When to Check Engine Oil: A Guide for Your Auto Maintenance

Engine oil is the lifeblood of your car. It lubricates, cools, cleans, and protects the vital components of your engine; but how often do you need to check it?

And what are the signs that your oil needs changing?

In this article, we will answer these questions and more, so you can keep your car running smoothly and efficiently.

An image illustrating when to check engine oil
When to check engine oil.
Source: cloudfront

When to Check Your Engine Oil Level

It’s important to regularly check your engine oil level.

We suggest opening the hood every few weeks, and always before embarking on a long trip.

After driving, allow your engine to cool down for at least 10 minutes. This allows the oil to cool and collect in the lower oil pan.

However, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual as some manufacturers advise checking the oil while it’s still warm.

Generally, it’s safer to measure the oil level when the engine is cool.

Engine oil can get as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius), especially in hot climates.

Importantly, if you live in a hot region, it’s best to check the oil level in the morning or evening when the engine is not as hot, particularly avoiding midday when the sun is at its strongest.

In colder climates, checking engine oil when it’s freezing outside might affect the accuracy of your readings.

In such cases, consider running the engine for a short while before checking.

This allows the vehicle to sit for 10 minutes after turning off the engine before you can check the oil.

How to Check Your Engine’s Oil Level

When checking your engine oil, take into account the temperature of your vehicle.

If you’re examining the oil while the engine is hot, wait for at least 10 minutes after it was last running.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure you check your engine oil level accurately every time:

Step 1: Park your vehicle on a flat surface.

Step 2: Turn off the engine, open the hood, and locate the oil dipstick, if your vehicle has one. It typically has an orange or yellow plastic handle for easy identification.

Step 3: Pull out the dipstick. A dipstick is what’s used to check your engine oil levels.

Step 4: Use a clean towel or cloth to wipe the dipstick from the handle to the tip.

Step 5: Fully reinsert the dipstick into its tube.

Step 6: Remove the dipstick again. The markings or indicators at the bottom of the stick will indicate whether the oil level is low, optimal, or too high.

Step 7: Put the dipstick back in its place. Based on the readings, you should now be aware of your oil level.

How to Add Oil to Your Engine

If you find that your engine needs oil after checking its levels, it’s a straightforward process to top it up.

Firstly, ensure you know the specific grade of oil your vehicle requires by referring to your owner’s manual.

Most engine oil caps will specify the required oil weight.

You can then purchase the necessary oil at any store nearby. Then, follow these steps to add oil:

  1. Remove the cap from your oil tank, typically located at the top of your engine.
  2. Carefully pour the oil into the tank, using a funnel, if possible, to minimize spills. Avoid overfilling the tank, as this can lead to engine issues. Add oil in increments of half a quart at a time to prevent overfilling.
  3. After each addition, allow the oil to settle in the tank for a moment. Then, use the dipstick to check the oil levels. Repeat this process until the oil levels are within the recommended range.
  4. Once you’ve achieved the correct oil levels, securely screw the oil tank cap back into place.

Typically, adding one quart of oil should be sufficient to bring the oil levels back to normal.

Occasionally, especially if it has been a while since your last check, you may need to add a second quart.

If you find yourself needing to add oil regularly, it’s advisable to have your vehicle inspected to ensure there are no oil leaks or excessive oil consumption issues.

It’s crucial to avoid overfilling your engine with oil.

Overfilling can cause the crankshaft to strike and move through the oil, leading to cavitation and air bubbles in the oil.

This is as harmful as running an engine with low oil levels, so always resist the urge to overfill an engine that consistently consumes or leaks oil.


Checking your engine oil regularly is not only good for your car but also for your wallet and the environment.

By keeping an eye on the oil level, color, and smell, you can prevent costly repairs, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce emissions.

Don’t wait until the oil light comes on or the engine starts making noises.

Follow the simple steps in this article and check your oil at least once a month.

Your car will thank you for it.

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