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How to Check the Oil in Your Car

By Edited Apr 14, 2014 2 1

Step by Step Instructions for Checking the Engine Oil Level in Your Vehicle

How to Check the Oil Level in Your Car
Motor oil is essential for your car’s engine to run efficiently and without damage. If you run your car’s motor without oil or while the level is too low you will end up severely damaging your engine and will have to pay big bucks to fix or even replace your motor.  To avoid harming your engine and possibly breaking down somewhere, it is essential that you learn how to check the oil in your car. This article will give you simple, step by step instructions for checking the engine oil level in your vehicle.

What does Oil Do? Why is it Important?
Motor oil serves 4 very important functions in your engine. Engine oil lubricates, protects, cools, and cleans your internal combustion motor.
  • Lubricates - Your car’s engine is full of moving metal parts. Without proper lubrication these metal parts would create extreme amounts of friction and heat that will damage the engine.
  • Protects - As it lubricates all those metal moving parts in your engine, your motor oil also protects those metal parts against wear and tear and corrosion by coating the metal parts in a thin layer of oil.
  • Cools - Massive amounts of heat is created by the internal 
    Cut Away of an Oil Filter
    combustion (explosions of gas in the cylinders) and by the friction of fast moving metal parts. Motor oil cools this heat by flowing around hot metal engine parts and down into the oil drain pan where the outside air works to cool it down.
  • Cleans - As oil flows around your engine it picks up tiny bits of metal, dirt, and other deposits that can rob an engine of efficiency and damage an engine. Those harmful deposits are stored in the oil filter and removed when you change your oil and your filter.
How to Check the Oil in Your Car
  • Turn off your car.
  • Open your hood. There will be a latch somewhere near the driver's seat. In most vehicles this hood latch can be found on the floor near the bottom of the left side of the driver's seat or under the dash on the far left next to the driver’s door. Pulling this latch will pop your hood. You will then need to get out and undo the hood latch. Reach under the front of the hood and feel for a small lever that you push up or down. You may need to bend down and look at it the first time you open it. After you open the hood be sure to prop 
    Engine Oil Dipstick
    the hood open with the arm.
  • Locate your oil dipstick. In most cars the handle of the dipstick is painted bright yellow or orange to make it easier to find and it often has the word “oil” or “motor oil” written on it.
  • Pull the oil dipstick all the way out. Depending on the size of your car’s engine it may be very long. Be careful, the metal end of the dipstick may be very hot because it has been sitting down in the hot motor oil.
  • Using a paper towel or rag wipe the end of the oil dipstick clean. Look at the end of the dipstick and note the gauge that is etched on the metal. This is usually a section of the metal dipstick with etched hash marks on it. It can also be two holes or dots on the dipstick showing the low amount and high amount of oil. You will use this gauge to check your car’s oil level to make sure that it falls within the recommended amount.
    How to Check the Oil in Your Car
  • Put the oil dipstick back in and push it all the way down until it is in the position that you found it.
  • Pull the oil dipstick back out and carefully look at the end where the oil level gauge is. You want the motor oil level (the line where the oil stops on the dipstick) to be somewhere on that etched part or in between the two holes on the end of the dipstick.
You have just successfully checked the oil in your car! Now, what should you do?
  • Oil level falls within the recommended area. Do nothing! Your car has the right amount of oil in it to perform well.
  • Oil level too low. Either add more oil yourself or get a mechanic to add oil for you. To add oil you must look up what type of oil you need in your car. This may vary depending on the season and your driving habits. You will add oil to the engine by removing the oil cap and carefully pouring oil in. If you are just a bit low on oil it is safe to drive to a mechanic. If you don’t see any oil on the dipstick, do not drive your car until you have added oil.
  • Oil level too high. Having too much oil in your engine can also cause damage. You will need to drain some of your oil out of your engine. This is done by locating the drain pan under the car. The drain pan will have a bolt on it which is the oil drain plug. If you remove this plug the car’s oil will drain out. You want to only drain a small amount of oil so be careful it will come out fast and if you have recently driven your car it will be very hot.

Learning how to check the oil level in your car is a great first step to maintaining your own vehicle which is rewarding and can save you lots of money. You may also be interested in learning how to do a full car fluids check to make sure that all your car’s fluids are at the level they should be or learning how to change your motor oil.
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Dec 18, 2012 6:00pm
Very thorough.
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