The oil in your engine provides a number of functions, cleaning the engine, providing lubrication to prevent friction damage, and acting as a coolant to prevent the engine from overheating. All of these functions mean that your oil can quickly absorb dirt and other contaminants and may even leak or evaporate out of the system with the normal operation of your car. Knowing what a few of the most common indications of dirty or insufficient engine oil are can make it easier for you to catch such problems before they can cause other complications under your hood.
Rough Idles and Grinding
One of the first signs that you will notice when your oil has either leaked out of your engine or is too dirty to properly do its job any longer is an increased amount of engine noise. Without enough clean oil, your engine's moving parts can quickly increase the amount of grinding and friction that they inflict upon each other. Idling will sound much rougher, and you may hear a knocking or grinding sound as metal rubs against metal within the engine. It goes without saying that you should have the oil changed as soon as you notice these warning signs, as the increased friction can lead to damage to your engine, which is much more expensive and complicated to have repaired.
Another simple indication of the quality and amount of oil that is in your engine is its appearance. You can take the oil dipstick out of the reservoir, which is usually located right next to your engine block, and see the state of the oil. Clean oil is relatively see-through and usually a lighter brown with a consistent consistency. Lumpy oil points to grease and dirt within the reservoir that needs to be flushed out, while a darker shade of oil that is not transparent indicates the same thing.
Another common sign that is associated with old and dirty oil is if you notice that your vehicle's fuel efficiency has been reduced. Inadequate oil levels or quality can lead to your engine operating at higher than normal temperatures due to improper cooling and lubrication, which means that it will begin to burn fuel at an inefficient rate. As a result, your tank will empty faster, and you'll be on the hook for increased fuel costs. Getting an oil change is the smart financial decision in the long run.