It’s easy to put off car repairs. Your vehicle takes you form A to B every day, and it can be hard to fit in that visit to the auto body shop. With that said, putting off simple maintenance like an oil change can cause serious damage to your vehicle in the long run and result in pricey repairs. If you haven’t looked under the hood in a while, here are four signs that you’re due for an oil change.

The Oil or Check Engine Light is On

The oil change light is different for every vehicle, but in many older vehicles it’s an illuminated image of an old-fashioned oil carafe. Many newer cars will less obliquely have a message on the dashboard that says, “Oil change required.” Do not ignore this message. You can check your oil level with the dipstick, and if it’s low or looks abnormal, have your oil changed right away. If your check engine light is also on, it can indicate that you need a more immediate oil change right away to avoid engine damage.

The Oil Looks Unusual

So what does “unusual” look like, anyway? The answer varies. Engine oil is generally a light brown or amber color, so if your oil is dark, gritty, jelly-like, milky, or contains metal flakes, those are all signs that your car should be taken to the auto shop. Oil that is full of particles or that has a strange texture could indicate serious problems with your engine. The experts at the auto repair shop will know for sure.

The Engine is Making Noise

Engine oil lubricates the metals under the hood. If you hear a ticking when you start the car, it could indicate that the valves are trying to move the oil around more efficiently. One of the tell-tale signs that you need an oil change is a “knocking” sound coming from the engine. If that happens, visit your local auto mechanic shop.

You have Excessive Mileage

If you’ve been on a road trip or have been putting more miles on your car than usual, then it’s due for an oil change. Many believe that a car needs to have its oil changed every 5,000 miles, but the truth is that it depends on your car’s age, make, and model. Read your owner’s manual to be sure, but experts agree that your vehicle should have its oil changed at least every 6,000 miles, but often much sooner.

When in doubt, always talk to a professional mechanic or visit a quality auto shop. Mechanical failure causes 13% of all collisions every year, and putting off maintenance can take your car out of commission for weeks, if not permanently.

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