How do I know my car needs an engine oil change?

new engine oil

A lot of people still don’t know that regularly changing your car’s engine oil and the filter is one of the most important things you can do to keep your car healthy and running efficiently.  Over time, your engine oil breaks down and your oil filter will inevitably become clogged up with sediment.

So how often should you change your oil? This really depends on two things: your average daily mileage and the type of vehicle you own. Some vehicles require an oil change every 3,000 miles, for other vehicles this is only necessary every 15,000 miles. One thing you can be sure of is that you need to check your oil levels regularly. Here are our top five tips to ensure that your car stays healthy.

1: You do a lot of driving?

Manufacturers have been extending their oil change services for many years now. It used to be said that you need to change your oil every 3000 miles. But is this still the case? In independent tests, oil after 3000 miles still lubricates, but the depletion of critical additives could no longer allow the oil to offer the same protection and benefits. With the development of synthetic and fully synthetic oils car manufacturers have been extending oil change intervals to 5,000 miles, then to 8,000 and in some cases even to 15,000 miles. One reason manufacturers set oil change intervals longer is to lure prospective buyers by “lower” maintenance costs.

Your car can also be affected if you:

  • Use your vehicle to tow a trailer/caravan
  • Are always driving short trips
  • Like to put the pedal to the metal often
  • Your car has a turbo
  • Regularly drive on bumpy or unpaved roads

2: Engine

Have you noticed that your engine has started to sound louder? Does it seem to have a knocking noise? This could be an indication that the engine oil needs replacing. Engine oil is just a lubricant that over time starts losing its lubricant functionality. This is when it’s recommended that you get your engine checked out and replace the oil if anything sounds amiss.

Clean Engine makes the difference
Clean Engine makes the difference

3: Colour

Fresh oil has an almost transparent light brown colour. Like a golden liquid. The more driving you do, and the more time it spends in your engine the colour will start to change to a darker brown, to a dark black thick liquid.  As soon as it turns black it’s an indication that the oil needs changing. Leaving it can cause sludge to build in the engine. The oil holds more and more abrasive particles of metal, and these particles wear away the parts of the engine that the oil is supposed to protect.

Dipstick2 (002)

4: How does the oil feel?

The oil holds more and more abrasive particles of metal, and these particles wear away the parts of the engine that the oil is supposed to protect. By taking some of the oil between your fingers and thumb you will if the oil is old feel these tiny metal particles. If the oil feels gritty, then the oil will have been contaminated and should be replaced. Fresh oil has a silky feel. Just remember to wash your hands afterwards.

5: Understand the oil you need?

Not all engine oil is the same. Oil companies and manufacturers work very closely to develop the correct oil for your vehicle to make sure the engine runs to its optimum capability.

With this in mind, not all are sold at the same price. For instance, if you have a diesel car fitted with a DPF you must use one of the latest ‘low SAPS’ (Sulphated Ash, Phosphorous, Sulphur) oils. These can be sometimes 300% more expensive than a standard oil or synthetic oil.  Using ‘normal’ oil instead of low SAPS can result in blocking of the DPF.

Always check your handbook or speak with your local mechanic if you’re not sure.



Jonathan Hermans