How to check the oil level in your car

Monday 14th June 2021

Fully Synthetic Oil vs Semi Synthetic Oil

Wondering how to check the oil level of your vehicle? Engine oil is vital for a smooth running of your car engine and vehicle performance – which is why it’s so important that your oil level is checked regularly.

Car oil lubricates your engine as well as reducing the friction and heat, which can cause wear and tear. Learn how to check the oil level in your car, how often you should check your oil and how to top it up from our handy guide.

How to check engine oil

Step 1

Park your vehicle on flat, even ground – as a slight slope could give an inaccurate oil reading.

Don’t attempt to start checking your engine oil a minimum of 5-10 minutes after you’ve switched off your engine – as your engine should be cool.

Step 2

Locate the dipstick in your vehicle (the brightly coloured plastic handle in your car’s bonnet). If you can’t spot this, refer to your owner’s handbook as this should indicate where the dipstick is located.

Once found, remove this and wipe it clean using some kitchen roll. On the dipstick, you will be able to see two notches indicating maximum and minimum oil levels.

Step 3

Replace the clean dipstick into the container all the way down. Then, pull it back out and look to see where the oil line is in relation to the minimum and maximum notches on the dipstick.

  • In between min. and max. notches – the oil level of your vehicle is acceptable
  • Below halfway between the min. and max. notches – it’s recommended to add oil to your vehicle, but not vital
  • Close to/below min. notch – you definitely need to add some oil to your engine

How often should you check your oil?

It’s recommended that you check the engine oil of your vehicle at least once a month – as this will allow you to easily identify any issues, such as quick burning or oil leaks. It’s also a good idea to check your oil levels before you set off on a long car journey – as well as other handy checks, such as testing the brakes, your lights, tyres and ensuring you’re stocked up on emergency equipment. Learn more about how to prepare your car for a long drive.

What oil do I need for my car?

If you’ve discovered that your oil level is low, the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you know which oil your vehicle needs. This is important, as using the wrong engine oil can cause damage to your engine. There are a number of different types of oil to choose from:

  • Mineral oil – the cheapest option, but it’s unlikely your car manufacturer will recommend this type as it doesn’t come with engine cleaning products
  • Synthetic oil – the most expensive option that provides numerous benefits, such as reducing fuel consumption and engine cleaning properties.
  • Semi-synthetic oil – a combination of both mineral oil and synthetic oil

However, generally, your vehicle manual will be able to tell you what oil your car needs. Learn more about the difference between fully synthetic and semi-synthetic oils through our guide.

How to top up your engine oil

Once you’ve determined what oil your vehicle needs, the next step is topping up. Start by locating the oil filler cap in your engine bay (look for an outline of an oil can, or a cap with the word ‘oil’ on it).

  • Remove the oil filler cap and pour in your oil carefully (use a funnel for precision)
  • If the oil level on the dipstick was below the minimum notch, you’ll need to add in about 1L of oil for it to reach the maximum line
  • Wait a couple of minutes for the oil to run down into the bottom of the engine, and then recheck the oil level using the dipstick
  • Ensure to not pour in too much oil – as this can damage your engine. Add in a little oil at a time and keep measuring using the dipstick until the right amount is added

If you’re still unsure what oil your vehicle needs, whether you need fully synthetic or a specialist oil supplement, or to have your oil checked over by a professional, locate your nearest Formula One Autocentre today.

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