Mechanic changing motor oil

How to tell when it’s time to change your motor oil

13th Mar, 2024

Your motor oil is one of those relatively minor components that plays a huge role in the smooth functioning of your car. Lots of car components are like that – like the laces on your shoes, you probably don’t think about them all that much, but you’d definitely notice if they were damaged, or missing.

Your car oil fulfils a number of roles, most of them related to its core job of lubricating your engine’s moving parts. Driving with low oil, or old oil, can significantly increase friction within your engine, and that’s just as bad as it sounds – it could even end up being a major factor in a scenario which sees you prematurely scrap your car.

So to avoid that, here are five telltale signs to look out for!

Your oil replacement light is illuminated on your dashboard

Even second-hand cars are equipped with advanced sensors that monitor a range of crucial functions within your car, including your engine performance and oil quality. If your dashboard oil replacement light comes on, it’s a clear indication that your motor oil needs changing.

It’s crucial not to ignore this warning (however tempting it is!), as prolonged use of old oil can lead to engine damage or failure. There’s a variety of reasons why, but the very short version is that old oil tends to accumulate a lot of dirt and sludge deposits, which reduces its lubrication abilities and limits its ability to cool your engine – all of which can play a part in actually corroding your engine components.

Your oil level keeps dropping

Ideally, you should be regularly checking your vehicle’s oil level using the dipstick – although let’s be honest, it’s one of those jobs that most of us don’t do nearly as often as we know we should be doing! Having said that, it’s good to try and make time for it regardless, as it can help you notice a consistent drop in oil level between changes. That could mean one of several things – you may have an oil leak for example, or there may be an issue with your engine that results in excessive oil consumption.

Whatever the case, it’s really important to get the issue diagnosed and sorted ASAP, because it’s the kind of thing that can all too easily end up being a major problem quite suddenly – which can potentially leave you stranded on the side of the road.

Listen out for increased engine noise

As we’ve covered above, as motor oil ages, it gradually loses its ability to lubricate effectively, leading to increased friction and wear in the engine. If you notice unusual sounds such as ticking or knocking coming from your engine, it could be a sign of inadequate lubrication, which is a big indicator that it’s time (arguably past time) to change your motor oil. As a general rule, don’t ignore unusual engine noises – pretty much any unusual sound almost always indicates that something moderately serious is going on with your vehicle, so it’s vital to get it checked out as soon as you can.

Check the colour and consistency of your oil

This is something you may need to get a little dirty for, as you’ll need to check your oil up close. Fresh motor oil typically has a transparent amber colour, but over time, as it accumulates contaminants and breaks down, that colour will noticeably darken. If your motor oil appears significantly darker than when it was fresh, it’s a strong indication that it needs replacing to maintain the health of your engine.

Similarly, the consistency of motor oil can provide valuable insights into its condition. Fresh oil is smooth and viscous, while used oil may feel gritty or contain sludge deposits. Any abnormalities in the consistency of your motor oil signal the need for a change to prevent engine damage. For these reasons alone, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the colour of your oil during routine checks to catch any changes early.

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

The recommended mileage interval for oil changes often vary depending on a range of factors, such as vehicle type and driving conditions. However, if you’ve exceeded the recommended mileage interval since your last oil change, it’s a good plan to schedule a service appointment promptly, as that way you can be sure of optimal engine performance and longevity.

Staying on top of your engine oil may not be one of the most exciting aspects of a car, but its importance is often underestimated – so make sure you don’t get caught out! And of course, if it is an engine issue which finally causes your car to putter to a halt (whether it’s a complication of old oil or not), then you can always count on us to help you get the very best price for it here at Scrap Car Network.

All you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll get you an instant online quote before you can say cash for cars. It only takes a few seconds. Curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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