How to Check Your Motor Oil Level


It’s important to keep your car in good shape by regularly inspecting all of its parts and systems. One of the most important aspects of car maintenance is checking the motor oil level and making sure you have enough oil in your car. Motor oil plays an absolutely vital role in keeping your engine running—from lubricating fast-moving parts to preventing gunk and deposits from building up over time, your engine oil is the elixir necessary for extending your car’s lifespan and encouraging proper motor function. In this blog post, we will teach you how to inspect your motor oil, how to add more oil if needed, and how to find the right motor oil for your specific car make and model.

How to Check Your Motor Oil

Fortunately, it is generally an easy process to check your motor oil, particularly if you have an older, simpler car. All you will need is a paper towel or a rag and a level parking spot! Here are the steps to checking your car’s motor oil:

1.     Park the car on level ground. Checking your car’s motor oil can only be accomplished after this step is completed, the parking brake is engaged, and the engine is turned off. Some manufacturers recommend that you check the motor oil levels while your car’s engine is still warm from use, while others say that this doesn’t matter. Check your owner’s manual to see which is best for your car, and consider either taking your car for a 10-minute drive or letting it cool down for an hour or so to adjust the engine temperature accordingly.

2.     Open the hood and find the dipstick. Unless you have a newer model of car that electronically monitors motor oil levels for you, your car will have a dipstick nestled amongst the inner workings of your engine. Many dipsticks have a symbol of an oil can on the cap end to indicate what they are—but some have an unlabeled handle. Fortunately, there’s not much else in your engine that looks like a dipstick, so it should be pretty clear—if you are unsure if you’ve found the dipstick, consult your owner’s manual!

3.     Wipe the dipstick clean and reinsert. Now is when you will need your rag! Wipe the dipstick clean of any oil using your rag or paper towel and carefully reinsert it back into its case.

4.     Read the dipstick. After you’ve cleaned and reinserted the dipstick, you are ready to read the results! Withdraw the dipstick once more and you should see oil on the dipstick’s tip; it should partially cover the very end of the dipstick. Upon closer inspection, you will see that the tip of your dipstick has several indicator marks on it: sometimes this is an “L” for “low oil” or an “H” for “high oil,” or the words “refill” or “full.” Other times there are simply two lines or holes to indicate high and low oil. As long as the motor oil level rises between the two indicators on your dipstick, you have enough motor oil in your engine to keep things running smoothly—however, if you find you’re closer to the “low” end, you may want to top off your engine with extra oil! (Additional concerns: check the motor oil for discoloration, debris like rocks or sand, and deposits. Your motor oil should be a dark blackish color; if it looks milky and opaque, you may be leaking coolant into the motor oil. If this is the case, have your car towed immediately. If you notice deposits or debris in your motor oil, it may be time to get it completely changed.)

5.     Reinsert the dipstick and close the hood. If your car hasn’t been burning or leaking oil and doesn’t need a top off, you’ve successfully checked the motor oil levels in your vehicle! Close the lid, dispose of the rag, and pat yourself on the back for being a responsible vehicle owner.

How Often to Check Motor Oil

Especially if you have an older car with high mileage on it, it becomes increasingly important to regularly check your car’s motor oil levels. This is because if your car is leaking or burning oil during regular use, you run the risk of running out of motor lubricant while you’re on the road, which can cause the engine to seize and be completely ruined.

Fortunately, if you check your car’s motor oil every day for a week, you’ll have an idea of how much oil you use over the span of seven days. This will indicate to you how many times per month you should check your car’s oil, which can sometimes be narrowed down to once a month!

How to Top Off Your Car's Oil

If your dipstick tells you that you need more oil in your car, it’s important to heed that call! Fortunately, this is as simple as finding motor oil for your vehicle and using a funnel or the oil fill cap located under the hood of your vehicle near the dipstick to “top off” your oil. This must be done slowly to prevent overfilling your sump, so start with a half a quart at a time, checking your dipstick after each pour!

How to Find the Right Motor Oil

With so many different kinds of motor oil on the market, it can be overwhelming to try to find the right one for your make and model. So how do you know what motor oil weight to use? Should you go synthetic or conventional? How much motor oil should you use?

The answers to all of these questions should be contained within your owner’s manual. If you cannot find your owner’s manual or know you do not have one, call your local auto parts shop and see if they can recommend an oil for your needs. For more information on the differences between synthetic and conventional motor oil, click here!

Looking for a high-performing oil that has been proven to extend the life of your car while maximizing engine health and efficiency? Browse Amsoil motor oil products today!