Guide: How to Check and Top Up Your Car's Engine Oil Level

30th Dec 2020

By Nathan Dale

Why does car engine oil need topping up?

Petrol and diesel engines use oil to lubricate essential moving parts hidden inside the engine. All engines require a certain level of oil to operate correctly and reliably.

Running an engine with too much or too little oil can cause significant problems, potentially causing major damage that will be expensive to put right.

How to check your car's engine oil level

Before you get started, to check and top up your car's engine oil level you'll need:

  • Kitchen roll
  • Bottle of engine oil
  • Funnel

Disposable gloves are also useful to keep your hands from getting dirty. Then follow these simple steps:

1. Park on a level surface

Making sure your car is parked on a level surface will ensure that the oil level reading is accurate. Parking on a slope can distort the reading one way or another.

Your car's engine needs to have been turned off for at least 10 minutes before you check the oil level. Not only is this important for safety - engine bays can get extremely hot - allowing the oil to settle will help you get an accurate reading.

2. Check your owner's manual

Have a look at your owner's manual to find out if you have an electronic oil level monitor, or whether you will have to check it manually. Many modern cars - but not all - have electronic oil level monitors.

If your car does have an electronic monitor - bingo! All you have to do is go through the infotainment system and your car will tell you what the oil level is, without you needing to open the bonnet. Your hands don't even need to get dirty!

If it's a manual dipstick used to check the oil level, note the location of both the dipstick and the oil filler cap underneath the bonnet then move on to the next step.

3. Locate and clean the dipstick

Open your car's bonnet and locate the dipstick. It's usually a brightly-coloured tab or plastic handle on the side of the engine.

Dipstick locations vary depending on the vehicle, so if you're struggling to find it, your owner's manual will tell you where it is.

Once you've found the dipstick, remove it and use a piece of the kitchen roll to wipe it clean, removing any oil residue left on there. Note the position of the minimum and maximum markings.

4. Check the oil level

Put the dipstick back in its original location - all the way down - and then pull it out again. Some oil will be visible on the dipstick - this is your car's engine oil level.

  • If the top of the oil reaches between the minimum and maximum markings, the oil level is fine.
  • If it is at or near the minimum, oil will need to be added
  • If it is above the maximum level, some oil will need to be drained and you would be wise to have your car checked out by a professional

How to top up engine oil

If you need to top up your engine oil, don't worry. It's an easy task that most people are capable of, even if they're not car-savvy. Here's how to do it:

  1. Find the oil filler cap and unscrew it
  2. Place a funnel inside it (this greatly reduces your chances of spilling any oil)
  3. As a guideline, on most dipsticks - though not all - the gap between maximum and minimum will represent about a litre of oil
  4. To avoid overfilling, pour in small doses of oil and check the dipstick after a few seconds each time you add more oil

Oil checking & topping up FAQs

When & how often should I check the engine oil?

You should check your oil at least once a month to make sure it's at the correct level, and always before long journeys. Though your oil is checked and replaced during your car's annual service, it's advisable to keep an eye on it yourself throughout the year to ensure it's at the correct level.

As mentioned, you should only check your car's oil level after the engine has been turned off for at least 10 minutes.

What oil does my car need?

This varies from engine to engine, and the owner's manual will be able to tell you what oil you need.

Alternatively, all Evans Halshaw dealerships will be able to advise and supply you with the oil you need, no matter what make and model the vehicle is.

Where can I buy engine oil?

Engine oil can be bought from any Evans Halshaw dealership. You will also find it on shelves at automotive supply stores, petrol stations, motorway services and even supermarkets.

What happens if you overfill engine oil?

Too much oil will put additional pressure and strain on internal engine components, which can lead to leaks, blockages and severe damage. Other problems include engine wear, due to the components not receiving optimal lubrication, and ultimately leading to engine failure.

Still not sure? Talk to the experts

At Evans Halshaw, our expert technicians check, top up and change the oil in cars of all makes, models, shapes and sizes day in, day out. As a result, we've gotten pretty good at it.

If you're not 100% sure, it's always best to have a qualified vehicle technician take a look at your vehicle. Please book an appointment at your nearest Evans Halshaw dealership.