Signs a Car Needs an Oil Change

by Jason Medina

Oil is a very important component of a car's engine operation. Responsible for lubricating and cooling internal engine parts, oil allows for smooth, efficient engine operation. Due to its importance to engine health and function, engine oil needs to be changed on a regular basis. There are a number of common signs that a car needs an oil change.

Dirty Oil

Clean, fresh oil is light in appearance, almost a dark honey color. As oil wears and degrades, it loses its natural color and becomes dark; severely worn or old motor oil turns black. Dark, murky-colored motor oil is a sure sign that it's time for an oil change.

Low Oil Level

Many times a low oil level, especially in older, high-mileage vehicles, is a sign that a car needs to have its engine oil changed. Most cars burn small amounts of oil through normal engine operation. By the time engine oil levels become extremely low, that is often an indication that the motor oil has been in service for quite some time and needs to be changed.

Oil Light Warning

Many cars, especially newer model cars, have oil warning lights that turn on when engine oil becomes either low or excessively dirty. A glowing oil warning light is usually a sign that a car needs to have its engine oil changed or serviced.

Check Engine Light Warning

Even on cars equipped with oil warning lights, it is common for a car's check engine light to turn on when oil levels become low or degraded. A car oil's level and condition affects engine performance, and like any problem that negatively affects engine performance, normally results in the check engine light turning on.


If a significant number of miles have passed since a car's last oil change (over the owner manual's recommended mileage oil change interval), the engine oil more than likely needs to be changed. Driving a car with dirty engine oil causes increased engine wear, which translates into a shorter engine life.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

More Articles