How To Check Your Engine Oil

We have all heard the question, “when was the last time you checked your cars oil?” only to mumble to yourself that “I would but i don’t know how.” Well fear not because in this article I will explain how to check the engine oil level in your car.

If left unchecked and allowed to run dry, or at least extremely low in level, a number of issues in your car can arise. If you are lucky you will realise something is wrong before any real damage is done, however, even the most studious observer of the instrument cluster may not notice that the oil warning lamp has stopped working and now the engine oil level doesn’t even register on the dipstick.

The Oil Pressure Warning Lamp is circled.


Our cars engines require oil to keep the internal moving parts all nice and lubricated, but what happens when the oil level is too low? In an engine there is an oil reservoir called the “sump”. The sump holds the oil and that oil is pumped around to the various moving parts, in the engine, via oil galleries. If the oil level is too low, the oil pump is unable to “suck up” the oil to pump the oil around. Think of the oil pump like the heart in your body. If there isn’t enough blood in your body for the heart to pump around, our bodies give in and stop working. Our cars are no different, not enough oil and the oil pump can’t do its’ job, resulting in engine failure.

To help avoid this engine failure we need to check the oil level in the sump. First we need to park the car on level ground, if the car is parked on a slope a false reading on the dipstick will present. Then run the engine for a couple of minutes to warm the engine oil, after that turn the engine off. Next, open the bonnet/hood and locate the engines dipstick. If you are unable to find the dipstick, open your cars owners manual and the location will be shown inside the manual.

The dipstick may be located on the engine like the one above.

Next, remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a clean rag or paper towel. Look at the end of the dipstick and determine what the Low and Full oil level marks look like and where exactly they are. Not all dipstick markings are the same so take the time to understand how your dipstick is marked.

Once you know where the marks are, reinsert the dipstick into its tube and leave it sit there for a few seconds. Then remove the dipstick and carefully check where the oil level is on the stick compared to the markings on the dipstick. Some dipsticks can be a little bit on the hard side to read the level so you may need to repeat the above process a number of times to get a clear reading, or you may even need to try looking at the markings in various lighting to determine the current level.

If the oil level is either on the low side of the markings, or worse still not even leaving a mark on the dipstick then use your owners manual, or look up the world wide web, as to the correct type, grade and viscosity (how fast the oil flows), of oil that your engine requires. To avoid over filling the engine with oil, only add small amounts of the top up oil at a time, via the oil filler neck, until the correct oil level is reached.


On the flip side if you haven’t had an oil change for a long, long, long period of time, then it is possible that the oil level may be correct but the oil has sludged up and is not being pumped through the engine properly, by the oil pump, causing engine failure. Think of it like your body having a heart attack caused by an artery being blocked

Whilst not all engine damage and failures can be avoided, sometimes a fault in the manufacturing process could be the cause, however, being able to perform a check of the engine oil level is a great start to carrying out some basic preventative maintenance on your car, which can help you to avoid a costly repair bill.

18 thoughts on “How To Check Your Engine Oil

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  1. Thank you, I have recently been looking for information about this subject for a while and yours is the best I’ve came upon so far. However, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?

    Liked by 1 person

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