How to Check Your Oil

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In order to run properly, a car needs oil. With no oil, too little oil, or old and worn out oil, an engine can be severely damaged or destroyed. Oil is responsible for lubricating all major components of the engine, reducing the wear and tear on the engine, and helping dissipate the heat generated by the engine. Periodically changing oil is necessary, and checking helps you know when to get an oil change.

The oil should be checked on a regular basis to ensure that there is enough oil in the engine and that it hasn’t become contaminated. It is a good idea to check the oil level about once a month and if the levels are low, you should add more to the engine. Checking and adding oil are generally simple operations that most people can handle on their own.

Here is an overview of how to check the oil in your car:

How to check the oil

Allow the car to cool - Let the vehicle cool down before attempting to check the oil.

Warning: Never check the oil when the engine is hot. It is best to check the oil in the morning before the car has run, as all of the oil will have run back down into the oil pan. If this is not an option, let the car cool down for at least 10 minutes.

Note: The vehicle should be parked on a flat surface so the oil is evenly distributed in the oil pan. A car parked on a hill can give a false reading.

  1. Open the hood - In most vehicles the hood release lever is located on the left hand side of the steering column, under the dash.

  2. Release the hood - Feel under the hood for the release latch to get the hood completely open.

  3. Prop the hood - Once the hood is open, use the hood prop stick to keep the hood up.

    arrow pointing at dipstick

  4. Locate the oil dipstick - In most vehicles the handle of the dipstick is yellow. In a front wheel drive vehicle the dipstick will be located near the front of the engine, whereas the dipstick on a rear wheel drive vehicle will be towards the center of the engine.

  5. Remove and reinsert the dipstick - Pull the dipstick out and wipe if off with a clean towel. This ensures the correct measurement. Reinsert the dipstick all the way and then pull it out again to examine the film of oil on the dipstick.

Tip: If the dipstick gets stuck on the way back in, turn it around. The pipe it fits into is curved and the dipstick bends in the direction of the pipe. If you have any issues getting the dipstick back in, pull it out and wipe it clean again.

  1. Inspect oil level - There should be two marks on the dipstick indicating “add” and “full" levels. The film of oil should fall between these two marks. If it is close to the “add” mark or lower than the “add” mark, the vehicle needs more oil.

Tip: If your vehicle consistently indicates a need for oil, there is probably a leak in the system, which should be inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

Note: Certain vehicles, especially newer European vehicles, do not use a dipstick. If you cannot find the dipstick, consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to check the oil in your specific vehicle.

  1. Determine the color of the oil - Rub some of the oil between your fingers and look at the color. If the oil is black or brown in color, then this is normal. If the color is a lighter milky color, this may indicate the radiator is leaking coolant into the oil and is in need of repair.

Note: If you feel any particles in the oil, this could indicate damage to the engine, so you should have a certified mechanic inspect the car as soon as possible.

Checking your oil is a painless and easy task that is essential to properly maintaining your car. It is a part of car maintenance that the average car owner can perform with little hassle and that will help keep your vehicle in top condition. When you are completed, you can then add oil to your car.

YourMechanic’s service professionals are happy to provide a more thorough inspection of your car’s oil and give their expert advice on everything from oil types to filters. YourMechanic provides top-quality Castrol conventional or synthetic oil in every mobile oil change.


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Jason

31 years of experience
148 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Surprise, Arizona
Needed new brake pads on my Land Rover-and booked through “your mechanic”- this was my second time using this service and I have to say- these guys are awesome- Today, Jason came out to my work place- and completed the work quickly. Thank you!!
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenix, Arizona
Jason was on time, self motivated, well educated in his craft, and very helpful. I am fully sold on your method of using the home service. Jason helped by creating a safer ride for my wife, saving me time, and saving money for my family. I will be a client forever. Dennis Laycock

Lee

18 years of experience
105 reviews
Lee
18 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Richmond, Virginia
Lee was professional and knowledgeable. The job did not take long he was a little late but like I said professional because he let know that he was running late. LEE IS AWESOME!!!!!!

Willie

23 years of experience
23 reviews
Willie
23 years of experience
Jeep Compass - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - North Hollywood, California
I made an appointment to have my brake rotors/disc replaced. On the day I scheduled my car services- it ended up raining. Willie checked in, moved my appointment, and continued to communicate through out the day until he was able to come work on my car. He took great car to make the repairs ANNNDDD SAVED ME MONEY by only doing what was necessary (only one of the rotors needed replacing). A blessing.

Honorio

18 years of experience
782 reviews
Honorio
18 years of experience
Saturn Vue - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Sunnyvale, California
This was our second appointment to service our Honda and Saturn with Honorio and we will continue to do so in the future. We highly recommend Honorio.

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