Driver SOS (UK)
Helping with car insurance, driving bans, learning to drive and other motoring issuesJoin Community
How to check engine oil
It is important to check the engine oil in your vehicle frequently to monitor its level. This will prevent the engine from being damaged as the oil acts as a lubricant which also cleans and cools the engine. Doing this little exercise is a good way to maintain your car and will make the engine lasts longer and run smoothly and save you from having to pay the expensive fees of repairing or buying a new engine.
How to check the engine oil level?
You can easily check the oil level in your car’s engine by following these little steps below:
- Lift up your bonnet and look for the engine oil dipstick (If in doubt, check your car manual to locate the dipstick).
- Pull the dipstick out and wipe it with a clean cloth so that any possible oil residue previously on the dipstick is cleared.
- Now locate the oil level marks at the bottom of the dipstick (This will help you in checking your current oil level in a minute)
- Put the dipstick back where you took if from, making sure it goes all the way down.
- Take the dipstick out again and check the engine oil level by observing the oil residue now left on the dipstick.
If the engine oil is below the required level (below the low mark), you will need to add some oil to your engine. You may have to do the same steps above again until you are satisfied that you have sufficient engine oil.
What type of engine oil do I need for my car?
All car manufacturers recommend a particular type of oil for their cars. It is good practice to get that same engine oil but generally it may be more expensive than ordinary engine oil. If you do not know what type of engine oil to buy, then you can go into any local car shop and ask for a general engine oil for your particular car make and if the staff there don’t know, you can always take any decent engine oil (Always go for a branded one like Castrol if you can afford it).
In an emergency only, for example if you see the red light warning coming up on your dashboard to indicate you are running out of engine oil and you are far from any car shops, you can use any type of oil, be it cooking or hair oil to prevent your engine from overheating but you should change it as soon as possible – and that should be on the same day!
If you had bough engine oil before and you've had it for some time now, like more than 3 years, it is best to buy new ones because after some time, unused engine oils are not as efficient and worthy of engine requirements because of age.
Oil if not changed will gather dirt and will damage the engine and if there's not enough of it, the pistons will be rubbing against the cylinder as they move up and down and that will cause a lot of heat on the metals. This can be dangerous when driving and it is therefore recommended to change your engine oil every 500 miles that you make.
Should I check the engine oil level when it is warm or cold?
Which is more precise : checking the oil level first thing in the morning when engine is cold or after it is warmed up?
[Migrated from previous topic 10239 dated 06 Nov 2008]
It is best to check the engine oil level when it is warm rather than cold. The reason is because oil will contract when it is cold and expand when warm. Although this may lead you to think that checking when cold will give you a lower reading and indicate that you need to refill your engine oil, you need to understand that when you use your car, the engine will heat up and expand the oil and as a consequence, the higher reading is much better to prevent you from over-filling the oil tank.
[Migrated from previous post 81 dated 07 Nov 2008]
What you really want to check is for the oil level to be between the min and max mark on the dipstick. You don't want it to be too close to either marks, so it's not going to be a major issue whether it's cold or hot in my opinion.
[Migrated from previous post 2175 dated 13 Feb 2014]