Check the Oil Level in Your Car in 8 Easy To Follow Steps

checking the oil level in your car
Using a dipstick to check the oil level in your car

Oil is the driving force of your car engine. The best way to avoid disastrous engine failure and the massive repair costs that comes with it is to make sure the engine never lacks oil. This comes to fore if you are driving an older vehicle. 

If the odometer of your car is beyond 100,000 miles, the wear on its engine will burn off oil (although it is in small amounts) each time you drive. This loss will add up over time, and it can make the car’s oil level go down faster than it should. 

Oil lessens the friction in your car’s engine and ensures it runs smoothly. First, you need to check the oil to see if it is dirty or smells of gasoline. If this is the case, it is time to change the oil.

In addition, cars with high mileage are more susceptible to oil leaks. These issues and more are reasons why you should check your oil levels frequently to know when to top it up.

Here’s an easy to follow guide on how to check the oil level of your automobile: 

1. Get a Lint Free Cloth 

Get a scrap of old cloth (an old t-shirt should come in handy) or a lint free rag close by as you’ll need it for cleaning while checking the oil level in your car. 

2. Read Your Vehicle’s Manual 

If you’re not too familiar with the workings of your car – i.e. you don’t know what is under the hood – it is time to get the manual off the shelf, dust it off, and put it to good use. In the owner’s manual, you’ll find an in depth description of where the car’s dipstick is located. 

3. Warm Up the Car 

We often advise that you check the oil level in your car after warming it up. The perfect time to determine the oil level is after a quick trip around the neighborhood or when you get back from the mall. 

4. Turn Your Car Off 

Ensure you turn off the car and wait for about 10 minutes to ensure it cools down before you start checking the oil level in your car. Also, make sure it is parked on level ground. 

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5. Pop the Hood Open

Popping the hood of your car should come easy to most drivers, but on the off chance that you don’t know how to do this, we’ll show you how. First, try to locate the handle on the side of the driver’s side door. Once you find it, pull it gently to pop the hood open. 

Your car’s hood will pop open but not completely. To open it completely, you need to press a lever beneath it. Next, ensure the hood is securely propped, so it doesn’t close suddenly while you’re under it. 

6. Find the Dipstick 

The next thing to look out for is your vehicle’s dipstick. Basically, this is a graduated rod that is used to measure the depth of a liquid. In this case, that liquid is the oil in your engine.

On most vehicle models, you will find the dipstick on the engine’s left side, so it shouldn’t be difficult to locate. However, the oil dipstick’s location is dependent on whether your vehicle is a rear-wheel drive (i.e. in-line engine). If your vehicle is a front-wheel drive (i.e. transverse engine), you’ll find the dipstick close to the front of the engine. 

Usually, the dipstick has an orange or yellow circular handle that is quite visible at first glance. Try pulling the handle, and you will notice a long piece of metal sliding out the pipe.

7. Clean the Dipstick before Reinserting it

After locating the dipstick, the next step is to remove and clean it with the lint free cloth before sliding it back into the pipe. Ensure it’s completely inserted and not stuck halfway in. If it gets stuck, all you need to do is turn it around. The pipe is curved, so the metal stick naturally bends in the curve’s direction when you put it back in. 

8. Remove the Dipstick and Inspect It

Once more, remove the dipstick and look at the thin film of oil at the end of it. Take note of how high the oil is on the dipstick. There are some dipstick models that come with markings, while some have a textured part that shows the oil pan’s capacity. 

Note that the oil color will be amber, and by just looking at it, you can determine the engine’s oil level. Also, avoid adding oil to the little tube that houses the dipstick. Doing this will only create a lot of mess for you, which is the last thing you want. 

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Try to locate the screw-off cap atop the largest part of your car’s engine. In some cases, you’ll find it labeled “Oil Cap” – sometimes, it’s labeled something else – and there are times when it’s just blank. 

Also, there are instances where you will see the grade of oil you need to put in the vehicle. Unscrew this cap and add the required amount of oil. 

What happens if the Oil level in your Car is Normal?

This is an ideal situation, and you don’t have to worry in this instance. If the dipstick shows that the oil level is normal, all you need to do is reinsert it back into the pipe and check again some other time. 

What happens if the Oil level in your Car is Low or if the Oil is Dirty? 

If the routine checks show that your vehicle’s engine oil is low, the next thing to do is to check if the oil is clean or not. Here is how to go about it. Keep in mind that oil turns black very fast, but that does not affect its quality. 

First, touch the dipstick’s end with two of your fingers (your thumb and index finger) to feel the oil’s texture. If it is still clean, just add extra oil with a funnel. On the other hand, if the oil feels gritty or you notice a dirty smudge after rubbing, you know it’s time to change the oil as soon as possible. 

Conclusion 

You don’t have to take your car to an auto repair shop to check your oil level as any driver can check without hassles. Most vehicle models often require an oil change every 3000 miles or every three months, so set a reminder to always check on time. 

However, some drivers err on the side of caution as they prefer to check each time they want to take their car for a spin. Lastly, apart from checking if your engine oil level is low, you should also check for dirt.