Oil is essential for your car’s engine to work efficiently. It ensures the proper lubrication of the engine parts and prevents them from overheating. Regularly checking the engine oil levels is crucial to improve your vehicle’s health, especially if you have an old model. Are you thinking about how to check engine oil? Don’t worry; in this guide, you will learn the proper method to check or change the engine oil.
As your car surpasses the 100,000 miles mark, the engine may start burning a small amount of oil with every drive. This may cause the oil level to drop more rapidly than usual. However, older cars are more susceptible to oil leaks, which is another reason to check the oil regularly.
To gauge how rapidly your car consumes oil, you should check the oil level once a week for a month. This simple maintenance task helps you determine how often you need to top up the oil, if necessary.
Checking the oil is a straightforward process and is especially important before embarking on long trips involving heavy engine usage. Making it a habit to check the oil regularly will ensure your engine stays healthy and performs optimally. This article explains how to check engine oil and when to change it.
How to Check Engine Oil
Follow the below-given steps to check the engine oil of your car:
1) Park On Level Ground
Start by parking your vehicle on a level surface to get an accurate reading of the oil level in the oil reservoir.
Avoid parking on a hill, which can lead to a wrong reading. Before starting the process, ensure that the engine has properly cooled down. You should wait for 10 to 16 minutes to let the engine cool down.
Allow the oil to rest properly in the oil pan and reach its full level. It’s essential to let it settle. But keep in mind that many modern dipsticks are intended to provide accurate readings regardless of the temperature. If you are unsure about your vehicle’s dipstick, refer to your vehicle’s manual for specific guidelines.
2) Locate The Dipstick
First, open the hood of your vehicle and locate the oil dipstick. In most vehicle models, the dipstick contains a yellow, orange, or red cap and is either rectangular or circular in shape. It must be protruding from the engine block on one side.
In some cars, the dipstick contains a symbol resembling an old-style oil can, which marks the correct dipstick. If you are facing problems locating it, refer to the vehicle service manual for guidance.
After finding the dipstick, remove it to get a good look at the color of the oil, but keep in mind that the level reading won’t be accurate yet. You can do this without gloves, but using them can help keep your hands clean from oil.
3) Wipe And Reinsert The Dipstick
Take a shop rag or towel and wipe the dipstick clean, ensuring that there’s no oil left on it. Only the bare metal should remain. Then, carefully insert the dipstick back into its place all the way.
4) Take Your Reading
After reinserting the dipstick, wait a few seconds, and then pull it out again to check the oil level. Look for two marks at the tip of the dipstick: the lower mark represents that the oil level is one quart low, and the upper mark indicates that the crankcase is full. A few dipsticks may have words like “add” and “full” instead of markings.
If the oil level is above than the upper line, it means the oil level is too high. If it’s below the lower line, it indicates that the oil level is low. However, if the oil level falls between the two lines, it indicates that the car has sufficient oil.
5) Examine the Oil Condition
When you pull out the dipstick, look closely at the color and texture of the engine oil. This can give you an idea of how old it is and if there might be any engine problems.
Healthy engine oil should appear slightly yellow-greenish on the rag and not too dark. Remove the oil from the dipstick’s end using a rag and check its color on the rag.
If the oil is dirty, it will be gritty or black and may feel thicker. If it has turned dark black, then it’s definitely time to get an oil change.
6) Follow Up If Needed
Once you’ve cleaned the dipstick, reinsert it back into the engine. If you unscrewed it, make sure to screw it back down before closing the hood.
Next, it’s time for follow-up action. If your oil is dirty, either contact a professional for an oil change or do it yourself. If the engine oil level is insufficient, just add more oil until it reaches the right level. Additionally, consider replacing the oil filter if needed.
7) Add More Oil
Before adding more oil, make sure to use the specific type of oil according to your owner’s manual recommendations. Always check the recommended oil type, as it may differ between different vehicle models and seasons.
Follow the below-given steps to add more oil:
- Find the oil fill cap on top of your engine, usually displaying an oil can symbol.
- Take away the cap, use a rag or tow to clean it, and place a clean funnel in the oil reservoir.
- Add the right amount of oil in small portions.
- Check the oil level using the dipstick, repeating the process until the proper amount of oil is indicated. Wipe the dipstick after each check.
What if I don’t have a dipstick?
It’s important to be aware that some new vehicle models no longer have an oil dipstick. These vehicles use an electric sensor installed in the oil pan to measure the oil level. The data of this sensor might not be readily displayed on the standard dash but rather hidden in a sub-menu within the operating system. To find it, consult the owner’s manual, which provides instructions on how to access the right display.
When to get an Oil Change?
In general, it’s recommended to change your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, depending on your vehicle’s age and driving habit. While you can perform this task at home by removing the old oil and adding new oil manually. However, it’s usually more convenient to take your vehicle to the professionals for this service.
How To Add Motor Oil?
The oil cap, displaying an oil can symbol, is usually mounted on top of the engine. To add engine oil, simply remove this cap to access the oil filler. Pour about half a quart at a time, using a funnel to prevent spills. Keep in mind not to overfill because too much oil may be just as harmful as too little.
After adding about half a quart of oil, wait for about 50 to 60 seconds to allow it to settle properly, then recheck the dipstick. If the oil is still insufficient, add the remaining amount from the quart. Usually, one quart of oil should be enough, but if you need more, add it slowly to avoid adding excess oil.
After adding oil at the right level, reinstall the oil cap in its original position and properly tighten it. Inspect for any spills and clean them up if needed. Finally, close your vehicle’s hood, and you’re good to drive.
How to check oil viscosity?
To check the oil viscosity, use a stopwatch. Get a small tube and seal one end of it. Add oil in the tube that you want to test. Place the tube in a container of hot water. Record how long it takes for the oil to rise and reach the sealed end of the tube. Then, remove the seal and note how long it takes for the oil to fall. The longer it takes for the oil to rise and fall, the higher its viscosity.
How do I know if I need an oil change?
If the oil level in your vehicle is at or lower than the low line, appears dark in color, or feels grainy, all of these symptoms indicate that you need an oil change. Many cars contain an oil change light that illuminates when an oil replacement is necessary. Alternatively, if your vehicle lacks this light, the check engine light may start to illuminate to indicate the necessity for an oil change.
How long does car oil last?
In the past, people used to change the oil in their cars every 3,000 miles. But nowadays, with better oils, many vehicles can go longer without an oil change. Nowadays, the suggested intervals are typically between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. Some engines using fully-synthetic engine oil can even go about 15,000 miles between services!
How to tell if oil is low on the dipstick?
To check your oil level, slowly put the dipstick into the oil reservoir and push it all the way down. After reinserting the dipstick, wait a few seconds and, withdraw it again, inspect the tip of the dipstick for oil. Look for two marks at the tip of the dipstick: the lower mark and the upper mark. If the oil level is above than the upper line, it means the oil level is too high. If it’s below the lower line, it indicates that the oil level is low. However, if the oil level falls between the two lines, it indicates that the car has sufficient oil.
How much oil is too low on the dipstick?
Take a look at the dipstick’s tip and observe where the oil reaches. You’ll find markings or holes on the dipstick that indicate the proper oil level. If the oil level is lower than these lines, it indicates that your oil is insufficient and you need to add more oil.