3 Ways to Check your Oil

Checking to See if Your Car Needs Oil

Periodically checking to make sure your car has enough motor oil is the best way to keep your engine running well for a long time to come. Motor oil is the lubricant between the moving engine parts; if the level is too low, the parts will wear quickly and increase likelihood of engine seizure. Learn how to check your oil to keep this from happening.

Make sure the engine isn’t hot. You can burn yourself if you handle engine parts right after you turn off your car. Wait at least 10 minutes or plan to check your oil while the engine is cold.

  • A cool engine ensures that the oil enough time to settle at the bottom of the oil pan and will give you a more accurate reading of how much oil is in the car.

Open the hood. Most cars have an interior hood-popping lever located under the steering column. Pull the lever, then walk to the front of your car and unlatch the hood. Raise the hood so that it is completely open, and prop it up with a metal prop if your car has one.

  • In a small number of cars (such as the Mini Cooper) the hood release on the passenger side.
  • Make sure the vehicle is on a flat and level surface or the dipstick will provide an inaccurate reading. This is done best at a gas station where the surface is flat and even.

Pull out the dipstick and wipe it off with a clean rag. The dipstick is connected to the oil tank in your engine, and is used to determine how much oil is still in the oil tank. When the car is in motion the oil splashes around and covers the entire stick. To check your oil level you need to start with a clean stick.

  • The dipstick is often located near the front of the engine. When you locate it, give it a tug; it should pull out smoothly.
  • Take care not to pull out the transmission fluid dipstick. If you’re not sure which dipstick is connected to the oil tank, check the user manual that came with your car, or ask a gas station attendant for help.

Reinsert the dipstick. Carefully place the dipstick back into the pipe connected to the oil tank. Push it all the way down until it is completely reinserted. If it gets rattled or caught along the way, pull it back out, wipe it off, and try again.

Remove the dipstick a second time to gauge the oil level. Look at the end of the dipstick to see where the oil’s film ends. The end of the stick will have the word “ADD” toward the end, and “FULL” toward the middle.

  • If the oil film reaches up to or below the ADD line, it’s time to add more oil.
  • If the oil film is close to the FULL line, you don’t have to add more oil quite yet.

Determine whether the oil needs to be changed. In addition to checking the quantity of the oil, you should also check the quality. The oil should look clean and smooth. If the oil looks like it contains debris or looks cloudy, it needs to be changed.

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