Most Common Signs That Your Car Needs an Oil Change

June 29, 2023By Paul
Oil Changing Process 1

Every car owner knows that it’s essential to change a car’s oil regularly. Still, not everyone knows why oil changes are important. And other than having oil changes done at recommended intervals, many people don’t know all the signs you need an oil change.

First and most importantly, engine oil is critical to the lubrication and smooth running of various engine parts. Without engine oil, a car’s engine can seize up, sustaining severe damage and possibly ceasing to function for good. So an oil change ensures engine oil is present and in the right amounts.

However, there are other reasons oil changes are important. Regular oil changes result in better gas mileage and lower emissions. Your engine will also run better and last longer; it’s no secret that frequent oil changes are the key to getting the most extended lifespan out of a car. 

Also, having the oil changed regularly helps you comply with warranty requirements; proving that you’ve kept up with recommended maintenance can save you vast amounts of money if repairs become necessary while your car is still under warranty.

For a long time, the general rule for oil changes was to have them done every three months or 3,000 miles, whichever came first. Recently, carmakers have introduced vehicles that don’t need oil changes as frequently as that. It’s important to know your car’s recommended oil change intervals.

It’s also important to know that you shouldn’t just go by the recommended intervals when checking and changing your oil. Several different factors can contribute to needing an oil change before what the calendar says, so it’s imperative to know what the overdue oil change symptoms are. That starts with using the dipstick to check your oil levels and quality regularly, and there are other ways to check for warning signs.

When it does come time for an oil change service, it’s best to take your car to a qualified professional service like Valvoline Express Care. There are several good reasons for this, which we’ll cover soon. 

Eight Signs The Car Needs an Oil Change

1. Low Oil Levels

When you check your oil, wipe off the dipstick with a paper towel or rag and reinsert it. The dipstick will have markings for maximum and minimum levels. If the new reading is below the minimum, it’s time for an oil change ASAP. Take your car in for inspection and servicing by a Valvoline Express Care technician.

2. Oil That’s Dirty or Grimy

Checking your oil with a dipstick doesn’t just tell you the level; it also can tell you what condition the oil is in. When you add new oil to an engine, that oil is yellowish or translucent. It will get darker as it moves through the engine, and darker oil isn’t necessarily a red flag, but you do want to be on the lookout for the oil being grainy, gritty, or thick. If it’s any of those three, take the car in for an oil change at Valvoline Express Care.

3. Unusual Sounds or Vibrations

Old or dirty oil can cause knocking sounds when a car is moving or ticking sounds when starting the engine. The knocking and ticking sounds are because the lubrication isn’t going as well as it should, and parts rubbing together create unusual sounds like grinding, knocking, and ticking. If the engine is vibrating while idling, that could also indicate a need for an oil change.

Since any of these signs could be signaling that something more than an oil change is needed, it’s crucial to get the car in as soon as you can to catch a small problem before it becomes a huge one.

4. Warning Lights

Some newer cars have lights or will display messages that it’s time for an oil change. Another sign to watch for is the check engine light that no one likes seeing. Sometimes, though, an oil change will get the light to go off. It’s worth trying since there’s never a wrong time for an oil change.

5. Burning Smells

An engine with dirty oil or not enough of it can’t properly cool itself, which can cause burning smells. They are associated with overused or failing brakes. The engine oil might be the issue if you notice them coming from inside the car.

6. Exhaust Smoke

Smoke from an exhaust pipe might tell you that the engine oil is too dirty or thin to perform as it should, and it’s also a message that it’s time to change your oil.

7. Gears Not Shifting Properly

Automatic and manual transmissions require engine oil to help smooth shifting between gears. If you notice that shifting is not as smooth as usual, it could be a clutch or other transmission issue. Still, it also might be something an oil change can take care of, which is much less expensive than a new clutch or transmission.

8. More Driving Than Usual

You’ll likely drive more than usual if life gets hectic during a specific period. That means you might hit when an oil change is necessary before the sticker on your windshield or the notes in your records indicate. When this is the case, get your car in for an oil change so the oil levels aren’t too low, and the engine runs as smoothly as possible.


Valvoline Mechanic at Work

Getting Help to Find Out If You Need an Oil Change

Some people change their oil independently, but for most, it makes a lot more sense to entrust the job to a professional. Here’s why:

  • You can’t just discard old oil in the trash; there are legal requirements for its disposal. A professional service takes care of all of that for you.
  • A reliable professional like Valvoline Express Care guarantees to get it done right.
  • There’s no cleanup involved, and it’s a lot safer for you.
  • After buying the oil and filter and factoring in the time spent changing the oil and disposing of it, the cost savings aren’t that much.
  • With a Valvoline Express Care oil change, you’ll also get checks of other things, such as different fluid levels and tire air pressure, and we can take care of just about anything during the same visit.

With oil change locations throughout the Metro Atlanta area, Valvoline Express Care offers unmatched quality and convenience. No appointment necessary, and you can get a drive-through oil change in 10 minutes and leave with peace of mind about how your car’s running.



Paul Eidbo is the founder and president of Piedmont Lube Centers LLC, an Atlanta-based company that develops, owns, and operates Valvoline Express Care oil change and auto service facilities.  He opened his first quick lube facility in 2004 and has expanded throughout Metro Atlanta.  Paul graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in history and earned his MBA from Vanderbilt University.  Paul lives in Atlanta with his wife, three sons, and two dogs.