Advice and Tips

How to check your car oil

Advice and Tips // 28 January 2019

How to check and refill your car’s engine oil

Without oil, your car’s engine will grind to a halt. That’s why it pays to check your oil levels regularly and top it up if needed.

Sometimes your car will alert you to low oil levels with an engine light on the dashboard, other times your engine may be louder than usual and performance may dip. Trust us, these aren’t warning signs to be ignored!

The good thing is you don’t need to be a mechanic to refill your car oil. All you need is the following:

  • Rubber gloves
  • An old kitchen cloth
  • Engine oil
  • A funnel

Ensure your engine is ready for an accurate reading

Car engine problem

Before starting, ensure your engine is turned off and cooled down. It’s also important to check your car is parked on flat ground because if it’s on a slope, the reading won’t be accurate and you’ll have to carry out the check all over again.

Locate the dipstick and use it properly

Checking car engine oil with dipstick

Open your car’s bonnet and locate the dipstick. This is usually brightly coloured with a round or T-shaped handle. Pull out the dipstick (slowly) and wipe it clean of oil with a cloth. Then, re-insert it until it clicks back into place.

To accurately test your engine oil level, remove the dipstick again. There will be two indented marks in the metal stick showing a minimum and maximum level.

If your oil level is below the bottom line, or if there isn’t any on oil on the dipstick at all, you should immediately top up your oil.

If you need to refill your car’s engine oil, ensure you’re using the right type and know how to do it

Choosing the right car engine oil

If you need to fill up your car’s oil, check your log book first to make sure you’re using the correct oil. Then, locate the oil filler cap and unscrew it; it should have an outline of an oil can on it or the word OIL.

Keeping the cap somewhere safe, position the thin end of your funnel at the top of the spout and slowly pour your oil in.

To get an idea of how much oil you need; the gap between the MIN and MAX marks on the dipstick usually represents around 1 litre of oil. So, if your oil mark was at the minimum, you will need around a litre to top it up.

It can take time for the oil to travel down the tube so take things slowly and pour a bit at a time, checking your dipstick using the method described above in-between pours.

Make sure your car is safe to use once the oil has been changed

Refilling car engine oil

When the oil reaches the maximum line on the dipstick, your job is done! Pop the oil cap back on and the dipstick back in, close the bonnet and you’re good to go.

If your oil level continues to drop quicker than usual, you may need to visit a professional garage to have your engine oil replaced or a leak repaired.

Even if you don’t have any warning signs that your engine oil is low, it’s good practice to check your oil levels at least once a month for peace of mind. After all, cars aren’t cheap to replace!