The frequency of your car’s required oil changes will be affected by a variety of factors – for example, its make, engine type, and the way in which you drive it. (Cars that are driven more aggressively, or often used for short journeys, tend to need their oil changed more frequently.) Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when your car needs an oil change – but if it’s your first car, or one you’ve just bought through our online car auctions here at RAW2K, then it might not be as obvious at first glance. So if you’re not sure when your car’s last oil change was, don’t worry – here are a couple of easy ways to work it out!
Your car will tell you
Most modern cars have an integrated oil-life monitoring system, which does what it says on the tin – constantly monitors the state of your oil, and uses an alert on the instrument panel to tell you when it needs changing. Earlier iterations of these systems tended to just use time and mileage as determining factors, but the more sophisticated systems these days analyse real-time operating systems to work out when the oil will start degrading, and update you via an alert on the dashboard.
The manual will tell you
As we touched on above, each model and marque has their own recommended service intervals, and that includes oil changes. If you buy your car new from a dealer, then it will generally be the type of thing that the dealer tells you at the point of sale. If you didn’t get that information from the vendor though (whether that’s a dealer or a private seller) then don’t worry – it’s normally information you can find in the manual. Different manufacturers will vary in their recommendations – Toyota recommends changing the oil every 5000 miles for a Yaris, for example, while Ford is pretty confident in the ability of a Fiesta to go 10,000 miles before it needs an oil change.
The mechanic will tell you
If you’ve recently taken the car in for a service or for an MOT, you can ask the mechanic (as long as you trust them) what their professional opinion is. Sometimes it may differ from the manual or what the dealer says. Ultimately it’s up to you whose advice you choose to go with, but it’s worth bearing in mind that it’ll almost always be better to go with sooner rather than later. Leaving it too long for an oil change can have negative consequences for your car!
Use the dipstick to assess the oil yourself
You’ll probably already know how to use the oil dipstick, but just in case you need a quick refresher: open up the bonnet and take a look for it (you’ll be able to spot it because of its ring-pull style handle). Using it is quite simple; you just need to take it all the way out and give it a quick wipe so you get a decent reading. Put it back in and then take it out again and see where your oil level is. It should be comfortably between the minimum and maximum mark.
But that tells you about whether or not you need a refill – what about a full oil change? Well, one way to tell is through the colour of the oil. Fresh oil has a transparent brown tint, but if it’s very thick and black, that can mean it’s time to change it, as it may contain particulates that start accumulating in the engine, to its detriment.
You can also check its consistency, although it does involve getting a bit dirty. Take a bit of oil off the end and rub it between your thumb and forefinger – if it’s coarse or gritty, then it could contain a lot of contaminants. Again, if that’s the case, it’s probably time to get it changed.
The oil level keeps dropping
If you notice that your oil level keeps dropping faster than expected, then to be honest it could indicate one of several issues. If it keeps dropping down below the minimum level, it could indicate that you have a leak. Alternatively, it could be a sign that your engine oil is quite old. As the oil ages, it loses more of its lubricating properties, your engine needs more of it to do the same job. That means if you notice that your engine is consuming a lot more oil than usual, it could mean that the oil is no longer up to par, which necessitates a complete change.
It feels like it’s time
Sometimes it’s a matter of trusting your instincts. You don’t have to necessarily bind yourself to service intervals or someone else’s advice – ultimately you’re the one driving, so if you feel in your heart of hearts that it could probably do with an oil change, then to be honest it’s generally best to go with that. Worst case scenario, it costs you a little bit more money than it might have done if you’d waited a few more weeks or months. But even in that case, at least you get the peace of mind – and you may even have saved yourself from some more irritating (or dangerous) issues associated with keeping old oil.
Sometimes, of course, an oil change might not be enough to fix any emerging issues – and may even eventually lead you to conclude you need a new car. If that’s the case, that’s exactly where we can help here at RAW2K. We supply a huge range of used, seized and salvage cars to choose from in our online car auctions, which are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis. They include models from world-leading manufacturers like Ford and Vauxhall, as well as others, including Honda and Peugeot. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?