checking oil dipstick Unfortunately, oil changes are often not on the top of everyone’s to-do list. When the light appears on your dashboard, you may wait a couple of weeks to make an appointment. Once your car gets to the shop, additional needs may arise, from filter replacements to flushing your transmission fluid.

Before you’re caught off guard, be more proactive about your car’s oil changes.

Why Pay Attention to the Oil?

Several decades ago, most drivers had to check their car’s oil level manually, as dashboards notifications didn’t exist yet. Now, computerized operation simplifies the process but can make car owners passive and ignore the issue.

In terms of your car’s mechanics, the oil helps with:

  • Engine operation
  • Improving efficiency
  • Decreasing friction
  • Preventing carbon and varnish deposits from accumulating
  • Diverting heat away from the combustion chamber

Collectively, these processes allow your engine to run without overheating but the oil doesn’t last forever. The longer oil remains in your vehicle, the more deposits and debris it holds onto. With time, it loses its liquid consistency, eventually becoming like sludge. The additives no longer provide the lubrication and other properties they once did.

In turn, parts that would have seamlessly moved together now rub against each other, clogs are more likely to occur and the engine may overheat, resulting in permanent damage. Topping off or replacing the oil regularly is a preventative measure against more serious, costly repairs.

Keeping on schedule with oil changes:

  • Ensures your car gets the most of its gas mileage, which can decrease when the engine no longer has sufficient lubrication.
  • Decreases the harmful emissions your car’s exhaust system ejects into the atmosphere.
  • Allows your engine to better remove debris and contaminants.

To monitor your car’s oil change and stay on top of maintenance, consider these tips.

Take Reminders Seriously

When the light appears on your dashboard, schedule an oil change appointment as soon as possible. This notification is not based on your car’s oil level but how many miles you’ve driven since the last change. As such, you can estimate how frequently your dashboard notification will appear.

Use Your Owner’s Manual

For years, many drivers abided by the “3,000 miles or three months” rule. Yet for newer makes and models, this guideline no longer applies. Your owner’s manual should list how long your car should be able to travel between oil changes.

Check Your Own Oil

Especially if you live in an extreme climate or regularly tow heavy items, the oil quality can degrade quicker. Get in the habit of checking your car’s oil at least once a month. After popping the hood:

  • Remove the dipstick.
  • Wipe the dipstick off with a clean cloth.
  • Re-insert the dipstick, then remove it again to get the level. The stick will have wording like “low”, “min”, or “add”, pinholes or crosshatching to indicate if the level is getting low.
  • Wipe the dipstick, then reinsert and remove it again to double-check the level.

If the oil hits in between these markers, your car has a sufficient supply. If it’s below, you need to have the oil topped off.

Oil level isn’t the only indicator. You should also check its:

  • Color: If the oil appears milky, rather than black or brown, it has degraded to the point it could damage your car.
  • Consistency: Oil that is holding onto debris or metal particles from the engine will seem textured, gritty or sludgy.

Observe Your Driving Habits

Do you drive less often than the average person? In your case, waiting until you reach the specified number of miles in the owner’s manual may lead to keeping degraded oil in your vehicle. Aim to have your oil changed twice per year, so your car’s supply is ready to support the engine’s functions.
Work with DaSilva’s Auto Body to stay on top of regularly scheduled maintenance, including oil changes. If your car’s light has come on or you notice a rougher consistency when you check the dipstick, schedule an appointment with us today.