6 Ways to Tell if Your Car Needs an Oil Change

Kwik Fit | Tuesday 11th April 2023 9:00am

A photo of engine oil being poured into the engine bay of a car.

It is important to regularly check your oil levels in order to keep your car running smoothly - We recommend checking monthly or before a long journey. Engine oil lubricates the moving parts of your engine as well as cleaning, cooling, and protecting these parts and preventing your engine from seizing up. However, engine oil needs changing regularly as its lubricating properties do not last forever. Over time, oil becomes dirty and its chemical makeup changes making it far less effective. Therefore, we’ve compiled six easy ways to spot if your car needs an oil change. But firstly, since many of our tips involve checking your dipstick, it’s important that you know…

How to check your oil level

To check your oil level at home, open up the bonnet of the car and locate the dipstick (it will be shaped like a ring pull protruding from the engine). Take the dipstick out all the way and give it a wipe with a clean cloth so that you get a nice clear reading. Reinsert it back into the engine and remove once more to get an accurate oil level reading. Most dipsticks will be marked in two places to identify the minimum and maximum oil levels but check your owner’s manual for further information. It is important that you do not let your engine oil level drop below the minimum mark, but just as importantly you should not overfill the engine in order to maintain optimum performance.

So, how do you know if you need an oil change?

Check the colour

When looking at the oil on your dipstick, check the colouring. Fresh oil has a transparent light brown colour but over time this will start to turn darker and can eventually become thick and black. Once your oil loses its transparency and turns black it’s a good sign that it’s time to change your oil as it may contain particulates that can cause gunk to form in the engine.

Check the consistency

You’re going to have to get a bit dirty for this one but while checking the colour you should also check the consistency of the oil. Take a little bit of oil off of the end of the dipstick and rub it between your thumb and forefinger. If the oil is coarse or you can feel any grittiness this is another sign that the oil contains contaminants and should be replaced.

You've clocked up a lot of miles since your last oil change

If you use your car frequently for longer journeys and clock up a lot of miles, it might be time to have your oil replaced but you should check your vehicle manual first. In the past, manufacturers recommended changing the oil every 3,000 miles; however, with the advancement of synthetic engine oils it is unlikely that your car will need an oil change quite this often.

Every manufacturer is different but you should follow the advice regarding oil change intervals in your owner’s manual. For example Toyota recommends changing the oil every 5,000 miles for a Yaris while Ford suggests that an oil change is only required every 10,000 miles on a Ford Fiesta.

Dashboard oil replacement light is on

Can’t remember the last time you had your oil changed? Don’t worry, many modern cars will keep track of this for you and a dashboard light or message will illuminate when your next oil change is due. This reminder light will be set as per your manufacturer's recommended oil change interval for your vehicle and must be reset after every oil change. This isn’t to be confused with the oil pressure dashboard light which could suggest you are driving with insufficient oil in the engine which can lead to permanent engine damage. If you see this light, represented by a dripping oil can, you should stop the car and turn the engine off asap.

Oil level keeps dropping

If you’ve topped up your engine oil but the level keeps dropping below the minimum indicator on your dipstick, it could suggest a problem. As engine oil loses its lubricating properties, your engine will use more of it to ensure its moving parts keep running smoothly. An engine that continually needs topping up with oil suggests that there is either a leak or the oil is no longer up to the job and a complete oil change is required.

Listen out for increased engine noise

You will know better than anyone how your car usually sounds so it should be easy to hear anything that sounds out of the ordinary. If you notice that your engine is noisier than usual it could mean your oil needs replacing. As engine oil becomes old and loses its lubricating properties the moving parts in the engine may begin to grind against one another causing major damage if not addressed. Therefore, it’s recommended that you get your engine checked out and replace the oil if anything sounds amiss.

If you have any doubts whatsoever or believe you are due an oil change, visit your nearest Kwik Fit centre and we will check your oil for free. If your oil needs topping up or changing, we will only use the oil specifically recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. We also offer an Engine Oil and Filter Change service from just £78.95 at over 500 Kwik Fit centres.

Do electric vehicles need oil changes?

Electric vehicles do not require oil changes because they do not have engine pistons, valves, and other moving parts that need to be lubricated. They use completely different drivetrains than traditional cars. However, electric cars have complex electrical components that require regular maintenance such as brakes, tires, and wipers

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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