7 Ways Your Car Is Letting You Know You Need an Oil Change

October 8th, 2021 by

The oil change light is illuminated on a dashboard.

Getting your oil changed is one of the most important parts of maintaining the life of your engine and the value of your car. The engine oil lubricates the moving parts inside the engine, reduces the heat caused by friction inside your engine, and removes the minute fragments created by the engine’s operation. This is why it is important to get your Nissan oil change, and it pays to go to a place that knows what it is doing. At Thomas Nissan, the trained technicians are able to help you by changing the engine oil and filter on a routine basis, so you can keep your Nissan car, truck, or SUV on the road performing to its fullest potential.

As engine oil ages, it starts to break down. This is caused by the action of heat on the oil, as well as those tiny filings created by the gears and other engine parts meshing together. While the oil filter can capture most of this debris, it cannot catch every little piece. Over time, if the oil is not changed, you can begin to damage your Nissan’s engine through excessive heat and friction. Left untreated, an engine can eventually seize, requiring a very costly powertrain replacement. Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

1. Shine an Indicator Light

Most newer Nissan models have an indicator light that shows the current oil level or life on your car. When it comes time for an oil change, a light shaped like an oil can will appear on your dashboard. If this is the case, don’t ignore the sign, but immediately call us to schedule your next oil change.

However, not all cars have these gauges. Older cars may only have an indicator light that comes on for when it is time for service. If you are driving a used Nissan model, check your owner’s manual to see which indicator lights are available on your car. In some very old ones, no light will come on until it may be too late. So, it pays to get your oil checked on older cars even before you see the light.

2. Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Another way your car may be telling you it is time to change the oil is mileage. The next time you go for an oil change, write down the number of miles on your Nissan at the time of service. If your car is a newer model, you may be able to go as far as 5,000 to 7,500 miles between oil changes. If your Nissan uses a fully synthetic motor oil, then this number may be as high as 15,000 miles. Again, check your owner’s manual to see Nissan’s recommendation for mileage between oil changes.

One thing to keep in mind is that as a car gets older, it will need to have its oil changed more frequently. If you bought a used or Certified Pre-Owned Nissan, then the mileage indicated in the owner’s manual may not apply, and you may need to get your oil changed as frequently as every 3,000 miles. You should consider checking with your technician the next time you stop by our service center.

A close up of a dashboard shows the mileage on a car on it's way to a Nissan oil change.

3. Low Down Dirty Oil

As engine oil ages, it starts to get darker in color. This is caused by the buildup of dirt and debris in the oil. In addition, your engine will use up oil as it goes along. While most will only consume about a quart of oil between changes, other engines may use up as much as one quart every 600 miles of driving. This can be caused by the age of the car, as well as other factors such as extreme hot or cold weather, traffic jams, and frequently driving at low speeds. If you are feeling a little handy, try checking the oil level and color on your Nissan by accessing the dipstick in the engine compartment. It may take a few times to get the hang of doing this, but you’ll be glad you did, as spotting the problem before it can cause a major issue is critical to keeping your oil topped up and clean.

4. Shake, Rattle, and Roll

If you’ve been driving your Nissan for a long time, then you are probably well acquainted with the sound and feel your car normally makes. You’ll be familiar with the sound of the engine revving after you start the ignition. You’ll know immediately as the transmission changes gears while driving on the highway. You’ll feel comfortable while idling at a light. So, if you start hearing an odd ticking sound when you start your car, or hear a loud engine noise when you shift gears, or feel the car shaking while you’re stopped at a traffic light, then you know you may have an issue with your oil. In general, when your car starts doing something strange like this, don’t ignore the problem; head immediately over to our service center so we can check it out.

5. Ooh, That Smell!

One thing that can happen if you don’t change your engine oil is that it can actually start to smolder and smoke inside your engine. This is because the oil has broken down and begun to burn from the heat and friction of the engine.

You may have noticed another car in front of you with thick, black smoke coming out of the tailpipe, especially when the car accelerates off of the light. The smoke cloud gives off this oily, noxious smell. This is a car that is burning oil inside its engine. In your own car, if you notice an oily smell inside your passenger compartment, and there is no other car with clouds of smoke coming out of its exhaust, this may mean that your own engine oil is starting to burn. If this happens to you, then you need to get it checked out immediately to prevent damaging your car’s powertrain.

6. Blowing Hot and Cold

Have you noticed your car starting to overheat more often in hot weather? Has your car been stalling out, especially when you are idling at a light? These are two more signs that it may be time for you to get an oil change. With respect to overheating, you should also check the level of coolant or antifreeze in your Nissan. If the level is normal, it is a pretty strong indicator that your oil change is overdue. Similarly, while frequent stalling can be caused by problems with your engine oil, it may also indicate other problems. In both cases, don’t accept poor performance from your car. Stop by and let us diagnose the problem and help you with any servicing issues.

Oil is being poured into a car engine during a Nissan oil change.

7. Running on Empty

Each year, the EPA tests passenger vehicles to determine a baseline fuel economy for each model. This has been going on for years, and a quick check of the Internet will show you what to expect from your Nissan based on year, model, engine type, and drivetrain. While your own experience may deviate a little from the numbers provided by the EPA, in general, these fuel economy numbers should operate as a ballpark for your car. Many newer models actually have a fuel economy indicator among the information cluster. So, if you notice that the numbers are significantly down or that you seem to be filling up your gas tank more often than usual, you might want to see if it is time for a routine oil change. When you drive with either not enough engine oil or oil that is old and dirty, this can reduce engine efficiency, causing your car to use more gas than normal.

An Oil Change Would Do You Good

Routine oil changes are one of the easiest and least costly ways to keep your car’s engine running smoothly. Not only that, but the cost of a routine oil change is significantly less than that of powertrain repairs caused by damage from not changing your oil. Also, while it usually takes less than an hour to do an oil change, the repairs caused by failing to do this often require leaving your car at the service center for several days.

Your car has many ways of showing you a sign that it is time to get an oil change. Probably the easiest thing to do is to make oil changes a routine part of your automotive ownership. Our staff will be more than happy to help you set a schedule so you can get your Nissan oil change when it is convenient to you, not in an emergency situation.

Posted in Nissan Oil Change