How to Check Your Car’s Oil Level

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How to Check Your Car’s Oil Level

Next to fuel and water, oil is the lifeblood of your car. Checking the quality and the level of oil in your car is a very important part of regular automobile maintenance. Many garages, fuel stations, and auto repair shops offer oil checks free of charge or for a very minimal cost, but checking your oil is something that you should do regularly. Oil checks are very easy to do, and can be done at home by all car owners and drivers.

Oil Level

For the engine to work smoothly and efficiently, it has to be properly lubricated. Friction, heat, and mechanical wear and tear will all take their toll on the moving parts of your engine. Without enough oil to lubricate pistons, cylinders, valves, and gears, the lifespan of your car will be shortened to the point that it won’t start up anymore. The damage sustained by a poorly lubricated engine can also cause accidents while on the road. Checking your oil level not only prolongs the lifespan of your car, but also keeps you and your passengers safe while on the road.

Oil Quality

Many people think that an oil check begins and ends with a reading of the dipstick. When checking your oil level, you should also check the quality of the oil. As oil flows through your engine, it also absorbs heat and collects debris from combustion and normal operation. The dirt and debris is then carried by the oil; while the oil remains slick, its lubricating properties are reduced. When checking oil, you should also check the quality and consistency of the oil to see if it’s still good enough for miles on the road.


Checking your car’s oils level and oil quality is one of the easiest auto maintenance tasks you can perform in the comfort and convenience of your garage or driveway. Here are the steps you need to do to perform a proper oil check:

  1. Park the car on a level surface.
  2. Turn the engine off, and allow the engine to cool for as long as it takes to bring the metal into room temperature. Never work with a hot engine, because you’ll run the risk of a severe burn. Never attempt to cool the engine by splashing water all over it; the metal may weaken or crack, especially if you’re working with an old car or a very hot engine. Cooling the engine to room temperature will also give you the most accurate reading of oil level and oil quality.
  3. When the engine bay has sufficiently cooled enough for you to handle the steel, pop open the hood and locate the oil dipstick. On most cars, the oil dipstick is a long metal rod sticking out of the engine. The dipstick usually has a ring or a loop sticking out of it, and is located near the spark plugs.
  4. Draw out the dipstick, and wipe it with a clean rag.
  5. Replace the dipstick into the receptacle all the way in, and draw it out again.
  6. To read the dipstick, look at the pointed end and check the markers. You need to top off the oil if the oil level falls below the “full” line. Be careful not to overfill the engine oil to spare yourself the effort of draining the excess oil.
  7. To check the quality of the oil, wipe the dipstick clean and replace it all the way into the oil dipstick receptacle. Draw the dipstick out, and wipe it with clean paper towels.
  8. Inspect the paper towelsfor any burnt smell or signs of debris. Clean oil does not smell like gasoline, has a burnt smell, or has all sorts of debris in it. If your oil smells burnt or is dirty, you need to take your car to a professional mechanic for an oil change.
  9. After checking your oil and seeing that everything is good with your car, replace the dipstick and close the hood.

By checking your oil yourself, you can spend thousands of dollars in maintenance costs over the lifespan of your car. With these tips and steps, checking oil does not have to cost you anything at the auto repair shop or gas station.