How to Check Engine Oil Level in a Car, Truck, Minivan, SUV or Other Automobile

oil cap and dipstick
Find out how to check your engine oil levels and how frequently.

Engine oil is used to lubricate moving components of an automotive engine while it is running. As the engine components move together, they cause friction. And friction causes heat. Engine oil is used to reduce friction while absorbing heat thereby preventing an engine from overheating or more importantly, preventing an engine from seizing.

Engine oil eventually breaks down over time and becomes less effective at lubricating engine components. This is the primary reason why automotive shops recommend vehicle owners have their engine oil and filter changed. Changing engine oil also contributes to vehicle longevity.

Some vehicles are equipped with a sensor alerting the driver that oil levels are low. Whether your vehicle has a sensor or not, checking engine oil levels from time to time is as important as changing your oil and filter especially when your vehicle ages and the number of miles start accumulating. If oil levels drop below low levels, the potential for a catastrophic engine event could occur. Let’s prevent this from happening to you.

6-easy steps to follow to check your engine oil:
  1. First, your vehicle must be on level ground and the engine cool. Engine oil needs to settle.
  2. Locate the engine oil dipstick in the engine compartment. It should have a round ring on top where you can insert your finger and may have a label “Engine Oil”. The tip of the dipstick (opposite the ring) has two marks (dots or lines) and are used to measure the oil level in the engine’s oil pan. See image. 
  3. Have a clean soft cloth handy
  4. Gently pull the dipstick upward and wipe the end of the dipstick with the clean cloth. Insert the dipstick back making sure it is securely to its lowest position. Wait a few seconds and then pull it out again.
  5. Looking at the end of the dipstick, there should be the presence of engine oil and hopefully at a level near the topmost mark. If it is, you are in good shape.
  6. Insert the dipstick back in its original slot and press firmly down securing it to the engine. You are finished.
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Congratulations, you just checked your engine oil.

In the event the engine oil level is below the low level mark on the dipstick or the dipstick shows no sign of oil at all, additional oil is needed for your vehicle’s engine. Don’t panic – there is an easy solution to bring the oil level to the required level.

If engine oil is needed, follow these recommendations:

  1. First, check your owners manual or consult with a professional to find out what type of engine oil is required by your vehicle. There are many types of engine oil on the market. Selecting the right type is important.
  2. Locate the engine oil cap in the engine compartment and unscrew the cap
  3. Once you have the right type of oil in hand, slowly pour oil where the engine oil cap was. A little at the time. You might want to use a funnel to prevent any spillage
  4. Check the dipstick after each pour to make sure you are close to the top mark on the dipstick. Once you reach that level, you are finished.

Congratulations, you just added oil to your engine.

Another tip: when you check your engine oil and the color is a dark brown, it’s time to have your oil changed.

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If you need a professional to check your engine oil or get your engine oil and filter changed, have Openbay help you with finding a trustworthy automotive shop nearby.

Safe travels.

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