Young man changing the oil of his car while checking the engine

How to Check Oil in A Car

By the Mercury Team

When it comes to general car maintenance, regularly checking and changing your oil is a must. Checking your oil is a quick, simple task that anyone can do, even if you’re not up to changing your own oil quite yet. Keep reading to learn why it’s important to maintain your engine oil and how to check it.

Why You Should Check and Change Your Oil

Engine oil is an essential component of your vehicle. Without it, your motor won’t run. Here are the reasons why you should check and change your oil.

  • Maintains engine lubrication: Consider all the moving parts of your engine — e.g., pistons, valves, the crankshaft, etc. — working at high speeds to operate your vehicle. Without proper lubrication, these components will wear down significantly. Oil helps lubricate moving parts, allowing your engine to run smoothly.
  • Cools moving parts: Engine components that aren’t properly lubricated create friction, which can overheat the engine. Maintaining clean and sufficient oil lubrication is the best way to avoid friction and engine overheating.
  • Removes dirt and sludge from the engine: When dirt particles enter the engine, it can cause corrosion and decrease the engine’s lifespan. Also, some motor oil burns off over time, leaving a thick sludge that can diminish proper lubrication and lead to engine wear. Routine oil and filter changes can help keep your engine clean and performing at its best.
  • Improves gas mileage: Poor engine lubrication can increase fuel consumption, so ensure to change your oil on a regular basis. Fresh oil helps lubricate the moving parts, allowing your engine to run more efficiently and consume less gas.
  • Boosts your vehicle’s lifespan: General car maintenance helps increase your vehicle’s longevity, and regular oil changes are no exception. They can help prevent lasting engine damage, which can help you avoid expensive repair bills.

How To Check Your Oil

Checking your engine oil is a quick, easy maintenance task that requires only a shop towel or an old rag. How often should you check your engine oil level? According to Consumer Reports, drivers should check their oil every other gas fill-up to see if it has become too low or dirty.

Follow these steps to check your oil properly:

1. Read Your Owner’s Manual

Your owner’s manual should offer information on how to check the oil in your vehicle. While it’s often best to check your oil when it’s warm, some manufacturers have designed their vehicles to allow you to inspect your oil at any temperature, so check for specific guidelines in the manual.

2. Park Your Car on Level Ground and Turn It Off

Ensure you park your vehicle on level ground. If your car sits on a hill or unlevel surface, you’ll likely get a false reading because the oil isn’t sitting level in the reservoir. Then, turn off your car before beginning the oil-checking process.

3. Locate and Remove the Dipstick

Pop open your hood, then locate the dipstick. It’s usually marked with a graphic of an oil can, but if you’re having trouble finding it, refer to the owner’s manual. Once you locate the dipstick, remove it from the reservoir, wipe it clean with your rag, and reinsert it into the reservoir.

4. Inspect the Oil Level and Color

After reinserting the dipstick, wait a few seconds and then take it back out again. A dipstick will usually have two marks on it representing “low” and “full,” and the oil level should be between them. You’ll also need to inspect the oil’s color and viscosity. Clean oil is translucent amber that flows easily, while dirty oil is black and highly viscous. Here’s what you need to do once you inspect the dipstick:

  • Good level, clean oil = Keep driving
  • Low level, clean oil = Add more oil
  • Good level, dirty oil = Change oil soon
  • Low level, dirty oil = Change oil as soon as possible

How To Add Oil To Car

If your car's oil level is too low, you can easily top it off.

1. Determine the Required Oil Grade

First, find out the required oil grade for your car. In most cases, it will either be 5W-30 or 10W-40, but there are other possibilities. The oil grade is typically marked on the engine oil cap, but you can refer to the owner’s manual to double-check. Also, use synthetic oil if the owner’s manual recommends it.

2. Locate the Oil Cap and Add Oil

Look for a cap with the word “oil” or an oil can symbol marked on it. Unscrew the cap and insert a funnel into the opening. Add around a half quart of oil and then wait about one minute.

3. Check the Dipstick

After a minute has passed, check the dipstick. Add the rest of your quart if the level is still too low. Once the oil is at a good level, screw the cap back into place, wipe up any messes, and close the hood.


Keeping your engine properly lubricated and following other general car maintenance tips can extend your vehicle’s lifespan and help you avoid costly repairs. That’s why you should routinely check your oil. It’s simple and only takes a few minutes to perform. You should also consider car insurance from Mercury. Along with best-in-class coverage and affordable rates, we also provide roadside service in case you’re stuck on the road due to mechanical problems.

Contact us today for a fast, free quote!

Mercury Team

The Mercury Marketing Team is made up of professionals in the fields of Content Creation, Public Relations and Social Media. The team works together to deliver professionally written and researched content to provide information for consumers.

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