Man's hand checking car oil level
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A slick guide to checking your car oil level and topping up

Your car helps you get from A to B on a daily basis and it’s remarkable how much you rely on it - that’s why it’s important you take care of your set of wheels. From washing and cleaning to routine maintenance checks, simple chores like these ensure your car remains reliable for as long as possible. 

Although understanding what’s under the bonnet can seem daunting at first, there are checks you can do quickly and easily yourself, including checking the oil. It’s much more straightforward than you might think, and knowing what to do could spare you an unnecessary visit to the garage.  

Checking the oil

What do you need?

Before you start any job, you’ll need to ensure you have all the right equipment, and that’s no exception when it comes to checking your oil. Things you’ll need include: 

  • Gloves and washing up liquid. Dirty oil can stain your hands and be quite difficult to get off, which is where the gloves will come in handy. Even with gloves, you may well need the washing up liquid, or a strong hand degreaser, to hand. 
  • Paper towel/kitchen towel. You’ll need this to clean the dipstick. 
  • Funnel. This will ensure you don’t spill any oil while pouring it into the car.

How to check the oil level in your car

There are simple steps involved in checking the current oil level in your car. 

1. Park Correctly. Before you do anything, you’ll need to make sure that your car is parked in the right place. This should be on a flat, level surface to ensure the readings are accurate. If you need to move the car, leave it for 10 minutes so the oil can settle. 

2. Open the Bonnet. You do this by simply pulling the lever in the footwell on the driver’s side of the car. If you’re unsure where it is, check your manual, as it’ll help you to locate it. Once this is done, make sure you disengage the safety latch in order to get underneath the bonnet.

3. Find the Dipstick. Although this may sound difficult, most car manufacturers make these pretty easy to spot – because of the brightly coloured handle. Usually, you’ll be looking for either a round or T-shaped handle, which looks like it’s joined to a spindly pipe. However, if this isn’t the case, then it could be in its own recess in the plastic engine cover.

4. Remove and Clean. Once located, remove the dipstick from its sheath. You’ll then need to wipe the oil from the end with your paper towel. Once this is done, put it back into the sheath, pushing it down until it clicks into place.

5. Check the Oil. Finally, pull the dipstick back out to get a clear reading of the oil level inside your car. 

The dipstick will have two marks on it, and the level needs to fall within these two marks. 

When to top up the oil

It won’t be essential to top up the oil until it’s at the lowest mark on the dipstick, as this is the lowest amount of oil required to run your engine safely. 

However, if you check your oil and it’s halfway between the two points or less, it’s a good idea to top it up to prevent it from hitting the minimum amount without you realising it. 

How to top up the oil

You can top up the oil in your car in two easy steps. These are: 

  • Locate and remove the oil filter cap within the engine bay – this will usually have the word ‘oil’ written on it, or feature a picture of an oil can. 

  • After removing the cap, place the funnel into the hole - You can then begin pouring, but don’t pour in too much at once, as this could be dangerous for your car. Instead, pour it in a little at a time, going back to check how much there is with the dipstick until you reach the maximum mark – or thereabout.

Checking your oil level regularly will give you a good indication of your engine’s health. If you find yourself having to top it up increasingly often, there could be an issue, which is best investigated by taking your car in to a garage. 

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