When it comes to routine maintenance, checking your oil is quite inexpensive, only costing you in a few minutes in time, a couple of old rags and of course the oil if required. However, it is commonly overlooked - due to not having the knowledge on how to check and fill your oil or not knowing the importance of having the appropriate oil levels in your car.
What does engine oil do?
Engine oil provides three key functions in a modern internal combustion engine:
- It keeps engine components working smoothly together
- It draws heat away from the engine, keeping it cool and stopping it from overheating
- It prevents carbon from accumulating, keeping the engine clean
Why do I need to check my car's oil level?
Keeping your oil level above the minimum and topping up with the correct oil, will keep your engine in check, so it's important to check this at least once a month (and more frequently with older cars) to see if your oil level is dropping and whether you need to add oil.
If you see your oil level dropping frequently, you may have a leak, which can be fixed at your nearest dealership. For more information on how to check and fill your oil watch our #HandsOnHelp video, or alternately read our guide below:
How to check your car's oil level
1. Make sure your car is parked on a level surface
If your car is on an incline, the oil reading could be inaccurate due to the oil tank's angle.
2. Turn off the engine
If your car has been running for a while, wait until the engine is cool for the oil to settle to get an accurate reading.
3. Open the bonnet and locate the dipstick
This is usually a bright coloured tab next to the engine but the location may differ between vehicles. If you cannot locate your dipstick, consult your vehicle's handbook for the exact location.
4. Pull this dipstick out, wipe it clean, then put it back
This is to remove any excess oil residue to get an accurate reading.
5. Pull the dipstick back out and check the level
If it is between the minimum and maximum oil level your oil levels are fine. If it is at the minimum or lower, oil will need to be added.
6. Use the correct oil
It's extremely important to use the correct oil for your vehicle. Using the wrong oil runs the risk of voiding any warranty on the car and damaging the engine.
7. Find your oil cap and unscrew it
Consult the vehicle handbook if you are unsure of its location.
8. Use an oil funnel
Using a proper oil funnel will drastically reduce the chance of any spillage.
9. Top up to the correct level
As a guideline, on most dipsticks - though not all - the gap between maximum and minimum will represent about a litre.
If the oil level is at the minimum mark a litre will be enough oil for the tank. Pouring oil in small doses and checking the dipstick each time will reduce the chance of overfilling. Overfilling can cause catastrophic damage to the engine, so it is important to get the right levels.
10. Don't overfill
If you have overfilled, book in with a qualified professional to drain your oil. Some cars may differ and using your handbook will advise you of specific guidelines for the amount of oil needed.
11. Check every month
It is advisable to check your oil every month and if the vehicle is older, more frequently. If your oil levels are dropping frequently and you are filling with oil regularly, you should take your car to your local dealership to be a checked by qualified technician who can check for any leaks and problems with your oil tank.