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A normal, mileage-related needed oil change will NOT trigger and light the Check Engine notification. Only if your oil is well overdue and in a really bad shape (while getting to the point of blocking the oil passages), a Check Engine light would come up. In some models, a MAINTENANCE or CHANGE OIL light will be illuminated if an oil change needs to be scheduled.

Check Engine light doesn’t usually light up unless there is a problem related to the engine or emissions control system. If your oil is really dirty and you have an engine with variable valve timing, you could get a Check Engine light come up if hydraulically operated camshaft-phasers are blocked by it.

In the case of dual overhead camshaft engines, your oil needs to be really clean and at an appropriate level to avoid problems. Using the wrong type of oil or oil weight can gum up your sensors and trigger a Check Engine light.

Changing oil often or using synthetic oil could fix your problem and the light will go away on its own after the Engine Control Unit (or ECU) starts recognizing your sensors.

Low oil or poor oil pressure could also trigger Check Engine light in some cases, but it is more likely that low oil pressure light will be triggered:

Typical motor oil lasts for about 5K-7K miles. How bad it will actually get comes down to your style of driving, driving conditions, and duration of driving. Recommended oil change schedule will be mentioned in your owner’s manual.

If oil loses its viscosity, a whole bunch of problems will come up, like bad fuel efficiency, lower performance, rough operation, and ultimately engine damage. As mentioned above, in some cases Check Engine light will notify you of oil problems, but there are also other things that will notify you of these problems as well, and they are:

  • Low Oil Pressure light
  • Engine vibration and noise
  • A burning odor coming from your engine

Now, let’s talk about the Engine Maintenance light.

Engine Maintenance or Service light is DIFFERENT from Check Engine light and it’s purpose is to remind you that you should change your oil!

Newer vehicles now come with an Engine Management light to remind you of an upcoming oil change. This light comes up after a certain mileage is reached to remind you to get an oil change. It needs to be reset after oil change is done.

Check Engine light is NOT a reminder of a due oil change!

The “Change Engine Oil” light or “Maintenance Required” light was added to the dashboard relatively not a long time ago in order to assist people with oil changes. This type of light gets fuel and mileage data, along with your type of driving (city or highway), and will display a message about your oil life that looks like this:

This message will blink for a couple of seconds while displaying % of oil usefulness. If the useful oil life remaining is less than 10%, you will get a steady message illuminated that the oil and oil filter needs to be changed and this message will stay beyond the startup until you actually change your oil.

It looks like this:

Also, your acceleration habits are being calculated and how heavy your car is. People that drive in the city most of the time will probably notice this light coming up sooner than people that use the highway all the time.

Once this light comes up, schedule your oil change.

After the oil change is done, make sure you check that the message was reset by your mechanic. It is also a good idea to get a reminder sticker of your next oil change mileage.

In conclusion, don’t wait for Check Engine light to come up in order to be alerted of upcoming oil changes. Just pop your hood and check the oil itself. If it is too dark or the amount of it is too low, schedule an oil change ASAP.

This article is for informational purposes ONLY and is NOT a replacement for professional advice!

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