How to check oil in your car

A one-minute investment can keep your car healthy and running smoothly

Instead, it ages at a rate that is influenced by driving conditions, fuel quality, engine age, motor oil quality and climate.

How to Check Your Car's Engine Oil - Consumer Reports

If not changed in time, your oil will wither and fail to protect your engine. The oil should look smooth and glossy and somewhat transparent. Oxidized and contaminated oil will lose interfacial tension. A simple test for interfacial tension is to place a drop of used oil from the dipstick on the surface of water. Brown bubbles or a dried crusty-brown residue above the oil level line on the dipstick could be an indication that coolant water and antifreeze has leaked into your engine. The oil on the dipstick might even look like chocolate milk.

Never taste motor oil as a test for antifreeze.

Step 2: Locate the Dipstick

Another prominent indication of coolant leak is white exhaust smoke that has a sweet odor. In this case, the dipstick oil level may actually rise, indicating a significant amount of coolant has leaked into the crankcase. To confirm a coolant leak, shut off the engine, let it set for an hour or two, unthread the drain plug and use a clear glass or plastic bottle to catch the liquid. Because both water and antifreeze are heavier than oil, they will puddle up at the bottom of the oil pan.

Collect a couple of ounces of fluid and immediately retighten the drain. Inspect the fluid for glycol and water. Glycol and water often look like a thick mayonnaise-like paste, depending on how long the coolant has been in the crankcase.

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You might also detect a sweet antifreeze smell. If you have detected coolant in your motor oil, your engine should be taken in for immediate service.


So there you have it - dipstick oil analysis in five simple lessons. Checking your oil level may never be the same. Have you learned tricks, not mentioned here, for using your dipstick to analyze used motor oil? If so, please share these ideas but beware, they might show up in print someday! However, remember the crankcase of most passenger cars today holds only about four quarts of oil.

Routine car maintenance

This means you are running the engine with 25 percent less oil one quart , which may not be wise. Motor oil has many important functions beyond just controlling friction and wear. The oil in the engine, therefore, serves as a heat sink to gather up unwanted heat to transfer it by conduction or convection out of the engine. Under typical driving conditions, running a quart low may not make much difference in terms of bearing temperature or overall engine lubrication.

However, the engine also needs to be protected under worst-case conditions, such as in hot weather, while towing or with an impaired cooling system. Additionally, when you are 25 percent low on oil there is less oil to disperse harmful contaminants, acids, soot, fuel, sludge and water that enter the crankcase.

When you do the math, a quart low on oil translates to a 33 percent increase in contaminant concentration.

Total - How to check oil level in your car

Plus, the remaining oil spends less time at rest in the oil pan and more time in the hot frictional zones of the engines. The upper line denotes that the crankcase the car's oil tank is full. Some dipsticks are also marked with words like "full" and "add. Insert the dipstick into the tube slowly and push it all the way down. Now withdraw it and look closely at the tip, which should have oil on it. If the level of the oil is between the two lines, your vehicle has enough oil.

If it's at the low mark or below, it's time to add a quart.

How to Check the Engine Oil in Your Car

Once you've added a quart of oil, wait several minutes for the oil to drain down into the crankcase and and then check it again to ensure that the level is at least between the high and low marks. The oil level does not have to be at the high mark for your engine to have enough lubrication to run safely.

Type keyword s to search. Today's Top Stories. Getty Images. Here's how to check your oil: Step 1: Prepare to Check Be sure your vehicle is parked on level ground with the engine off, the transmission in Park or the manual transmission in a lower gear and the parking brake on. Related Story. Buy Now. Your level of oil should be somewhere in between. After the oil check is done, wipe off the dipstick and replace it once again.

How to Add Oil? Adding oil is simple and the following guidelines will give you the idea of how to do it yourself: Locate the oil filter cap on your engine , which should be marked by the word OIL or the symbol of the oil can. Remove the cap and start adding oil in small doses , using a funnel that will help you avoid unnecessary spills. It is recommended to start with a quart of oil that is equal to the space between the marks on the dipstick. Check the oil again.

If it is still below the recommended level, add the second quart. This process should be repeated until the marks on the dipstick show the recommended level of oil.

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how to check oil in your car How to check oil in your car
how to check oil in your car How to check oil in your car
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