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Change Oil Light: Why Is It On and What To Do With It? 

Change Oil Light: Why Is It On and What To Do With It? 

We all know that our cars and engines are made up of many moving parts that need proper lubrication to prevent them from being damaged. This is why drivers need to strictly follow their car manufacturers’ recommended oil change interval. Oil breaks down over time and becomes contaminated. The oil won’t be able to lubricate the engine’s moving parts when this happens.  Since failing to bring your car for its oil change schedule can damage it, auto manufacturers installed a change oil light on cars to alert the drivers when an oil change is due.  An illuminating change oil light can also mean that your car has a low oil level.

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You may have an orange check oil light or a red one. Sometimes, you have both lights. It can vary depending on what car you own. The orange one is usually the oil change light that illuminates to alert when an oil change is due. When the red light comes on, it means that something is wrong and you will have to stop your car and check your oil. It can be an indication that you have contaminated oil or your oil level is low. If the oil light is flashing, it can mean that you have an issue with your sensor


Change Oil Light: What Triggers Change Oil Light?


It is common knowledge that cars need regular oil changes to avoid damaging the moving parts of the engine. These moving parts need proper lubrication all the time. Regular oil changes are important since oil loses its protective properties over time. It gets contaminated with dirt, dust, metal shavings, or debris from the engine and from the environment. Once it loses its protective properties and becomes contaminated, the oil will not be able to lubricate the moving parts properly and efficiently. It can lead to a number of problems that can be too expensive to fix.  


Since oil changes are very important, modern vehicles are now equipped with a change oil light on their dashboards. It is one great way to let the drivers know that their cars are due for an oil change. Vehicles with change oil lights  usually have an on-board computer that computes the number of miles your car has at specific intervals and alerts you when it is time for an oil change.    


Modern vehicles usually have two lights that alert the driver when there is an issue with the oil system. One is the change oil light that lets the driver know when it’s time to change the oil. The other one is to alert the driver when the oil pressure level is low or when the oil is contaminated. The change oil light is there to make sure that your car is protected. 


So basically, when the car’s on-board computer has determined that it is time for you to change your engine oil, by calculating a number of variables like mileage, your type of driving, or temperature, it will trigger your change oil light to illuminate. 


You might notice that whenever you start your engine, the change oil light will illuminate. It is normal but it will only come on for about two seconds and then it will stop. However, if the light remains on and doesn’t turn off, it means that your car needs an oil change or a filter change.  


If your car has an in-cabin messaging system, it will show your car’s oil life of ten percent to a hundred percent on your dashboard. You may see it illuminate for about five seconds then it goes off. But if your oil life is low or nearing zero percent, you will see a message that says “oil change due” on your dashboard. The alert will not turn off or reset until the oil or filter is changed. 


Many people might ask how often they should change their engine oil. Some say 3,000 miles while others say 10,000 miles. There are times when the change oil light illuminates even before the car has hit its 3,000 mile mark since its last oil change.  Keep in mind that the mileage is not the only variable the car’s on-board computer calculates to determine that your car needs an oil change. The way you drive and the temperature can also affect the engine. No matter what mileage your car has, when the change oil light is set off, you need to act on it right away. Following the recommended oil change interval can help your car’s engine to continue working efficiently and can help you avoid costly repairs.


Change Oil Light: Is it Safe to Drive with Oil Change Light On?


If your change oil light or oil service light suddenly comes on while you are driving, is it still safe to drive it? You know that the moving parts of the engine need a constant supply of oil for them to be properly lubricated. Driving with an illuminating change oil light can cause serious damage to your engine. 


So what will you do if you notice that you have an illuminating change oil light while driving? To ensure that you won’t damage your engine, you need to do following:


  • Pull over to the side of the road or somewhere safe and turn off your engine. Check the level of your oil in the system by using a dipstick. You can find the dipstick at the engine bay. You just need to remove it and wipe off the oil using a cloth or napkin. Once the indicator on the dipstick is clean, put it back into your car to check if your oil level is low. If it is dry or way below the full line, it is an indication that you have a low oil problem. Do not attempt to drive your car any further. 
  • If you have determined that your oil level is low, you can check for any signs of leaks. Leaks can be the reason why your oil level has dropped significantly. There might be a damaged gasket somewhere or an unfastened oil filter. You can check for those. 

You can also try topping off your oil up to its maximum level. Turn on your car and make sure that the oil light is off. As you drive, check if your oil light comes on again. If it turns on, check your oil level again and if it’s low, then it is an indication that you have an oil leak. Have your car checked and repaired immediately.  

  • Oil lights can also illuminate when the oil pressure is low. It means that the pump is not circulating enough oil or your system has an insufficient amount of oil for the pump to circulate. When this happens, don’t drive your car any further. Pull over and turn off your vehicle. Call for help and have it repaired right away. Driving a car with an insufficient amount of oil can damage the engine. 
  • If there seems to be no problem with your oil level, you can use a car diagnostic tool, if you have any, to reset the change oil light and clear the codes, if needed.  


Change Oil Light: How Long Can You Drive with Oil Change Light?


If your change oil light comes on, it is best that you don’t ignore it. Bring your car to an auto service shop for an engine oil change. However, there are times when drivers can’t have their cars set for an oil change schedule for some reasons. If you are asking, how long can you drive with an oil change light, here’s what you need to know. 


How long you can drive your car with an illuminating change oil light can vary from car to car. Experts are recommending that you should have your oil changed sooner. However, if you can’t have it done yet, you can still drive your car for a week or so. But you need to have its oil changed within the next two weeks or before you hit the next 500 miles of driving.  


You need to remember that if your car has an illuminating oil pressure light and not just the change oil light, you will have to pull over immediately, stop the engine, and don’t drive any further. If you continue driving, you will damage your car’s engine. You don’t want to deal with that since it can cost you a lot of money to repair it. 


There are also some instances that an illuminating change oil light means that you just need to top up engine oil and not change it. However, if the change oil light is really set off because your car is already due for an oil change, then you need to do it as soon as possible. Do not wait until you encounter some other problems before you decide to have an oil change.  


You will also know if you are due for an oil change if you encounter any of these symptoms:

  • Dirty oil


You will know if your engine oil is fresh and still clean when it is still slightly translucent and has an amber color. As it does its job, lubricating the engine’s moving parts, it becomes dark and will be filled with dirt, dust, and other particles collected from the engine. 


It is for this reason why you need to check your engine oil regularly. You can never really tell if your oil has become dirty or contaminated unless you check it. You can use your dipstick to check your oil. You just need to take it out, wipe it with a clean cloth and put it back again. Take it out again and if you can’t see the dipstick through the oil, or if you see that the oil is darker and dirty, then it is an indication that your car is due for an oil change.   

  • Engine noises


Oil provides proper lubrication to the engine’s moving parts. It also has some protective properties that provide a protective layer between engine parts. This helps prevent metal to metal contact which can aid in keeping the engine quiet. If the oil can no longer lubricate properly and loses its protective properties, it can lead to an increased engine noise. You may hear it as rumbling or knocking sounds. This issue needs to be corrected right away since it is an indication that the engine is tearing itself apart due to insufficient lubrication.  

  • Excessive vehicle exhaust


An illuminating change oil light and excessive vehicle exhaust can be an indication that your engine oil has become too old and contaminated to function properly. Modern vehicles don’t usually release any visible exhaust and if you see a thick smoke coming out from your tailpipe, it means that there is something wrong with it. This symptom can also be caused by a number of issues, it is best to have your car checked to be sure. 

  • Your car has traveled a lot of miles.


If you recently had a long trip and you notice that your car has more mileage than usual, it is a sign that you need to have your oil changed immediately. You don’t have to count how many months or weeks it has been since you last had an oil change. If you have put more miles on your car than you usually would, you should also have your oil changed sooner than usual. You can consult your owner’s manual for any specific guidelines. 


If you notice that your change oil light is illuminating, it is best that you don’t ignore it but set an appointment for an oil change instead. If you put it off for too long and you still drive it, the engine will burn up all of the engine oil. This can cause more serious problems to your engine. The engine oil is made to clean, lubricate, and cool the moving parts of the engine. You should always have your oil changed regularly, following the recommended oil change interval, to make sure that you always have a clean engine oil. Not just to lubricate your engine’s moving parts, but also to ensure that your engine will last for a long time.