How do I check the oil level in my car?

Without oil, the moving components in your engine will fail. The oil keeps metal components lubricated, reducing friction and dissipating heat. Keeping your engine oil level full will protect it from damage, saving you from expensive repairs and time without your car.

Older cars tend to burn oil due to wear and tear on engine components. The seals and gaskets in old vehicles are more likely to leak oil as well. While the amount of oil lost due to leaks and burning may not be noticeable day to day, over weeks or months it can put your engine at risk of disaster.

Getting in the habit of checking your oil regularly whether you drive an old car or a new one is a good way to gauge the condition of your vehicle and will allow you to provide more information to your mechanic or service advisor when you bring it in to the shop.

When should I check my oil?

The best time to check your oil level is when your car has been shut off for at least 5-10 minutes. Your engine circulates oil through the motor. When you turn your car off after driving it takes time for all the oil to return to the pan at the bottom of the engine. An easy way to get in a routine of checking your oil is to do it when you fill your gas tank.

Get ready to check

When checking your oil, make sure your vehicle is parked on a flat surface and shut off. Put the transmission in park (automatic) or reverse (manual) and make sure the parking brake is engaged. The vast majority of vehicles have a dipstick for checking the engine oil. To access the dipstick, you need to pop the hood. Usually, the hood latch is located on the left side of the driver’s footwell.

How to read the oil level from the dipstick

Once you’ve popped the hood, locate the dipstick (don’t confuse it with the transmission fluid dipstick, which, depending on your engine layout will be coming from either behind the engine or to the right or left of it). Pull the oil dipstick and wipe away the oil with an old rag or cloth. Insert the dipstick back into the tube and pull it out again.

You can now read the dipstick to check the oil level in your engine. The end of the dipstick has markings indicating oil level. Some dipsticks use dots or holes, others use lines indicating full or low. Some will even have “F” or “L” printed on the stick.

Look at where the oil level falls compared to the full and low-level markings. There should be oil present in the space between the bottom and top marks. If the oil level falls near the low line, it is a good idea to add some more to ensure you don’t run out. If your car’s oil level is below the low line, slowly add oil a little bit at a time. Give the new oil a minute or two to settle and check the level again.

Check regularly and keep track of oil levels

If your oil level was low, check it every week after refilling and keep track of the miles you travel. If you notice the oil level decreasing slightly every week, your car may have an oil leak or be burning oil.

My car doesn’t have a dipstick!

Auto manufacturers have been moving away from the dipstick recently. This move follows the trend of making vehicles only serviceable by technicians. If your car does not have a dipstick, the oil level can be accessed by the message center on the dash or infotainment system. Depending on the car, this can be difficult, and it’s best to let a technician check your oil level for you.

If you realize after a few weeks of checking that your car is a losing significant amount of oil, make an appointment with a repair shop.

If your car is losing oil, stop in at Matson Point S!

At Matson Point S, our technicians have the skills and experience to diagnose your oil loss problem. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online today!

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