so the whole thing can run smoothly and efficiently. If your oil is old, it has likely lost some of its lubricating properties—meaning it's not protecting your engine parts very well and things are rubbing together when they shouldn't be.
An unusual noise in the engine, such as a knocking or grinding, is one sign that you might be overdue for an oil change. In extreme cases, you may hear your engine roaring, and not in an exciting, IndyCar-like way.
Ignoring unusual noises could cause long-term damage to your engine. Stay on top of regular oil changes to help reduce the risk of malfunction or premature wear on engine parts.
2. It smells like something's burning inside your car’s cabin.
Some smells in your car are totally normal, like the lingering scent of last night’s drive-thru fries. But the smell of something burning? Not so much. Motor oil has two jobs: to lubricate engine parts, but also to regulate the engine's temperature, i.e., keep things cool.
When oil gets old and dirty, it can't keep your engine cool. The result? A sharp burning smell in the cabin. In some cases, the smell could also indicate an oil leak, which can lead to costly repairs if not addressed.
If your sniffer picks up a nose-wrinkling smell inside the car cabin, it could be time for an oil change.
3. The consistency of your oil has changed.
Some indicators that you need an oil change are easy to hear or smell, but others require a little more effort. Fortunately, you can easily perform a visual check on the state of your oil from the comfort of your driveway.
- To check your oil, first wait for the engine to cool and then pop the hood.
- Pull the dipstick out from the oil reservoir. (Refer to your owner's manual if you're not sure where the dipstick is located.)
- Wipe the dipstick with a paper towel, then reinsert it and pull it out to observe the consistency and color of the oil on the stick.
Is the oil a translucent, yellowish color? Great! Your oil is still kickin'. If it's dark, that's usually okay, too. Oil gets darker as it runs through your engine, so color isn't always the best sign you need an oil change.
How's the consistency? Oil picks up small particles of dirt and debris as it does its job, naturally becoming more and more gritty. If your oil appears smooth and liquidy, you're probably in the clear. But if the oil is thick and grainy, that’s a sign you might need an oil change.
Snag an oil change coupon online and head to Tires Plus.
4. Your oil level is low, low, low.
It's okay if Shawty gets "low, low, low." But your oil level? Not so much. Going too long between oil changes can leave your oil level dangerously low. Driving with little to no oil can increase your risk of a breakdown and lead to permanent engine damage—especially in hot weather.
While you're checking the consistency of your oil, pay attention to the level, too.
Review the level of oil on both sides of the dipstick. Indicators toward the bottom of the stick will let you know if the oil is low, good, or high. If your oil is on the low side, get an oil change ASAP.
5. One of your dashboard lights is on.
Some vehicles have a specific dashboard light that indicates when it's time for an oil change. Other times, a “Maintenance Required” or “Check Engine” light illuminates when it’s time to change the oil—but these lights can also signal other issues.
So, how do you know if you need an oil change, or if there’s something else going on under the hood? Play it safe. Bring your car to your nearest Tires Plus location to have the issue diagnosed.
We’ll perform a (totally free!) courtesy check and let you know what your car needs, whether it’s a simple oil change or something else. Even if your car does need additional service, remember: you’re in the driver’s seat! Our technicians are here to offer advice, not pressure you.
6. Your manufacturer or window sticker says you're overdue!
If you’re not sure how often to change the oil in your vehicle, go with your manufacturer's recommendation. Intervals can vary significantly by make and model, so consult your owner's manual or the manufacturer's website for the best oil change interval for your car.
Your car dealership may even send a postcard or email to remind you that it's time for a service. While you certainly don't have to go back to the dealership for an oil change, you don't want to ignore this helpful reminder.
Also, check inside your windshield on the driver’s side if you don’t remember the date or odometer reading of your last oil change. There’s a good chance you’ll find a reference sticker from your most recent oil change provider.
When Should I Get an Oil Change?
Maybe you're not sure if you need an oil change. Maybe you're not sure what type of engine oil you need. Whatever your "maybe" may be, Tires Plus technicians are here to help you care for your car—without the hassle. Find our best oil change coupons online, then head to your nearest Tires Plus today for service advice and a quick oil change.