Home Automobiles Auto Repair How to check your vehicle's engine oil

How to check your vehicle's engine oil

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Written by vernk   

Intro: Vehicle maintenance is a crucial part to owning, operating, and ensuring longevity of your vehicles.  Even if you do not own the vehicle, and lease or even borrow it, keeping the vehicle's engine fluids at optimal levels can help keep you on the road, and off the side of the road.

Step 1: Ensure that your vehicle's motor oil has been changed in regular intervals. Check? Well that's only part of the job!

Step 2: Jump in your vehicle and start it up.  Allow the motor to warm up slightly, enough to get the juices flowing and have the motor oil warm enough to get into all the gallies and crevices in there.  It is ideal to get the motor to normal operating temperatures.

Step 3: If need be, drive the vehicle to get to achieve its normal operating temperature.

Step 4: If the vehicle is not on a flat and level surface, drive to where the vehicle sit's as level as possible.  This ensures that the oil you will be checking is level as well.  Parking on extreme grades will throw off your readings.  Slight grades will have less of an impact.

Step 5: Shut the motor off and wait.  While running the motor has oil in many different areas.  You want to shut it down and give the motor time for the majority of the oil to drip down back into the oil pan.  A good 3-4 minutes should be sufficient time.  Do not read the oil level immediately after turning off the motor.  This will result in a false low level reading.  You might add oil to this false reading only to overfill the engine with motor oil.  This in turn may very well damage some internal components.

Step 6: After a sufficient amount of time, pull out your engine oil dipstick. 

Step 7: With a clean rag wip off the motor oil from the entirety of the dipstick. 

Step 8: Guide the dipstick into the dipstick feeder tube and seat the dipstick all the way down.

Step 9: Pull the dipstick out again and hold steady at your eye level.  Be sure not to allow drips of oil onto the vehicle's body paint surfaces, belts, and/or delicate electronics under the hood.

Step 10: Ensure the oil on the dipstick is within the marked parameters at the tip of the dipstick.  If it is not, add engine oil of your manufacturer's specifications to raise the oil level up to par.  Be sure not to exceed the 'FILLED' or 'FULL' level as marked on the dipstick, again, this can end up w/ likely damage to your motor. 

Step 11: When adding engine oil, allow time for the oil to drip into the oil pan so as to not obtain false low readings and overfill the motor. 

Step 12: If you smell a burnt smell on the oil and/or the oil appears dark black, that is a strong sign to change your oil. 

Step 13: If your engine oil is dangerously low and maybe not even on the markings of your dipstick, it is possible you may need to change the engine oil.  The motor oil is in a relatively closed loop system, loss of oil should be minimal in regular intervals.  A hard running motor burns oil for various reasons, the oil could have surpassed its useability due to heavy use.  Low levels of oil prior to the regular interval in time or mileage might suggest an external leak, or and internal leak.  This may suggest burning of oil in the combustion chamber and should be further evaluated as the situation dictates.

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