Your car’s engine has so many moving parts, and moving parts require lubrication in order to move and work properly. Providing that lubricant is motor oil. That’s why checking your oil levels is so important. Making sure your oil levels are at an ideal level will help your car run better and will extend the life of your engine. Clean oil is the best way to prevent harmful build-up that can affect performance.
How do I check my oil?
Checking your oil is a snap, even if you have never done it before. Newer vehicles may come with a built in electronic monitor that keeps track of your oil levels. The vehicles that do not come equipped with that, will instead come with a dipstick that will make it just as easy to check the oil. If you will be using the dipstick, follow these steps.
- Park your car on level ground. This will ensure an accurate and easy read.
- Check oil at the right temperature. It is usually recommended that you check the oil when the engine is cool. This is not the case for every vehicle. Some manufacturers recommend checking certain cars when the engine and oil is warm. To find out the right temperature for your specific vehicle consult your owner’s manual.
- Make sure that your car is NOT on. Whether you are doing a warm or cool check, always make sure that the engine is off.
- Locate the engine’s dipstick and pull it out gently. Use a clean, soft cloth to gently and thoroughly wipe off any oil.
- Reinsert the dipstick back into its compartment and push it all the way down.
- Remove it again. When you pull it out the second time, make a note of how much of the stick is coated with oil. Not all dipsticks are identical, but every single one will have some clear way of indicating where your oil level currently is versus where it should be (L and H, Min and Max, or low and high).
If the oil levels are within the recommended limits, then you are good to go. But make sure you check back in the future. If the dipstick has shown that the levels are low, you need to add more oil. While checking the oil levels, don’t forget to check the condition of the oil. Healthy used motor oil is usually black or brown and free of any visible pieces of debris. If you happen to see bits of debris in the oil, especially that of metal or the oil appears milky, murky or cloudy, those can be signs of internal engine damage or a coolant leak. That means it is time to make an appointment to get it checked. If you suspect a coolant leak, it is very important not to drive your car. We suggest you get your car towed to the dealership.
If you choose to do it yourself, here are the steps:
- Remove the cap to your oil tank (this is usually located somewhere at the top of your engine).
- Start adding oil, we suggest using a funnel to keep it as clean as possible. Note that it is important not to overfill the tank. This can cause issues with the engine. To prevent overflow, add oil in half quart increments at a time.
- When you pour, give the oil a few seconds to settle into the tank. Use the dipstick to test the levels after each half quart. Repeat this step until the oil levels are within recommended limits.
- Lastly, screw the oil tank cap back on.
More often than not, a quart is going to be the most you will need to add in order to get the levels back to where they should be. A second quart could be needed every so often, if it has been a while since your last check. If you find yourself adding extra oil to the engine on a regular basis, you should have your vehicle checked to make sure it isn’t leaking oil or burning it.
How often should I check my oil levels?
It is just as important to know when to check your oil as it is to know how to do so. Get into the habit of checking your vehicle’s oil levels once a month or so, but checking it every couple of weeks is even better. If you have an older car with a history of engine trouble checking it even more often than that is a good idea. We suggest checking the tank before taking long drives. You can do that on your own or bring your car into our service department to do it for you.