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How to Check Your Oil

Before checking your oil, it is a good idea to check the car’s owners manual and follow the automaker’s recommendations. Some newer cars have electronic oil monitors and don’t have traditional dipsticks for manual inspection.

Make sure your car has cooled off and is parked on a level surface before checking your oil. Checking your oil while the engine is cool prevents you burning yourself on any hot parts of the engine and gives time for the oil to drip down from the top of the engine and settle in the oil pan, where it is measured by the dipstick.  When the engine off, open the car’s hood and find the dipstick. Pull the dipstick out from the engine and wipe off any oil from its end with a lint-free rag.

Then insert the dipstick back into its tube and push it all the way back in. If you have trouble pushing the dipstick back in, try turning it around. The pipe it fits into is curved, and the metal stick will naturally bend in the direction of the curve, if you put it back in the way it came out.

Pull the dipstick back out and take a look at both sides of the dipstick to see where the oil is on the end. Every dipstick has some way of indicating the proper oil levels. If the top of the oil streak is between the two marks or within the crosshatched area, the level is fine. If you need to add oil, do not add the oil through the tiny tube that the dipstick sits in. Look for a screw-off cap on top of the largest part of the engine labeled “Oil Cap” or something similar.  Be sure you are adding the right indicated grade of oil you ought to be using in your car. Also if you need your oil changed it would be best to call a mechanic unless you are familiar with the process, it can be a messy frustrating process.

Keep an eye on the oil’s color. It should appear brown or black. If your oil is not appearing to brown or black, get the car to a mechanic for further diagnosis. If everything is okay, wipe off the dipstick again and insert it back into its tube. Close the hood and you’re done.