When it comes to car maintenance, changing your oil can make a huge difference. Engine oil keeps all the moving parts of your engine lubricated, clean, cool and protected. That being said, it gets dirty, grimey and needs regular changing to do its job well. The good news: Changing your oil is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make sure that your engine and car runs well for a long time, extending the life of your car (and earning you better gas mileage while you’re at it).
First, check your owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's recommendations on how to best check the oil. Some don't have traditional dipsticks and the manual will let you know whether to check the oil when the engine is warm or cool.
With the car parked on level ground and with the engine off, open the hood and find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe any oil off from its end. Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it all the way back in.
Pull it back out, and this time look at both sides of the dipstick to check the following:
The oil level
Depending on your particular vehicle, the dipstick will have something like two markers, an L and an H or crosshatching to indicate where your oil level should be. As long as it is between those two indicators, your oil level is fine. If it's below the bottom one — or getting close — it's time for an oil change.
Color can tell you a lot about the state of your vehicle and whether you need an oil change. If your oil appears to be a shade of amber — think of a cup of black tea — your oil is in good condition. If it looks darker brown or black, you're likely getting close to needing an oil change. If the oil appears milky or creamy looking, there's a contaminant seeping into your oil, and you need to address it with a mechanic as soon as possible.
The texture and consistency of your vehicle's oil can also be an indicator of its overall health. It's a dirty task, but one that completed quickly. Simply rub off some of the oil from the dipstick and move it between your thumb and forefinger. If there's any grit to it, there might be a contaminant in your oil.
After you've looked at those, check the following as well:
Mileage varies from person to person and vehicle to vehicle, but most experts recommend you get your oil changed every 5,000 to 7,000 miles if your driving in severe conditions or travelling short distances frequently. If your driving in temperate conditions and tend to stick to the highway, you can wait for every 8,000 to 10,000 miles.
Your engine volume
If your engine is screaming for attention, it could need a little more lubrication. A lack in moisture will cause gears to grind and other parts to run louder than usual.
Your exhaust smoke
An oil leak or excess of motor oil could result in blue or white smoke from you exhaust pipe. Without inhaling it, check to see what color your exhaust is the next time your start the engine.
Your dashboard lights
Sometimes your vehicle will let you know its due for an oil change by simply illuminating the check engine light. Use a Smart Vehicle Health Monitor to help identify the issue quickly and without any extra diagnostic fees.