Getting your car’s oil changed is the equivalent of getting your yearly checkup at the doctor’s office — to ensure everything is running properly and, essentially, to prevent potential issues from arising in the future.
Knowing the right time to change your oil, how often to change it and the best oil for your car is crucial for maintaining your vehicle. With that said, here are four important things to know when getting your oil changed:
Check your owner’s manual for information on when to change your oil. Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic John Ibbotson advises not to make assumptions on the time interval based on past experiences or guidance from mechanics because timing has evolved over the years. Many newer models have service reminder monitors that alert drivers when to change their oil, so make sure you get your oil change soon after you receive such an alert.
Keep an eye on your car’s oil level.
Consumer Report recommends checking your oil level at least once a month. Be sure to get repairs done at the first sign of a leak. Some newer cars have electronic oil monitors and don't have traditional dipsticks for manual inspection; however, if you do have a dipstick and you’re checking it yourself, make sure the car is parked on level ground. If the engine has been running, be aware of potential hot spots under the hood.
Pay close attention to the oil’s color.
When checking your oil, you should also be aware of its color, which should appear brown or black. If it has a light, milky appearance, this could mean coolant is leaking into the engine. Also, look closely for any metal particles, because this could mean there is internal engine damage. If you see either of these conditions, it may be time for a full vehicle checkup.
Make sure you’re choosing the right oil for your car.
Again, your owner’s manual should tell you the correct type of oil your car needs. Ibbotson says to make sure you know what’s recommended or required by your automaker before you visit your mechanic.