If you drive a gas-powered vehicle, your vehicle’s motor oil is incredibly important to keep it functioning at 100% and preventing costly maintenance charges. Luckily, checking your oil level is a straightforward task that pretty much anyone can do!
Why Check Your Oil Level?
Oil checks and oil fill-ups are a regular part of all vehicle maintenance because they prevent engines from wearing down too quickly. Oil also keeps the engine clean and stops it from overheating.
Checking your oil regularly also keeps you informed of the status of your car’s oil. This way you’ll know if you need to refill the oil or book an oil change ahead of your recommended schedule.
How to Check Your Oil Level
Unless your car features an electronic oil life monitor, check your oil with the classic dipstick method.
First, make sure your car is parked on a level surface. In other words, your driveway won’t work. In most cases, you can check your oil when the engine is cool for safety purposes, but check your car’s owner manual for recommendations for your vehicle first.
Next, locate your dipstick. It will be under the hood of your car and usually on the left side of the engine. Most usually have a yellow or orange circular handle to be easily recognizable. Pull the dipstick out and wipe it clean with a rag.
Once clean, push the dipstick all the way back into its tube before pulling it back out. Examine it to see where the oil ends. All dipsticks will feature a marking system that will show the oil level. Use this marking system to determine if your oil needs a refill.
Electronic Oil Life Monitors
Newer cars may feature an oil life monitor instead of relying on the dipstick method. This will allow you to check your oil without opening the hood of the car.
To check engine oil this way, turn the car on without starting the vehicle and navigate to the oil monitor on the info screen. From there, you can check the status of your oil and see approximately when your car will need a full oil change.
What Else Should You Look for When Checking Your Oil?
If you used a dipstick to check your oil level, you can quickly see if your vehicle is having other issues.
If the oil level is low, top it up with the oil recommended in your owner’s manual. This is the most common problem and the easiest to fix.
On the other hand, if your oil is above the accepted level, it can be a sign of condensed water or fuel or a coolant leak. Book a maintenance appointment with your mechanic. These can be serious problems.
Also look for signs of aged oil. Motor oil should be glossy and somewhat transparent. If the oil has dirt, seems too thick, or gives off a rotten smell, it’s time to schedule an oil change.
Finally, if the oil has a milky brown appearance or you see a crusty residue above the oil line on the dipstick, take your engine in for immediate service because you may have a coolant leak.
How Often Should You Check Your Oil?
Check your oil often. But unless you see any signs of trouble, you only need to change your oil every 8,000 km or 12 months. Using synthetic oils can lengthen this time frame, but if an oil check shows signs of aged oil, always book an oil change. Your owner’s manual will recommend a schedule for your vehicle.
Oil Checking for Engine Protection
Performing regular oil checks helps keep your engine in top condition and is easy to do. As spring continues to arrive and you begin your spring vehicle maintenance, remember to check your oil. You may find that it’s time to schedule an oil change or that your oil needs a quick top-up so your vehicle’s running in excellent condition.