How To Visually Check Whether Your Car Needs An Oil Change?

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How To Visually Check Whether Your Car Needs An Oil Change?

How to know when your car is due for an oil change especially given the fact that our cars have not moved much at all in the past 18 months? Is there a visual inspection we can conduct on our car's engine oil?

If you have a car, you need to know when to change its engine oil, as it is an essential part of vehicle maintenance practice that ensures your car is always in good condition.

Engine oil change

But still, it can't hurt to have another method of finding out if it's time to change your engine oil. If like us your car has not moved much at all in the last 18 months, you're probably asking yourself if you should follow the service intervals at all? Or maybe you're in a bit of a tight spot financially and you're wondering if you could stretch your service interval a bit longer. 

First let's bear in mind that the lack of engine oil maintenance will cause unnecessary wear to the engine, eventually leading it to break down. When this happens, you will need to spend a lot more money on repairs. 

So, in this article, we will explain to you how to visually inspect the engine oil so that you know when it is time to change it and other signs that show it is time for an oil change.

Good or bad engine oilImage credit:

1. Dark, Dirty Oil

New and clean engine oil is actually golden brown in colour and translucent like honey. So if it changes to a desaturated and darker colour, this is a sign that it is no longer new and could do with a change.  

With time, engine oil becomes filled with particles collected from the engine and turns darker. Unfortunately, it's not apparent when this begins to happen, so it's best to check your engine oil at least once a month to know when it is due for a change. 

Companies like AMSOIL say that the only surefire way to determine if the oil has reached the end of its service life is to perform oil analysis, as discolouration does not necessarily mean that it is bad, but you can usually tell when the oil is beyond its efficiency as it will be completely black-brown in colour. Plus, who has an oil analysis machine at home?

Engine oil dipstickHere's how to check your car's engine oil:

  1. Pull out the dipstick and clean it with a lint-free cloth.
  2. Put it back into its hole and take it out again and check the colour as well as oil level.
  3. If the oil colour is darker and murky, this is a clear indicator that you need an engine oil change.
  4. If the engine oil seems golden brown in colour, you are fine, but if the engine oil level is below the low-level indicator, oil should be added to prevent damage to engine components.

For newer cars that do not have a dipstick, these telltale signs below should indicate when it is time to change your engine oil. Yes, you can leave it to your car's ECU to prompt you to do so, but sometimes, it's best to know the signs that your car needs an oil change. 

Engine sounds

2. The engine is louder than usual

If your car's engine sounds louder than usual, this may be a sign that your engine oil is not up to spec. Also, it may indicate that your engine oil is depleted or dirty.

This will cause the metal components to rub and can cause severe damage. So it's best to check/change the engine oil as soon as possible.

Bad fuel economy

3. Bad fuel economy

If you find that you have to refuel your car more often than usual, this may indicate that it is time for you to change your engine oil.

This happens because your engine oil's viscosity level is no longer suitable as it is old and dirty. Not only will it get you lousy fuel economy, but it can also cause damage to your car's engine as it has to work harder than before.

Engine oil service indicator

4. Engine oil service notice comes on

This is probably the clearest indicator that it is time for you to change your engine oil. A notice will usually pop up on your meter cluster, which is generally prompted by a service interval schedule set by the factory.

As we said before, an engine oil change is a must if you wish to keep your car in good condition so it's best to keep on top of it. For newer cars, you can always just follow the recommended intervals set out by the manufacturer and for older cars, it's best to do it every six months or 10,000km (whichever comes first). 








Adam Aubrey

Adam Aubrey

Content Producer

Wants to live the simple life, especially when it comes to cars and bikes. That's what tech is for he reckons, to make motoring simpler

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