- Car Care & Maintenance
How to Check a Car's Oil Level
Checking your car’s engine oil level is a very easy thing to do: In fact it used to be done every single time you filled up your gas tank. It is recommended that you check your oil very frequently, up to several times a month. People generally check their oil only when they get a tune up at their mechanic or if there is a problem with their vehicle, but checking your oil can be the easiest thing you can do for preventative maintenance of your car.
Driving in Winter Conditions?
If you plan on driving in winter conditions, check out my article on Snow Driving, to brush up on winter driving techniques!
Why Is It Important to Check Your Car’s Oil?
It’s important to check your car’s oil because in the instance when there is something wrong with the oil, or if there is not enough oil in your car, this can damage the engine of your vehicle. The oil in your car is used for lubrication of the many parts of your engine. Oil is also used as an aid for cooling the engine. If the oil level is low, your car runs the risk of overheating.
How to Check Your Car's Oil
Step One: Pop the hood of your vehicle from within your vehicle. This is either a button or a latch found inside of the car.
Step Two: Go to the front of your vehicle and open the hood. There should be a latch or a catch that you might have to disengage. Once this is opened, put the post or rod up to keep your hood open if your hood does not automatically stay open by itself.
Step Three: Locate the engine oil dipstick. Take a cloth and remove the oil dipstick: wipe down the dipstick with the cloth.
Some cars don’t have a dipstick. If this is the case you should check you manual for instructions.
Step Four: Replace the oil dipstick and then remove it again, and check to see where the oil falls on the dipstick. There should be 2 markings on the dipstick, near the bottom. One indicating the high level of the oil and one indicating the lowest level. The oil should be about midway between those two points. If the oil exceeds either one of these points it can cause issues for your car.
While checking the oil, see if there are any particles, metal shavings or any other type of debris in the oil itself. It should be relatively homogenous and free of particles.
Step Five: Replace the dipstick, close the hood, make sure it’s latched and you're done!
What If Your Car's Oil Is Low?
If your oil is low, it could indicate one of four problems.
- Your engine is burning/consuming oil (some older cars tend to do this more). There are many reasons why your car could be burning oil and this should be discussed with your mechanic.
- Your car could be leaking oil. Check underneath your car for oil spots and/or stains underneath your driveway or anywhere that you park your car.
- Your car might be required to be running when checking the oil and you need to check your car manual for details.
- The oil wasn’t changed correctly or insufficient oil was used.
What To Do If You Have Particles In Your Car’s Oil
If you have particles in your oil, you should change the oil yourself or bring it to a mechanic to have them change it. It is normal for oil to begin accumulating particles, so a small amount of debris shouldn’t be a problem. If you have small particles it simply means that you are due for an oil change in the near future. Keep in mind however, that metal shavings or larger particles would indicate a problem and it should be brought to a mechanic immediately.