How to Check Oil Level in a Car

Knowing how to check oil level in a car is important for every vehicle owner. Find out what is the normal oil level for your car and how to top up engine oil today.

The first thing you need when learning how to check oil levels is to figure out what type of motor oil your car uses. You can find this information in your owner's manual. If you don't have your manual, you can go to Amazon: Automotive: Oils & Fluids: Oils: Motor Oils, then use "Filter by vehicle" to see what type of oil your car accepts.

You should always keep a bottle of motor oil somewhere inside your car. Some good places to keep it would be under a seat or in the trunk. Be sure to always keep an unopened bottle in your car. If you use a previously opened bottle it will leak. If you already have oil in your car, then you are one step ahead.

How to Check Engine Oil Level

After you have a container of the correct type of engine oil for your car you need to be sure that your car is parked on a level surface. If it is not then your readings will not be correct and you might put too much or to little oil in your engine. 

Then you need to find the engine oil dipstick and oil fill cap. The dipstick is typically bright yellow or orange and the oil fill cap will usually have writing on it indicating that it is the oil fill cap. 

After you have located the oil dipstick, you need to start your car and let it run for a minute or two. This will make the engine oil warm and will make it easier to read the correct level. Then you need to pull it out and check to see where the oil level is on it. This reading is just an initial reading and will not be super accurate. 

After the initial reading you need to wipe off all the oil with disposable towels. Be sure that it is very clean. The cleaner it is, the easier it will be to read the oil level correctly.

How to check oil level in a car: You should have some markings that look similar to the image below. Virtually all manufacturers have their own way of marking the oil dipstick so you may need to read your owners manual to be able to understand yours. In the example below, the normal oil level should be between the two small hole markings:

After wiping the dipstick clean, put it back into the dipstick tube. Make sure that it goes all the way down and seats correctly on the tube. Wait for a few seconds then pull it out again and see where the oil level is. In the image below, the oil dipstick indicates that the oil level is full:

What to Do If Oil Level is Low

After you're done checking oil levels, you will know whether your car is low on motor oil. If you need to add oil, click here for my step by step guide to adding motor oil to a car.

How to make a good estimate of how much oil you should put in: If the oil level is right below the "low" indicator and you have a small engine (4 cylinder) you will probably need a small amount of oil (I'd start with about 1/4 of a regular sized bottle or 1/4 quart) to top it off.

If the oil level is low and you have a large engine you will need a good amount more oil to top it off (I'd start with 1/2 quart). Most oil containers come with measurements on the bottle so you know how much you've put in.

Be sure that you put a little in at a time. You want to be sure that you don't over fill the crankcase. You can easily put more oil in, but it is much harder to take oil out. 

If you need to add oil, be sure to use an appropriately sized funnel (one that fits inside the oil fill opening and has a wide enough mouth) and pour it in slowly. If you spill on the engine be sure to wipe it up right away. Not only will it stick there collecting dust and grime, it will also burn off and create smoke if it lands on anything hot.

After you have the engine full of oil you need to be sure that you get the oil fill cap back on. I've seen the cap left off many times and I've even done it once myself. It creates a real mess inside the engine and causes a lot of smoking under the hood. This is something that you always need to double check any time you remove the oil fill cap.

Now that you know how to check oil level, find out how often you should change the oil in a car.

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