How to Top Up the Oil in Your Car

Regular car maintenance can make a huge difference with keeping your vehicle in good condition. For major repairs and special jobs, hiring a professional mechanic from Your Mechanic is a simple and convenient solution, but there are a few small tasks that all drivers can do to keep their car running at its best.

One of those small but important tasks is making sure there’s enough oil in your engine and to add any if it’s low. Newer cars have sensors to let the driver know if the oil is low, but it’s still a good idea to check the oil regularly. This should be done about once per month. And don’t worry—even if you’re one of those drivers who wouldn’t dare peak under the hood of your car, we’ll show you how to add oil to your engine in a few simple steps.

Part 1 of 3: Park your car on a level surface

Before checking the current level of oil in your engine, or adding any oil, you’ll want to make sure that your car is parked on an even surface. That way, you can be sure you’ll get an accurate reading.

Step 1: Park on flat ground. Check the level of the ground where your car is parked. Make sure the car is parked on flat ground.

Step 2: You must park on a flat surface. If the cat is parked on a slope, drive your car to a flat surface before checking the oil.

  • Tip: If you’ve just driven your car, make sure to allow 5 to 10 minutes before checking the oil level. You need to give the oil a few minutes to drain from the top of the engine down to the tank where the oil sits when the car isn’t running.

Part 2 of 3: Check the level of oil

Checking the level of your oil is essential for knowing whether you need to add more oil to your engine or not. If your engine runs out of oil, it can immediately fail because the engine parts will grind against each other. If your engine has too much oil, it can flood the engine or damage the clutch.

So, monitoring the level of your oil can save you a lot of time and money in unnecessary repairs. And it only takes a few steps to complete this task.

Materials Needed

  • Clean cloth

hand releasing hood lever located beneath steering wheel with arrow pointing out the prop rod

Step 1: Pull hood release lever. In order to check your oil, you need to open the hood of your car. Most cars have a lever located somewhere beneath the steering wheel and near the foot petals. Simply pull on the lever and your hood will open. If you can’t find the lever, check your owner’s manual for its location.

Step 2: Undo safety latch, open hood. After releasing the hood, you’ll need to undo the safety latch that prevents your hood from opening on its own. Normally, the safety latch can be undone with a lever under the ledge of the hood. This will allow you to fully open the hood.

Step 3: Prop open hood. Prop the hood open so that you aren’t injured by the hood falling down. Some cars have hoods that will stay open on their own with hood shocks; however, if yours does not, you’ll need to make sure you secure it so that you can safely check the oil.

  • First, hold the hood open with one hand while you use your free hand to locate the metal rod that is located on either the underside of the hood or along the edge.

  • Make sure to secure the hood prop in a slot along the underside of the hood or the side of the engine console so that it is sturdy.

Step 4: Locate the dipstick. The dip stick is a long, thin piece of metal that slides down into the oil reservoir of your car. It should be easy to find and typically has a small yellow loop or hook on the end of it so that it’s convenient to hold onto.

dipstick with oil on it being wiped with cloth

Step 5: Remove dipstick and wipe clean. Remove the dip stick from the engine and wipe it down with a clean cloth. It’s necessary to wipe the dip stick clean so that you can get a good reading. After wiping it down, make sure to slide it all the way down back into the engine.

  • Tip: Use an old rag, paper towel or some other cloth that you won’t need for anything else. Wiping off the dip stick will definitely leave oil stains on the cloth, so you don’t want to use anything that shouldn’t be stained.

close-up of dipstick with minimum and maximum levels labled

Step 6: Remove dipstick and read oil level. Remove the dip stick and read the level of oil in your car. The dipstick should have two points on it that identify minimum and maximum oil levels. The oil level should fall between these two points. If your oil is close to or below the minimum, you should add oil. After reading the level, replace the dip stick to its original position.

  • Tip: The space between marks on a dip stick is equal to a quart of oil. If your oil is at the minimum level, you should probably add a quart, although it’s wise to add a little at a time to make sure you aren’t putting in too much at once. Oil is sold in single liter plastic bottles.

Part 3 of 3: Adding oil to your car

Now that you’ve got an accurate reading of the oil in your engine, you’re ready to add oil.

  • Warning: Adding oil to your car is not a substitute for getting your oil changed. It’s important to check your owner’s manual regarding how often you should have your oil changed, although most experts suggest changing your oil every 5,000 miles or every three months. Changing your oil is a more complicated process than adding oil to your engine, and one of our mobile mechanics would be happy to do this for you wherever your car is located.

Materials Needed

  • Funnel
  • Oil (1-2 liters)

Step 1: Make sure you have the right type of oil. Your owner’s manual is the ideal place to learn what type of oil to use.

diagram showing different oil viscosities where they work on a meter

  • Normally, the viscosity of oils is identified with two different numbers (viscosity is the thickness of a fluid). The first number is followed by a W and represents how well the oil can circulate the engine during cold temperatures, like in winter. The second number refers to its thickness in warmer temperatures. For example, 10W – 30.

  • Because heat will thin oil and cold will thicken it, it’s important to choose oil that won’t get too thin in high temperatures or too thick in cold temperatures.

  • Synthetic oils are typically more expensive but they last longer than mineral oil, withstand higher temperatures, and flow better in cold temperatures. It’s not necessary to use synthetic oil unless specified by your owner’s manual.

person unscrewing oil from engine

Step 2: Locate and remove the oil cap on your engine. The cap is normally clearly marked with the word OIL or it’ll have a large graphic of a dripping oil can.

  • Tip: Make sure you’ve found the right cap. You don’t want to accidentally pour oil into another part of the engine, such as the brake fluid or coolant. When it doubt, check the owner’s manual of your car to see exactly where the oil cap is located.

person pouring oil through funnel into oil reservoir in car engine

Step 3: Place the funnel in the oil spout and add oil. It’s not necessary to use a funnel, but using one can make the process much cleaner. It’s harder to get the oil directly into the spout without a funnel, which might result in oil spilling over the engine.

Step 4: Replace oil cap: After adding oil, replace the oil cap and dispose of the empty oil bottle.

  • Warning: If you notice that you need to add oil frequently to your engine, your car may have a leak or some other serious condition and it should be seen by a mechanic.

If you notice that the oil on the dipstick is any other color than black or a light copper color, you should have a professional check it out, as that can be a sign of much larger problem with your engine.

Next Step

Schedule Oil level is low Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil level is low Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil level is low Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating


Rating Summary


38 years of experience
239 reviews
38 years of experience
Kia Rio L4-1.6L - Oil level is low - Las Vegas, Nevada
Milton was very informative.
BMW 528i - Oil level is low - Las Vegas, Nevada


21 years of experience
69 reviews
21 years of experience
Buick Park Avenue V6-3.8L - Oil level is low - Fresno, California
Timely and very good


20 years of experience
86 reviews
20 years of experience
Toyota Camry L4-2.2L - Oil level is low - Fort Washington, Maryland
He explained everything that needed to be done, what was good and what was bad. He explained so I could understand. Great attitude and focused. Very good.


22 years of experience
35 reviews
22 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata L4-2.4L - Oil level is low Inspection - Birmingham, Alabama
Mr. Polk was very professional and prompt. He explained what was needed and did inspection of fluids and other points.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

How to Upgrade to Synthetic Oil
Choosing to switch your vehicle from conventional oil ( to synthetic oil ( can be one of the best and easiest choices you can make toward keeping your vehicle in top shape. While the steps to make the switch are...
How to Replace a Low Oil Level Sensor
A low oil light sensor allows you to know when your oil levels are low. A bad sensor won't be able to alert you, causing wear and damage as you drive.
Signs Your Car Needs an Oil Change
Oil changes keep your car engine running smoothly. Rough idling, slow acceleration, and engine noises mean you need to replace your car oil.

Related questions

Cad wont go faster than 35mph
Hello. From what you describe it would appear that some sort of serious issue may have occurred. If you've found oil all over the engine I would try to figure out where it came from. It is likely that an...
Type of oil and when to change
Oil change intervals on your vehicle are determined by the vehicle's engine oil change monitoring system. A message on your instrument panel will alert you when it is necessary to change the oil. The change interval is based on a...
Hey Robert I have a 2004 lexus ES 330, and it is leaking oil all over the under carriage of vehicle, but when I check oil level, i
When it comes to oil leaks, if your car is typical, there is probably more than one leak point. Without pre-cleaning the engine, it is possible to put a fluorescent dye into the engine oil, run the engine, and then...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 ·