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When Should You Check the Engine Oil Level? Essential Tips for Car Maintenance

Regular car maintenance is crucial for extending the life of your vehicle and ensuring its optimal performance. One aspect that is often overlooked is checking your engine oil level. In this blog post, we will help you understand the importance of checking your engine oil level and address the question, “when should you check the engine oil level?” We will also guide you on when to do it and how to do it correctly.

Key Takeaways

  • Check engine oil level before long journeys, weekly and after cooling down the engine for optimal performance.

  • Use correct grade of oil with funnel when topping up. Check dipstick periodically to avoid overfilling.

  • Consult vehicle owner’s manual or use an online lookup tool to select right oil based on manufacturer recommendations, viscosity and local climate/driving conditions.

When Should You Check The Engine Oil Level?

serviceman using oil dipstick to check engine's oil level

Optimal performance and minimised risk of damage are benefits of monitoring your engine oil level at appropriate times. Ideal moments for this task include before embarking on long journeys, weekly, and once the engine has cooled down.

This practice helps you steer clear of sudden engine problems and preserves the adequate lubrication needed for your vehicle’s moving components.

Before Long Journeys

Embarking on a long journey? Don’t forget to check your engine oil level before hitting the road. It’s vital to confirm the engine oil level before setting off on long trips to ensure your engine performs optimally and to avert potential complications during the journey.

Regular oil level checks can prevent engine damage, performance decline, and overheating that could cause a breakdown.

Weekly Checks

Incorporating weekly engine oil checks into your routine can go a long way in maintaining your vehicle’s performance. Guaranteeing that your engine has sufficient lubrication for efficient operation helps minimise the chance of engine damage.

Additionally, routine oil level checks can aid in detecting potential leaks or engine issues that could impact its performance.

After Cooling Down the Engine

To ensure an accurate engine oil level reading, allow your engine to cool down for at least 10 minutes before checking. This settling period helps obtain a more precise reading.

Skipping this step can lead to an inaccurate reading and potential problems due to insufficient or excessive oil in your engine.

The Importance of Regular Oil Level Checks

Regular oil level checks are crucial for the overall health and performance of your car. Maintaining the proper oil level is essential to ensure the engine components remain lubricated and to prevent premature wear. Insufficient oil level can cause the engine to fail, resulting in severe damage.

Regular inspections of your engine oil level can:

  • Prevent engine damage

  • Ensure proper lubrication

  • Uphold peak performance

  • Identify potential leaks or issues with the engine that may impact performance and fuel efficiency.

In essence, regular car oil level checks are a crucial part of car maintenance that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Tools and Materials Needed for Checking Engine Oil

car's oil level being topped up in car's engine

Having the correct tools and materials at your disposal is imperative when checking your engine oil level. A clean cloth or paper towel, a funnel, and the appropriate oil grade for your vehicle are necessary for checking and topping up engine oil.

Make sure to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine the correct motor oil grade for your specific car model, as using the right vehicle’s oil is crucial for optimal performance.

Step-by-Step Guide to Checking Your Engine Oil Level

The process of checking your engine oil level is straightforward and can be accomplished in a few easy steps. In the following subsections, we will guide you through locating the dipstick, cleaning it, and reading the oil level between the minimum and maximum marks.

Locating the Dipstick

The first step in checking your engine oil level is locating the dipstick under the hood of your car. The dipstick is usually brightly colored, making it easy to identify. If you’re unsure about its location, refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for guidance.

Cleaning the Dipstick

Cleaning the dipstick is a necessary step before reading the oil level. Carefully remove the dipstick from the engine and wipe it clean using a lint-free cloth or paper towel. This ensures that you’ll get an accurate reading of the oil level without any residue or old oil interfering with the measurement.

Reading the Oil Level

After cleaning the dipstick, reinsert it fully into the engine, then pull it out again to read the oil level. The dipstick will have two marks indicating the optimum oil level.

Ensure that all the oil reaches between these marks in the engine bay, as having too much oil or too little oil can harm your engine and affect its performance.

Topping Up Your Engine Oil: Best Practices

checking engine's oil level using oil dipstick

Adherence to best practices is key when topping up your engine oil, to prevent overfilling or using an incorrect oil grade. In the following subsections, we will discuss how to choose the right oil grade, add oil slowly, and periodically check the dipstick during the top-up process.

Choosing the Right Oil Grade

Choosing the right oil grade for your car is key for peak engine performance and prevention of damage. To identify the optimal oil grade for your car, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or use an engine oil lookup tool. The manual or lookup tool will provide the recommended oil grade and viscosity for your particular car model.

Adding Oil Slowly

It’s vital to pour oil slowly when topping up your engine oil to prevent an overflow. Using a funnel, gradually pour the oil into the engine, adding a small amount at a time. Overfilling can lead to frothing, friction, and reduced lubrication, which can result in decreased engine performance and increased wear on engine parts.

Periodic Dipstick Checks

During the oil top-up process, it’s advisable to check the dipstick periodically to ensure the correct oil level. This helps you avoid overfilling the engine and causing damage. Before starting, make sure to locate the oil filler cap, as it is where you will be adding the oil.

Keep an eye on the dipstick’s oil level indicators to ensure you’re adding the right amount of oil.

Understanding Electronic Oil Monitors

Electronic oil monitors are becoming more common in modern cars, offering a convenient and accurate way to monitor your engine oil level. These devices use oil level sensors and algorithms to monitor various parameters affecting the oil condition, such as:

  • Mileage

  • Engine revolutions

  • Temperature

  • Driving time

  • Idle time

Electronic oil monitors provide several advantages compared to traditional dipstick checks, including:

  • Convenience: They offer a quick and easy way to check your oil level without needing to locate and remove the dipstick.

  • Accuracy: Electronic oil monitors provide more precise measurements of oil levels.

  • Real-time monitoring: They allow you to monitor your oil level in real-time, providing immediate feedback on any changes.

  • Integration with vehicle systems: Electronic oil monitors can be integrated with other vehicle systems, providing additional information and alerts.

These advantages make electronic oil monitors a valuable tool for maintaining proper oil levels in modern vehicles.

However, it’s important to note that electronic oil monitors may only be accurate when the engine is at operating temperature. Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to check the oil level using the electronic monitor in your car.

Signs of Low Oil Pressure and When to Seek Professional Help

Low oil pressure is a serious concern that can lead to engine damage if not addressed promptly. Some signs of low oil pressure include:

  • The oil pressure warning light illuminating on the dashboard

  • Engine overheating

  • Burning oil smell

  • Flickering oil pressure warning light

Noticing any of these symptoms should prompt you to get professional help to prevent engine damage and keep optimal performance. A qualified mechanic can identify the cause of the low oil pressure and recommend the necessary repairs to ensure your engine remains in good working condition. Don’t ignore the signs of low oil pressure – addressing the issue early can save you from costly repairs in the future.

How to Choose the Right Engine Oil for Your Car

mechanic pouring oil into the car to top up the engine's oil level

Selection of the correct engine oil for your car’s engine is key to sustaining peak performance and averting engine damage. To find the correct oil grade for your car, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or use an engine oil lookup tool. The manual or lookup tool will provide the recommended oil grade and viscosity for your specific car model.

When selecting engine oil, consider factors like the manufacturer’s recommendations, viscosity, and your location. Different climates and driving conditions may require different oil grades, so ensure you’re using the appropriate oil for your car and environment. The use of incorrect oil can result in decreased lubrication, increased friction, and a shortened engine lifespan, hence the importance of selecting the right oil for your vehicle.


In conclusion, checking your engine oil level is an essential aspect of car maintenance that should not be overlooked. By following the tips and best practices discussed in this blog post, you can ensure optimal engine performance, prevent potential damage, and prolong the life of your vehicle. Remember to check your oil level regularly, use the right oil grade, and seek professional help if you notice signs of low oil pressure.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you check engine oil when hot or cold?

Checking your engine oil when the engine is cold is generally the best practice as it provides the most accurate reading. Ensure to wait for at least 10 minutes after shutting down the engine before you check the oil level. This allows the oil to settle and also prevents you from burning yourself on a hot engine.

What is the correct procedure for checking the engine oil level in a car?

To check the engine oil level in your car, wait for the engine to cool down and park on a level surface. Follow your owner’s manual instructions for locating and cleaning the dipstick, then check the oil level.

What tools and materials do I need for checking my engine oil level?

You’ll need a clean cloth or paper towel, a funnel, and the correct oil grade for your vehicle in order to check and top up engine oil.

When is the appropriate time to check the engine oil based on mileage?

Engine oil should be checked every 1,500 miles or every couple of weeks, whichever comes first. It is recommended to check the owner’s manual for specific guidelines regarding oil change interval, and consider using a high-mileage oil for older vehicles.

When should I check and add oil?

Check the dipstick for the two marks indicating the ideal oil level. If the level is below the lowest mark, you should top up your engine oil immediately.



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