How To Check Car Oil Level

Regularly checking the oil level in your car is essential to prolonging its life. It keeps your engine running well and getting the most mileage. Oil lubricates an engine’s internal moving parts, preventing them from wearing out too quickly and helping keep the engine clean by preventing dirt build-up and assisting the engine in not overheating.

Checking the oil level is an easy task you should do at every other gas refill. All you need is a rag or paper towel and your car’s owner’s manual if you have questions. You can learn how to check car oil level through this article. 

Step 1: Before Checking

Ensure your vehicle is parked on level ground with the engine off, the transmission in Park (or manual transmission in a lower gear) and the parking brake engaged before lifting the hood.

Read your owner’s manual. Some oil manufacturers recommend checking the engine oil level before driving your vehicle when the oil is still cold. However, others will recommend checking the oil after you’ve warmed up the engine, so check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations for your vehicle.

Synthetic oils expand more when heated than regular oils, so it’s best to check the oil level when the oil is cold.

Talk to your mechanic if you are unsure.

If you want to test the oil and are driving, wait five or ten minutes before checking.

In extreme cold, let the engine run for a few minutes, then let it cool for 5 minutes before you check.

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Step 2: Open The Hood

Most vehicles have a hood-release lever below the left instrument panel. There’s also a safety pin under the front edge of the hood that you’ll have to unlatch before you can lift the hood.

Most vehicles have a hood-release lever below the left instrument panel. There’s also a latch under the front edge of the hood that you’ll have to unlatch before you can lift the hood.

You’ll push this latch. Then, you’ll need to look for a latch under the front of the hood, usually at the centre. Pull this latch and level up the hood to check the engine.

The hood on some cars will stay up, while on others, it requires a prop rod. This rod is usually folded up on the front or side of the engine compartment. Lift this rod and insert it into its position to support the hood.

Step 3: Locate The Dipstick

The dipstick on most vehicles has a small coloured handle – usually orange or yellow— marked with oil can symbol, so it’s easy to locate.

It is round or rectangular in shape and should face directly from the engine block to one side. In some vehicles, such as Ford and Honda, the dipstick may point directly from the top of the valve cover. The dipstick is usually located toward the passenger side or near the front. It is typically attached to the guide with a pencil-sized dipstick.

Most automatic transmission cars will have two dipsticks under the hood, one for the oil and the other for the transmission fluid. The drive rod is usually found on the rear of the engine bay or towards the driver, and the dipstick will usually be fitted into a slightly larger tube. This transmission fluid is typically pink or red in colour. Never confuse these two. Never oil the transmission; it can cost you money.

Once you’ve positioned the dipstick correctly, you’re ready to remove it and check the oil.

Step 4: Remove The Dipsticks

Most dipsticks range in size from one foot to three feet. You’ll need to check out tips to get the reading you’re looking for. Slowly pull out the dipstick. It’s like pulling a sword from its sheath. Have a rag or paper towel ready and wipe off the oil from the end of the dipstick.

It may take a little effort to get it free, but you shouldn’t have to pull too hard or twist on most dipsticks. Don’t force. Once you’ve removed the cover, it should be pulled out pretty quickly.

At the top of the dipstick, you will see two lines: the bottom line indicates the oil level is less than one quart. The line above shows that the crankcase (car oil tank) is complete. Some dipsticks are also marked with “full” and “add.”

Step 5: Check Oil Level

Insert the dipstick into the tube and push it down. Now withdraw it and look closely at the tip, which should have oil on it. Every dipstick indicates the proper oil level, whether it be two pinholes, MIN and MAX, or the letters L and H (low and high). If the top of the oil mark is between the two effects or within the crosshatched area, your vehicle has enough oil. If it’s low or below the minimum mark, you need to add oil as described below.

If the oil is higher than the maximum fill point, you may need to drain some fat from your car.

Also, check the colour of the oil. The colour and consistency of an engine oil indicate its age and possibly other engine performance issues that you may need to address. If it is milky or pale, coolant is leaking into the engine. The oil will change colour from yellow or amber to brown and black as more and more particles are present in the oil from the engine. Dust and metal particles will slowly build up on your engine’s cylinders over time, so the oil needs to be changed at the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals. Also, look closely for metal particles as this could mean there is damage inside the motor. If you see either of these conditions, take your vehicle to a mechanic for further diagnosis.

Step 6: Add Oil

Use the recommended oil mentioned in the manual with a designation such as 0W-20 or 5W-30. 

First, open the oil filler cap, usually on top of the engine. Start by adding about half a quart and using a funnel. It may take time for the oil to settle into the oil pan. Avoid overfilling the horn. You should pour oil quickly because over-filling with oil is bad for the engine. Wait a minute and re-check the dipstick. Add the rest of the quart if the level is below or near the minimum mark. Unless your engine leaks or burns oil (or if you haven’t checked it in a while), you will rarely need to add more than a quart. However, if a second quart is necessary, add that in slowly as well, checking as you go.

Don’t worry if you spill a little bit of oil on the engine compartment. Although spilt oil smells bad and may smoke some, it tends not to be super-dangerous. Use a rag or a towel to wipe it up.

Last, screw the oil filler cap back on tightly.

Step 7: Re-check

After adding a quart of oil, wait a few minutes for the oil to drain down the crankcase and then check again to ensure that the oil level is between the high and low marks. The oil level doesn’t have to be high enough for your engine to have enough lubricant to run safely.


This article helps consumers to check car oil level. Regularly inspecting it is an important component of maintaining your engine in good working order and getting the most mileage out of it. The oil lubricates the internal moving elements of the engine, preventing them from wearing down too rapidly. It also keeps the engine clean and prevents it from overheating by reducing dirt accumulation. Checking the oil level is a quick and simple task that we recommend you complete every time you fill up your tank. All you’ll need is a cloth or paper towel, and if you have any questions, your car’s owner’s handbook.

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