Checking your car’s oil is about more than simply making sure there’s enough in your car’s engine. The engine oil needs to be changed regularly. Follow the recommendation in the vehicle owner’s manual.
If you are driving and the red oil/engine light comes on, stop as soon as safely possible. Driving with the oil light on can lead to expensive engine damage. There are many warning lights and they all require attention; get to know the lights on your dashboard. Of course, you’ll want to take the time to check your oil before the warning light comes on to make sure you don’t end up with unexpected and costly repairs.
Changing your oil every 3,000 miles used to be the norm, but these days cars can go longer, often 5,000 miles or longer. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your car and stick to that schedule. If you drive in extreme conditions, then you might need to change your oil more often. This includes very hot or cold weather, places where there is a lot of dirt or dust in the air, or if you often tow heavy loads. Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations based on how you drive your car to determine how often to get an oil change as a part of good car maintenance.
How to check oil
Check your vehicle owner’s manual for location of the oil dipstick and when the oil should be checked. Keep in mind that in some of the latest models the oil is checked electronically and there is no oil dipstick. You should still get into the habit of checking your vehicle’s oil monthly to make sure it’s not too low. This takes only a few seconds and requires no special tools, just a simple cloth rag.
As a rule, make sure your engine is cold or has been turned off for at least ten minutes. This will ensure the oil has drained completely into the engine oil pan. Pop the hood and you’ll have access to the dipstick. This will have a hook or ring on it so you can easily pull it out to check the oil. If you’re not sure where the dipstick is, then find that trusty owner’s manual and look at the diagram of your engine to see exactly where the dipstick is located.
Pull the dipstick completely out of the pipe and then wipe off any oil with a clean, lint-free rag. Once the dipstick is clean you’ll be able to see the tip where there are markings to show when you need to add oil and when the oil is full. Now put the dipstick back into place so it’s completely secure and all the way into the pipe. Note that the pipe and dipstick both curve slightly. If the dipstick doesn’t seem to want to go back in, then simply turn it until it smoothly slides into place.
Now pull the dipstick right back out again and look at the tip where the markings are found. If the oil reaches the high line where it says full, then you’re all set. If it’s down at the bottom line where it says add, then you’re running low and need to add oil. Add oil until the level is up to the full or safe mark without overfilling. Now you can put the dipstick back into the pipe for good.
Making motor oil magic
Changing you car’s oil is almost as easy as checking it. With some practice it is one of the simpler tasks on your car maintenance checklist to do on your own. Get tips on how to change your own oil.
You can find oil at the gas station, auto supply stores, supermarkets, and even drug stores. There are different grades of oil for different cars and conditions, so use what’s recommended for your car. If you don’t know what kind of oil to use, then it’s time to look at that manual once again and see what the manufacturer recommends.
Utilize AAA services
Though oil changes are easy, many still prefer the help of a trusted professional. If you’re looking for a reputable shop to do the job, use the AAA Approved Auto Repair facility locator for recommendations on where to go. You often can drive right in and have an oil change done on the spot. Some shops require an appointment to do the work.
Knowing how to check oil and changing it at regular intervals is an essential part of good car maintenance. Take the time to check it every month to keep your car in top shape.
When was the last time you checked your oil? Have any other car maintenance tips readers? Let us know in the comments section.
This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated.