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How to Check Car’s Engine Oil: Step-by-Step Process

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

If the engine is the heart and soul of a motor vehicle, engine oil keeps it running. Without an adequate level and proper quality of engine oil, your car's engine will not operate smoothly.

And since the engine is also one of the costliest pieces of equipment in any motor vehicle, it is necessary to keep it at an optimal level.

This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to check your car's engine oiland common problems that may occur due to an inadequate oil level or poor quality of engine oil.

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Contents

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Why is Engine Oil Important?

Since engine oil is a lubricant, it reduces the friction between various engine parts and prevents clogging. This increases the lifespan of mechanical parts by reducing corrosion.

A well-oiled car engine runs much better than one with an ill-maintained engine. Furthermore, a well-oiled engine boosts fuel efficiency and spreads less pollution.

Which Engine Oil is the Best for Your Motor Vehicle?

Broadly, engine oils are of three types - synthetic engine oil, semi-synthetic engine oil, and mineral engine oil. Although the primary purpose of all engine oils is the same - to let your engine perform optimally, each oil is unique based on the car's make and the climatic conditions in which it is driven.

Besides the oil type, car owners also check the viscosity and fluidity of the oil that enters the engine.

There are two grades of viscosity and fluidity: cool and hot. Check your car's owner's manual to find the right engine oil type.

Now that you know why engine oil is important and which is the best engine oil for your car, discover how to check your car's engine oil in the following section.

How to Check Your Car's Engine Oil - A 3-Step Guide

Step 1: The Preparatory Stage

Before checking or refilling your car's engine oil, you must prepare yourself to do it properly. This includes checking the owner's manual, parking your car on a flat, stable surface, popping the hood, finding the dipstick, and locating paper towels or rags.

Scan the Owner's Manual

  • Reading the owner's manual is necessary to learn about your vehicle's oil-checking process.

  • For instance, some oil manufacturers recommend that the best time to check the oil level is before starting the vehicle and when the oil is cold. However, other oil manufacturers recommend the oil check after the vehicle warms up since it loosens the oil and makes it less viscous.

Check the Stability of the Surface

  • Before checking the oil level of your car's engine, ensure that the vehicle is on a flat, smooth surface since if the oil moves to the pan's side, the results will be inaccurate.

Locate the Latch

  • After the car is positioned properly, locate the latch beside the driver's seat and push it or pull it to open the hood. After opening the hood, use the prop rod to stabilise the hood.

  • Most modern cars do not need a prop rod since they automatically remain stable.

Find the Dipstick

  • After opening the hood, you need to find the dipstick to check the oil level. The oil dipstick typically refers to a yellow, orange, or red cap. The shape of the dipstick is rectangular or circular.

  • You can often find the dipstick near the passenger side, inserted into a pencil-sized dipstick guide. Some car manufacturers put the symbol of an oil can on the dipstick to allow owners to find the real dipstick.

  • Finally, get a few paper towels to check the oil's consistency. Alternatively, you may use an old rag to perform the test.

Step 2: Check the Oil

This step-by-step guide on How to check your car's engine oilhas mentioned everything you need to know before checking the engine oil. The following paragraphs discuss the steps needed to check the level and consistency of your car's engine oil.

Pull Out the Dipstick

  • The size of a dipstick is generally 1-3 feet. You need to pull out the dipstick entirely until the tip.

  • Hold an old rag or paper towel around the dipstick port while pulling it. The rag or towel will help you wipe off the excessive oil from the sides.

  • Also, don't apply too much pressure to the dipstick since a little force would ideally be enough.

Evaluate the Oil's Colour, Consistency, and Quality

  • After pulling out the dipstick, observe the colour, texture, and consistency of the oil at the tip. Put some drops of oil on the paper towel or rag to observe its colour.

  • Often, the colour of the engine oil indicates its age and helps detect multiple engine efficiency issues. Good quality engine oil appears slightly yellow-greenish but not brownish, brackish, or dark.

Repeat the Process

  • Just to be sure, you may enter the dipstick again into the hole and repeat the process to verify the result.

  • However, before reinserting it, ensure that the dipstick is fully dry. 

Evaluate the Oil Quantity

  • The end of a dipstick has two dots. The two dots correspond to the oil pan’s minimum and maximum fill lines.

  • Check whether the minimum dot is near the tip or not. Also, check whether the maximum dot is about one inch above the minimum dot or not.

  • If your car’s engine oil is at the optimum level, the fill line will be halfway between two points.   

Now that you know how to check your car's engine oil, learn how to add oil to your engine in the following section.  

Step 3: Add Engine Oil

Every time you pour engine oil into the oil chamber, you infuse new life into your car. Remember the following tips to pour engine oil like a professional:

Grab the User Manual

Scan the owner’s manual to discover which oil type you need to purchase. Take careful note of the grade and use the same grade oil every time to keep your engine in top condition.

Alternatively, you may call your car manufacturer or dealer to find out. 

Open the Oil Fill Cap

Locate the cap with the expressions like ‘Oil Fill’ or ‘5W30.’ Open the cap, clean the area with a rag or paper towel, and insert a funnel in the mouth.

The funnel ensures that the oil doesn’t spill over since spilling might be dangerous for engine components. 

Add the Oil

One golden rule to remember is not to hurry when filling the engine oil. Allow it time to absorb the oil.    

Check the Oil Level

After filling the engine oil in the chamber, it’s time to verify whether the oil level is optimal.

To do this, you have to remove the dipstick again and check the oil level. If the oil level is not proper, fill in some more oil and check the level again.

After you are done, double-check all seals and remove all paper towels, rags, or bottles before lowering and closing the hood.   

Conclusion

The engine is undoubtedly the most important component of any car. Knowing how to check your car’s engine oil is essential to increasing the lifespan of your engine. Keep an eye on engine noise, oil smell, engine light, exhaust smoke, and driving distance to change or top up your car’s engine oil and drive happily.

Visit ACKO Insurance's official website to read more informative blogs and secure your car with car insurance plans that offer wide-ranging coverage.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some answers to the most asked questions related to how to check cars engine oil.

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How can I find out the quality of my car’s engine oil?

Finding the quality of a car’s engine oil is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is pull out the dipstick and observe the tip. If the colour of the engine oil is brackish, brownish, or black, the engine oil is old; if it’s yellow-greenish or amber, it’s new. 

How can I find out how much engine oil my car needs?

You must refer to your car’s owner's or user's manual to find the right information about the engine oil quantity. Alternatively, you may connect with the car manufacturer or dealer to get the required information. 

Are there any special tools to check a car’s engine oil?

There is no need for any special tool since whatever tools are required to check a car’s engine oil are already provided in the car. You only need a dipstick, paper towels, and a rag to check your car's engine oil. 

How to determine whether my car needs an engine oil change?

Keep an eye on the engine light, engine noise, exhaust smoke, and driving distance to find whether your car needs an engine oil change. Also, change the engine oil if the oil becomes black or brown.

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet and is subject to changes. Please consult an expert before making any related decisions.

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