How to check your car engine oil

You could assume that if your vehicle is more than a couple of years old it may use a bit of oil between services. Some models straight off the showroom floor are known to consume more oil than others, too, but if you keep on top of regularly checking your oil and topping it up when needed, it’s usually nothing to worry about.

On the contrary, allowing your car’s oil to drop too low will have detrimental effects on your engine and will cause extensive damage that can’t be undone.

If you ever see the oil warning lighting up on your dash, it’s usually too late, but if you pull over to the side of the road and turn the car off immediately – and we can’t stress the word ‘immediately’ enough – you’ll have a far greater chance of salvaging your engine.

But if you don’t pull over immediately, you won’t be getting much further up the road before your engine seizes up anyway – and if that happens, your car goes absolutely nowhere for less than a few thousand dollars at best.

If your oil level has dropped low enough to display any of the following symptoms, there’s already some expensive damage being done.

  • The engine oil warning light on the dash
  • A knocking sound from the engine on startup or whenever it’s running
  • Overheating
  • Loss of power

Alongside tyre pressure, water levels and a host of other basic checks; you should be popping the bonnet to check your engine oil level at least once a month. By keeping on top of it, your engine will stay in pristine condition.

What you’ll need:
High-grade engine oil specific to your vehicle
Funnel
An old rag

Step 1: If your vehicle has been running, allow approximately half an hour for the engine to cool and the oil to settle.

Step 2: Find the dipstick – look for a bright coloured ring-pull for easy removal.

Step 3: Next, remove the dipstick and using your rag, wipe the end clean.

Step 4: Once wiped clean, feed the dipstick all the way back in, wait a moment, then withdraw it again to check the level the oil reaches. The oil should be between the two marks on the end of the stick – not above the top mark or below the bottom mark.

Engine Oil Marker
If the level is low, remove the oil cap and add a small amount of oil using a funnel. It’s equally important not to overfill your engine so only use enough to ensure the level remains between the two pointers. If you’ve been keeping on top of your oil level checks, you shouldn’t need more than a litre.

Continually check the level by repeating steps 3 and 4.

Once the level is correct, ensure the dipstick and oil cap are secured and any spilt oil has been wiped away.

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