AdvicesCar fluids

How to check the engine oil level


There are many small nuances in the car that directly affect its proper functioning. The oil level in the engine is one of them because the operation of an entire system often depends only on the availability of lubrication in the proper amount. Modern technology makes it possible to improve the lubrication system. However, motorists still need to learn how to determine the engine oil level.

When you need to check the level

Top signs that your engine requires an oil change

  • After a while. Even if the car was constantly keeping in the garage, there is a high probability of leaks provoked by the erasure or failure of gaskets and hose joints. Therefore, a weekly check would not hurt;
  • After a long ride distance. General recommendations for any car – to check the engine oil level every thousand miles;
  • Before long journeys to make sure you won’t have problems during your trip;
  • When an aftermarket vehicle is purchased;
  • If the coolant level suddenly changes;
  • If there are problems with the engine: knocking noise, too reduced or increased traction, unpleasant odor inside the vehicle;
  • When an oil stain is formed under the car;
  • The older the car, the more often it is necessary to check and replace engine oil.

How to check the oil level

Let us immediately note that the motorists have divided into two camps: the debate goes around the topic of how to properly check the oil level, while the engine is cold or hot.

The natural property of the oil is to “expand” when heated and “shrink” after cooling. It turns out that the oil level in a cold engine (especially in winter) can be measured as too low, but after heating, the volume will increase.

In this case, if you add up to the recommended oil level, after further heating the oil will expand and excess above the “MAX” indicator.

Excess oil can enter the crankcase ventilation system, penetrating into the engine cylinders. Excessive amounts of grease can cause rapid failure of the catalytic converter. So, it is important to understand how the level is checked.

Let’s start our car oil guide with general recommendations:

  • First of all, the car must be standing on a flat non-inclined ground;
  • You should check the oil level when the engine is warm. This means that the temperature indicator arrow must be at least in the middle (about 120 degrees) during the check;
  • Before checking, turn off the internal combustion engine and then allow the lubricant to drain into the crankcase. Around 10-15 minutes will be enough for this;
  • Then remove the oil dipstick and wipe it with a clean cloth or paper towel. After that the dipstick should be installed back, then wait for 3-5 seconds. During this time, the grease will leave its marks on the dipstick.
  • The dipstick then should be removed again without touching the walls of the hole with its tip. The level between the two reference marks can be considered normal. These tags are labeled “MIN” and “MAX”.
  • The level below the minimum will indicate that you need to buy motor oil to be added to the engine. If the level is above max, it indicates that excess grease must be removed from the motor.

On some engines, the manufacturer has provided the possibility to check the level on both cold and warm motor. In this case, the “HOT” and “COLD” additional tags are marked on the dipstick.


Shall I refill the oil in a cold or hot engine?

You can add engine oil only if it is warm. If you measure level on a cold motor, the oil level will be lower than on a hot motor.

Can I refill the engine with oil from another brand or manufacturer?

It is possible to mix oils of different brands and manufacturers, but the following rule should be followed. Synthetic oil should be mixed only with synthetic oil, mineral only with mineral oil and semi-synthetic oil with any type of oil. If this rule is followed, there will be no harm to the engine, provided that the oils themselves meet their own standards.

What happens if there’s not enough oil in the engine

Let’s start with the fact that the oil level in the engine must be constantly monitored. This rule is fully valid for new power units as well as for internal combustion engines with high mileage.

A common mistake for novice drivers is the belief that in a new engine the level of lubrication will always be constant, i.e. there is no need to refill oil.

Actually, it’s not correct. As practice shows, almost any modern engine under certain conditions consumes oil. If this oil consumption rate is within acceptable limits, then it is not a malfunction. The vehicle manufacturers themselves state the permitted automotive lubricant consumption in the operating manual.

Many modern engines are equipped with turbocharging systems and are structurally complex units. In small and medium load conditions, the lubrication may not be consumed, but the situation changes under high loads.

The reason is simple – part of the lubricant will get into the combustion chamber during the increased loads of the engine, burning out together with the fuel. If this feature is taken into account, then it becomes obvious that there is a need for regular checks of the truck oil level.

It is a well-known fact that running the engine without lubrication will quickly damage the power unit. For this reason, there is a low-pressure oil emergency light on the car panel that illuminates in the event of a problem with the oil system. Keep in mind, however, that the light bulb lights when there is too little oil in the engine or the pressure has dropped to a critically low level for other reasons. If you don’t go into detail, a light bulb on many cars will light up when the engine is already close to a condition that it can simply jam. In other cases, the light will not light up.

It turns out that if the driver does not check the level himself, then the vehicle will experience increased and accelerated wear during further driving (depending on how serious the shortage is and how much the level has decreased).

As for the consequences for the engine, they can be very different. On some engines, increased wear will not be critical and after the engine oil fill, it will remain in operation. At the same time, such experiments will not add any resources to the unit.

On other motors, vehicle engine oil shortage can lead to problems with hydraulic compensators, cylinder scoring, crushing crankshaft liners, damage to the crankshaft and camshaft, and a whole host of other problems.

Tips and recommendations

In parallel to the level check, regular monitoring also allows visual evaluation of the oil condition. Given that there is still no clear answer when to change the oil in the engine, this approach allows in some cases to detect premature loss of protective, detergent and other useful properties of the motor lubricant.

It should also be remembered that there is always a risk of buying counterfeit products that may change their appearance after entering the combustion engine room. In this case, a jelly-like substance may be visible on the dipstick instead of oil, the owner may also note excessive fluidity of the material, etc. In other words, it is easier to identify counterfeit car lubricants when frequent checks are carried out.

If a cheap engine oil looks suspicious, the formation of foam is present, or emulsion is visible when there are a strong blackening and a presence of suspended solids, or an odor that is not typical for this material, then it is necessary to stop using the combustion engine.

As can be seen, the selection of the best engine oil, its level in the motor and the timely replacement of lubricants directly depend on the serviceability and overall life of the internal combustion engine.