How To Check Oil In A Car – Advice From An Expert Mechanic

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Written By Danny Sutton

Knowing how to check oil in your car is an essential maintenance check that you need to perform to maintain your car. While simple, many still do not know how to perform oil checks. They fail to follow the correct steps for more precise measurements.

This is important because driving your car on low oil can cause your engine to seize. Not to mention, engine damage due to low oil can lead to costly repairs, so it’s a good idea to check your engine oil at least once a month. Preferably check once a week.

A large number of new modern vehicles have advanced electronic dipsticks. This means that the engine oil sump will have an oil sensor that measures the engine oil and gives you a digital level bar on the vehicle’s computer screen, which can be accessed in different ways depending on the vehicle manufacturer. see the owner’s manual for the procedure to check the oil, or visit your local dealer for them to help guide you.

Starting the oil check

Before you pop the bonnet, ensure your car’s engine is cold and parked on a flat surface. Also, turn the engine off and, when checking the level mark on the dipstick, hold it horizontally to have an accurate reading between maximum and minimum level. You may have a false reading if you do not consider these factors.

oil check cap location on a standard car engine
Standard oil cap/dipstick location on a car engine/Image source: Motor1

Steps on how to check oil in your car

The first step – locating the dipstick

  1. The first thing that you want to do is locate the engine oil dipstick/oil cap. (Usually, it is a pretty obvious-looking cap; see owner’s manual).
  2. When you pull this dipstick, a long metal rod will slide out.
  3. Before pulling the dipstick out, ensure that you have paper towels or an old cloth ready to clean the oil off the dipstick.
  4. Pulling the dipstick out is easy; you must use your index finger and thumb to pull it out.

Second step – pulling the dipstick out and pushing it in

  1. Once you pull the dipstick, use a cloth or a towel to wipe the oil off the dipstick. Hold the stick with the towel while your index finger is still on the stick’s cap. In one motion, swipe the towel down the dipstick and pull it straight up and out.
  2. You can place the dipstick back inside the tube when you clean it.
  3. After you push the dipstick back inside, wait three seconds to ensure the oil saturates the dipstick, and then pull the stick back out.
  4. Once you have the dipstick out, it is time to check the oil fill level on the stick.

Third step – checking the oil level

  1. The oil fill level appears on the bottom of the dipstick. Besides, the hash marks and indentations on the stick represent the level.
  2. Some sticks will also have holes to indicate different levels. There is usually a maximum and minimum level. when checking the oil, ensure you hold the dipstick horizontally and as straight as possible; otherwise, this can result in a false reading as the oil can run up or down the dipstick to the min or max marks.
  3. You should check the owner’s manual to find the optimum level on your dipstick. Anything beneath the low point means that your car doesn’t have enough oil. The optimum level falls between the high and low points. between the maximum and minimum mark is usually roughly 1 liter of oil, so do not overfill, as this can damage your engine and components.
  4. If the oil colour has darkened, it indicates that you need an oil replacement. Petrol engines have quite clean oil if looked after and regularly serviced on service intervals. Diesel engine oil is usually mainly black as a diesel engine, but you can still tell if it needs an oil change by checking the service record booklet. If you don’t have it, it is best to get an oil change done and then keep your own record of maintenance again.

Final words

Many new vehicles will undergo engine failures simply because people do not perform oil checks frequently enough. On average, you must do an oil check regularly and continually change the oil every 6000 miles. Three simple steps are enough to follow if you do not know how to perform an oil check on your car.

Note that your yellow and red oil light on the instrument cluster have their own meanings on the manufacturer’s specification. The yellow light means the oil quality is bad, and the vehicle needs to be serviced or requires an oil change. The red light means oil pressure. If this light shows up, pull over asap and check the oil as this means the oil pressure is low, and that engine does not have an efficient oil supply to the components, so will not be lubricating the components that need it.

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