Video: how to check your car's engine oil

Video: how to check your car's engine oil
Running low on engine oil is an easy enough oversight to make, but it’s a mistake that could end up costing you in the long run if it leads to lasting engine damage.

And in fact, checking your fluid levels is one of the simplest bits of car maintenance you can do.

To help keep your fluid levels healthy, and your car on the road, we’ve put together our quick guide on how to check your engine oil.

How do I check engine oil?

When checking your engine oil, follow these simple steps:

  1. Ensure your vehicle’s parked on level ground and your engine is cool.
  2. Open your bonnet and locate the dipstick. If you’re unsure where this is, check your user manual. Your car may not have a dipstick – some modern cars are fitted with electronic oil monitors.
  3. Once you’ve found the dipstick, pull it out and wipe off all the oil with a cloth or rag. You should notice two marks on the dipstick itself, identifying the minimum and maximum oil levels.
  4. When it’s clean, put the dipstick back into its tube, pushing it all the way back in. Let it sit and then remove it again.
  5. If the level is halfway between the minimum and maximum levels on the dipstick you don’t need to add any oil. If it’s below halfway, you may want to add some oil. If it’s below the minimum mark, you need to add oil.
  6. If you do need to top up, make sure you have the correct oil for your car and locate the oil cap on your engine – usually marked with the picture of an oil can.
  7. Remove the cap and pour in the oil a little at a time, checking the level with the dipstick to ensure you don’t pour in too much, as this can also cause damage.
  8. Replace the cap and the dipstick and clear up any oil spills before closing the bonnet.
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What should my engine oil level be?

There is no set amount of oil that every car needs – it depends on the type and size of your engine. However, the dipstick in your car’s engine will clearly indicate what your engine’s oil level should be.

What colour should my engine oil be?

When you buy a new bottle of oil, it will be a clear, golden colour that makes it look a lot like syrup (although you wouldn’t want to pour this onto your pancakes).

When it’s in an engine, the oil will quickly change into a dark brown colour which may seem quite alarming. This is perfectly normal and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your engine.

When should I check my oil level?

Manufacturers recommend changing your engine oil every 12 months or 9,000 miles, whichever comes sooner, but you should still check your engine oil at regular intervals to ensure your car remains safe to drive.

You should check your oil levels when your engine is cold. Wait at least 10 minutes after use before checking to ensure you get an accurate reading and don’t accidentally burn yourself on a hot engine.

Which is the best oil for my car?

Again, this depends on your vehicle but you need to make sure you use the correct oil for your car, so as not to damage the engine.

To find out which oil is right for your car, check your handbook or contact the manufacturer, as it’s essential you use one that meets its technical specifications.

Once you’ve identified the correct oil, check out the range of lubricants and oils available at the RAC Shop.

Where should I check my oil level?

Checking your oil levels is a quick and easy process that can be done easily while your car is parked in your driveway or outside your home.

If you have a problem with your oil, or if you have any other issues with your vehicle, contact one of the RAC’s Approved Garages and book your car in to see a professional at a garage you can trust.

Why should I check my engine oil level?

The oil in your engine is one of your vehicle’s most important elements. It keeps all the engine’s internal parts moving as they should, and stops them from wearing out too quickly.

If the oil level in your engine drops too low it’ll stop it from working efficiency causing it to seize up, and could eventually lead to significant engine damage if not addressed.

Oil should be drained and refilled annually as part of the MOT. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still check your levels at regular intervals throughout the year to avoid your engine running low.


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How to check your oil - FAQ

  • How do I know the correct oil for my car?

    The best place to check you have the right oil for your car, is by checking the car’s owners manual. You should make sure to choose the right oil viscosity, which is a measure of the oil’s thickness. You should also make sure to use oil with the correct additives. Many cars require synthetic oil, which is designed to last longer and perform better than conventional oil.

  • How do I add oil to my car?

    Here are the steps you should take when adding oil to your car:

    1. Locate the oil dipstick. This is usually located near the front of the engine, near the radiator. Make sure the car is parked on a level surface and the engine is off.

    2. Pull the dipstick out. Wipe the end of the dipstick clean with a rag, then re-insert it into the engine. Pull it out again and check the level of the oil.

    3. If the oil level is low, add oil. Find the oil filler cap, which is usually located near the top of the engine. Remove the cap and pour in the correct type and amount of oil, as specified by your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

    4. Replace the oil filler cap. After you’ve added the oil, make sure the cap is securely replaced and tightened.

    5. Check for any leaks. Have a look around the engine to make sure there are no oil leaks.

  • What are the 3 types of oil for cars?

    There are three main types of oil for cars. The first type of oil for cars is conventional oil. This oil is made from petroleum-based products, and it is the most widely used type of oil. It is designed to provide basic lubrication for an engine and to help protect it from wear and tear. Conventional oil is also relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for drivers on a budget.

    The second type of oil is synthetic oil. This oil is made from synthetic materials and is designed to provide superior protection for an engine. It is more expensive than conventional oil, but it offers better lubrication and can help increase engine performance. It is recommended for high-performance engines and vehicles that are driven in extreme conditions.

    The third type of oil is synthetic blend oil. This oil is a combination of conventional and synthetic oils and is intended to provide the best of both worlds. It is more expensive than conventional oil, but it can provide both the protection of synthetic oil and the affordability of conventional oil.

  • How do I check my engine oil?

    Here’s how you can check your engine oil:

    1. Park your car on a level surface and turn off the engine. Make sure the car is completely cool before checking the engine oil.

    2. Locate the oil dipstick. This is usually in the engine bay and marked with an “oil” label. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a cloth.

    3. Reinsert the dipstick and wait a few seconds before pulling it out again. The dipstick should have a line that measures the amount of oil in the engine.

    4. Check the oil level. If it’s below the “low” mark, you’ll need to add more oil. If it’s above the “full” mark, you may have too much oil and should drain some out.

    5. Check the oil’s color and consistency. It should be a light brown color with a slightly viscous texture. If it’s black and thick, you may need to change your engine oil.

    6. Reinsert the dipstick and close the hood.

    7. Check for leaks, and then turn on the engine. You may get an engine warning light if there is a wider issue.

  • Can I use any 5W-30 oil in my car?

    5W-30 is a multi-viscosity oil that is commonly used in modern vehicles. 5W-30 oil is thinner when cold and thicker when hot, providing better protection in a variety of temperatures. But this doesn’t mean you can use any 5W-30 oil. Check your car owner’s guide or search for your make and model online to see if it is correct. By taking the time to do your research, you can make sure you’re using the best oil for your car.

  • How much engine oil should I put in my car?

    When it comes to adding engine oil to your car, the amount you need to add depends on the type of car you have and the type of oil you are using. The best way to determine the amount of oil you need to add to your car is to check your owner’s manual. The manual will provide you with the exact amount of oil your car requires and the type of oil it should be using.

  • When should you check engine oil?

    Generally, you should check your engine oil every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. It’s important to check your oil when the engine is cold, as this will give you an accurate reading. Before you check the oil, make sure your car is parked on level ground. If the oil is low, add oil as necessary. If the oil level is too high, you may need to have the oil drained and refilled.

  • How do I know if my car engine oil is low?

    If your engine oil is low, it can cause serious damage to your engine and can even lead to expensive repairs. Here are some steps to help you determine if your car engine oil is low:

    1. Check your car’s oil level with the dipstick. Open the hood of your car and remove the dipstick from the engine. Wipe the dipstick clean with a rag, reinsert it into the engine and remove it again. The oil should reach the “full” line on the dipstick. If it does not, you will need to add oil.

    2. Look for signs of oil leaks. If you see any oil stains underneath your car, it could be a sign that your oil is low.

    3. Listen for excessive engine noise. If you hear an unusual noise coming from your engine, it could indicate that your engine oil is low.

    4. Monitor your car’s performance. If you notice your car is running rougher than usual, it could be a sign that your engine oil is low.

    If you determine that your engine oil is low, be sure to add more oil to the engine as soon as possible. Failing to do so can cause serious damage to your engine and can lead to an expensive repair.

  • Which oil is thicker 5W-30 or 10w30?

    When it comes to choosing between 5W-30 and 10w30, it’s important to note that each type of oil has its own benefits and drawbacks. 5W-30 is thinner and more easily flows through the engine, but it may not provide as much protection as 10w30. 10w30 is thicker and provides better protection, but it may cause more friction and wear on the engine. Ultimately, the best oil for your vehicle is the one recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Do you put oil in the car when it's on or off?

    Most conventional motor oils should be added when the engine is off and cold. This allows the oil to properly circulate through the engine. However, there are some synthetic oils that are designed to be added when the engine is running. It is generally best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific make and model before adding oil to ensure you are using the correct type of oil and adding it correctly.

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