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How To Properly Check Your Cars Engine Oil Level

Updated on February 1, 2011

General Maintenance

Checking your automotive oil level SHOULD be something you do on a normal basis. What is normal? It's hard to say. Most older vehicles(engines) will burn significantly more oil than newer vehicles(engines), which means you should check these more often than a newer vehicle; maybe once a month. A newer vehicle shouldn't burn much oil and you can probably get away with only checking it once every 3 or even 6 months. New or old vehicle you should get an oil change on a regular basis(depends on your vehicle and the type of oil you use, check with the shop that last serviced your oil), but that's for another hub.

A Warm Engine

To check your oil your engine needs be at normal operating temperature. Most vehicles have a temperature gauge like the one below, usually(but not always) the normal operating temperature is at the middle of the gauge. Most temperature gauges have a red line at the far right which means that the engine is too hot and needs to be cooled down(also a different hub). The gauge below shows a gauge where the normal operating temperature is in the middle.

To warm the engine you should drive the vehicle until the gauge reaches the normal operating temperature. This should only take a few minutes.

Once the engine is warm you should park the vehicle on a LEVEL surface and turn the engine off.

Temperature Gauges

Source
Source
Source
Source

How To Find The Dipstick

There are normally two dipsticks under your vehicles hood. Sometimes they are marked, if so finding the "oil" dipstick is easy, if not then read on...

First, the pipe that the oil dipstick goes into leads to the engine, while the pipe that holds the transmission fluid dipstick runs to the transmission, which is under the vehicle. Try to track the pipe(s) and see where they lead.

The oil dipstick should be closer to the front of the vehicle, while the transmission fluid dipstick should be closer to the firewall of the vehicle. Like in the picture below.

If you still can't find the correct dipstick I would ask a technician or take the vehicle to a shop than can help you.

This is an engine oil dipstick that is clearly labeled "engine oil" this is the easiest way to identify the correct dipstick.
This is an engine oil dipstick that is clearly labeled "engine oil" this is the easiest way to identify the correct dipstick. | Source
This image shows the location of both the oil dipstick and the transmission fluid dipstick. Notice the oil dipstick is closer to the front of the vehicle and the transmission dipstick is closer to the firewall.
This image shows the location of both the oil dipstick and the transmission fluid dipstick. Notice the oil dipstick is closer to the front of the vehicle and the transmission dipstick is closer to the firewall. | Source

Reading The Dipstick

Now that you have warmed the engine and located the correct dipstick you need to know how to correctly read the dipstick. There should be two vertical lines and likely some slanted lines that look like "X"s like this; |XXXX|

Most dipsticks are marked with "Add", "Normal", and "Overfull" like the picture below.

The first vertical line means that if the oil is below this level it is low and needs oil. The second line means that if the oil is over this line it is too full and should be drained. 

Caution: If you oil is overfilled it CAN cause DAMAGE!!! Overfilling can cause many severe problems, if you think your oil is over you should drain some oil or take it to a repair shop ASAP.

Engine Oil Dipstick

Note the "Add", "Normal", and "Over" points.
Note the "Add", "Normal", and "Over" points. | Source

Thank You

I hope this hub has helped you to properly check your automotive engine oil. If you have an questions please ask in the comments and I will assist you any way I can.

Thank you.

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