Knowing How to Check Your Car’s Oil is a skill every driver should have. Your oil is essentially the life blood of your car’s engine, so you want to be sure it has enough to keep it going! If it runs out, the result is usually catastrophic damage that is extremely expensive to repair!
This is especially important if you’re driving an older vehicle. When a car’s odometer rolls past the 100,000-mile mark, wear on the engine can cause it burn off small amounts of oil every time you drive. That loss adds up.
New cars aren’t immune either! Modern engines have a tendency to burn oil. Sometimes at an alarming rate (there’s currently a class-action lawsuit against General Motors for this very thing!).
How to Check Your Car’s Oil
Make sure your car is parked on level ground. The engine should be off, and the transmission should be in park. Set the parking brake for extra safety insurance.
Open the Hood.
If you don’t know how to do this, consult your owner’s manual or Google to locate the release mechanism(s). Most vehicles have a hood-release lever on the left side of the driver’s compartment, near where your left leg would be. Pull it. There’s also a safety catch mechanism under the edge of the hood or behind the grille you’ll need to release before raising the hood, so find that, and push it away from the hood latch assembly. Now raise the hood. If the hood is supported by gas shocks or springs, you should be able to simply raise the hood until it stops, and let go. If it has a manual support rod, you’ll need to unlatch it from it’s retainer, and secure it to it’s spot on the hood.
Locate Your Oil Dipstick
Usually tipped with a yellow or orange end, you should be able to locate the dipstick along the side of the engine. Depending on the vehicle, it may be to the left (driver’s) or right (passenger’s) side, but it may be towards the front or rear edges.
Once you locate your dipstick, check your oil by first removing the dipstick and wiping it clean with a lint-free rag. Re-insert the dipstick, and remove it a second time to read the level.
Read the Oil Level
There should be a set of marks on your dipstick, or a crosshatched range. In either case, you want your oil level to be inside the marked area. Too low, and you’ll need to add some oil. Too much, and you’ll need to investigate the reason. It may have just been overfilled at the last oil change, but fuel or coolant could also be leaking into your engine oil and raising the level on the dipstick.
If you’re low, fill it with the correct weight of oil (usually found on the oil filler cap) with a funnel. Add a little at a time and re-check. The marked range is usually equal to one quart, so estimate the amount needed accordingly.
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