How to check your engine oil

As the mornings get noticeably colder and the evenings gradually get darker - we can definitely sense that winter is on its way!


By Marmalade Author

Updated on Aug 4th, 2022

How to check your engine oil

As the mornings get noticeably colder and the evenings gradually get darker - we can definitely sense that winter is on its way! During these months its worth making sure your is car getting the love and attention it deserves, whether that be topping up your coolant reservoir, refreshing your screen wash or simply checking your tyre pressure!

In this edition of our #MiniMechanics series, we're going to explain the importance of checking your oil and how keeping an eye on it can save you a lot £££ in the long haul!


Most car user manuals will advise you have your oil filter changed between every 3000-5000 miles. Why? Because after a while the smooth, yellowy brown liquid which lubricates and protects the engine loses its additives and becomes sludgy, black and horrible. This is because the engine gets very hot and the oil is designed to neutralise this heat and prevent it from blowing up! So if you're checking the consistency and levels of your oil once in a while, it's much less likely that's going to happen or you're going to end up needing to take it in to a garage.


Oil dipstick

There's some pretty easy steps you can take to establish whether it's time to top up or get it changed! Make sure you have a paper towel or tissue at the ready as this can get a little messy ☺

  • Park your car on level ground and make sure you switch OFF your engine. Best to leave it 10 minutes before you do touch anything as the engine will probably be very hot!
  • Open and pin up the car bonnet and locate the dipstick (this is usually a small luminous orange/yellow thing with a circular handle that sticks out).
  • Pull out the dipstick and give the end a wipe with a tissue or cloth so you can clearly see the minimum and maximum lines at the end of the dipstick.
  • Fully insert dipstick back into position within the stick holder.
  • Pull it out again and note how far the oil comes up on the dipstick as it should be near the maximum mark. If it is - you're all good to go!


Oil Cap

If you have carried out those checks and the oil is close to or below the minimum line - it's time for a top up! This is where it pays to have a funnel and some rubber gloves handy as you don't want it spilling everywhere or staining your hands!

  • Find out what kind of oil your car needs (conventional, premium conventional, full-synthetic, synthetic-blend or high mileage) if you are unsure refer to the car owner's manual.
  • Next, locate the oil filler cap. It usually has a brightly coloured screw-off cap marked with the word "oil" or an oil can symbol and should be located on top of the engine cover.
  • Establish how much oil is needed - the gap between the marks on the dipstick represents around 1 litre of oil, so if your oil mark is at the minimum, you need approximately 1 litre to top it up. If it's halfway down, you'll need approximately half a litre!
  • Place your funnel into the hole and pour in the oil a bit at a time. (Try not to overfill it!)
  • Screw the gap back on and check your dipstick again. If the level is now where it should be then you're all done! How easy was that? ☺

It's important to note that if the texture of the oil is dense and thick, if it is then it's time to take it to a mechanic or garage to get the filter changed. Leaving this problem can cause more damage to the engine and therefore result in it clogging up and you having to pay out way more pennies than necessary! If you look after your car - it will look after you? ☺

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By Marmalade Author

Providing tips and advice for young drivers on all aspects of driving - from getting through the driving test to buying and running your first car.

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