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How to check and top up your engine oil level

When checking and changing your oil, it’s important that you have the right oil for your car, that you check your dipstick correctly, and put in just enough to get your oil to the correct level. We’ll tell you how.

Use the dipstick to check the engine oil level

Use the dipstick to check the engine oil level

Regularly checking your engine oil is one of the most important things you can do to look after your car and is just one of the things that is checked during a service. You shouldn’t have to completely change your oil every time you check it, just a top up should be fine until the oil goes bad.

What you’ll need to check and top up your oil:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Kitchen towel
  • Engine oil
  • Funnel

Oil can stain your hands so you’ll be glad of the gloves, and the kitchen towel is great for wiping the dipstick after you’ve used it. The funnel is a lifesaver for not spilling oil everywhere.

Make sure you have the correct oil for your car. Consult your owner’s manual to confirm the oil type.

Step 1: Park your car on flat ground

To start with, make sure your car is parked in the right place, on flat ground. If the car is on a slope, the readings won’t be accurate.

Step 2: Locate the dipstick and wipe clean

Open your car’s bonnet and locate the dipstick. This is usually brightly coloured with a round or T-shaped handle.

Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. Once you’ve wiped the dirty oil from the dipstick, re-insert it until it clicks back into place.

Step 3: Remove the dipstick again and check level

You should then remove the dipstick again to check the oil level. There will be two marks on the dipstick to show the optimum level that your oil should be at. Your oil level should be somewhere between the two.

If your oil level is below the bottom line, or if there isn’t any oil on the dipstick at all, you should immediately top up your engine oil.

Step 4: Fill up your oil using the funnel

To fill up your oil, you first need to locate the oil filler cap in your engine bay. This should have the word ‘oil’ marked on it, or an outline of an oil can.

Then, position your funnel at the top of the spout and pour your oil in. Make sure that you are using the correct oil for your car.

To get an idea of how much oil you need; the gap between the marks on the dipstick usually represents around 1 litre of oil, so you know that if your oil mark was at the minimum, you need around a litre to top it up. If it’s only halfway down, you probably need around half a litre.

Try not to overfill by pouring a bit at a time, and checking your dipstick using the method I just told you about.

All done…

That’s you sorted. Now you just need to pop the dipstick back in and clean your hands!

How do I know when I need to change my oil?

You’ll know when this happens if the colour of your oil is black and gritty, your engine is louder than normal, you can’t remember when you last changed your oil, or your check engine light won’t go away. Also, if you keep topping up your oil and the level keeps dropping quickly, then your oil is probably too old and needs to be changed.

About the Author

Sophie McGraw

Staff Writer at Arnold Clark

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