To read an oil dipstick, you’ll need to park on a level surface, lift the hood, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert the dipstick, pull it back out, and check where the oil level lies. If it sits somewhere between the two lines or markings at the end of the dipstick, the level is fine—but if the oil sits at or below the lower line, you’ll need to add a quart of oil.
Though it may seem trivial, knowing how to read an oil dipstick will help ensure that you don’t end up under- or overfilling your car’s oil tank, keeping your engine in good working order for longer periods.
But if you ’ ve never checked your car ’ randomness vegetable oil tied before, don ’ thymine worry—
has put together this bit-by-bit guide breaking down how to read an anoint dipstick, what to do when your oil is low, and when to perform an vegetable oil variety. commend
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Table of Contents
How to read an oil dipstick?
Checking your oil level by reading an oil dipstick is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to master. It’s a skill that carries over to checking the level of other vehicle fluids, such as automatic transmission fluid or brake fluid. Follow the steps below for a comprehensive walkthrough:
Check your owner’s manual
The first thing you should do is
check your owner’s manual
—this will give you a better idea of what to expect when you lift the hood.
Park on a level surface
To get an accurate reading, you’ll need to park your vehicle on a
or on level ground. If your vehicle was already parked on a flat surface, it’s a good idea to start your car and
let the engine run for a few minutes
to get the oil warmed up—depending on the type of dipstick you have, this may or may not be necessary.
Lift the vehicle’s hood
Once your vehicle is parked and the engine has cooled enough to minimize the risk of accidentally burning yourself, open up the hood.
Find and remove the oil dipstick
Generally speaking, the oil dipstick should be easy to find—most vehicles mark theirs with a
small oil can symbol
and the handle is usually a
. Once you’ve located the dipstick, pull it free from the dipstick-tube—it should feel a bit like pulling a sword out of a sheath.
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Wipe it clean
Now, you may be tempted to try and read the dipstick right when you pull it out the first time, but that’s not actually the case—you should always wipe the end of the dipstick off first with a
before slowly reinserting it back into the tube. This will help ensure that your reading is as accurate as possible.
Read the oil level
Pull the dipstick back out of the tube and read the oil level. If the oil is
the two lines on the dipstick, your oil level is fine—but if the oil is
below the lower line
(which is usually marked “ADD”), you’ll need to add a quart. If you find that the oil is just barely above the lower line, you might decide to
by adding a little oil to the tank just to stay on the safe side.
Not all dipsticks, however, use these lines—some use
or dots. Typically, these types of dipsticks will have four holes: the topmost hole indicates the “
” when the oil is
while the hole below it indicates the “
” mark when the oil is
. The uppermost of the bottom two holes indicates the “
” mark when the oil is
, whereas the lowest hole indicates the “
” mark when the oil is
Check for good engine oil
Of course, even if you have enough oil in the reservoir, it’s a good idea to check the condition of the oil itself. As a general rule, dark brown or black colored oil means you may need a change, but this isn’t always the case, as the
in some oils can change the color prematurely.
For this reason, it is best to simply change your oil at the
listed in your owner’s manual.
Return the oil dipstick
Once you’ve got your dipstick reading and have checked that your oil is in good condition, you can
return the oil dipstick
and shut the hood. If you added oil, it’s a good idea to check the oil level a second time to make sure that enough of the new oil was added.
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Why do you need the right oil level?
If you don’t have the right amount of oil in your tank—specifically if you have too little oil—you run the risk of
severely damaging your engine
. This is because motor oil helps cool your engine and aids in the proper lubrication of the engine’s various parts, preventing undue wear and tear while keeping your engine from overheating.
That said, you also don’t want to overfill your engine oil, as this will increase the
and put more stress on the gaskets and seals, putting you at higher risk for an oil leak.
Signs to replace engine oil
Of course, a low reading on your oil dipstick isn’t the only sign that you need an oil change—you’ll also want to keep a lookout for the following symptoms of contaminated or insufficient motor oil:
The oil has taken on a
Oil has changed from warm amber to a
(e.g. knocking, banging, whining, etc.) coming from the engine
oily, smoky, or burning smell
coming from the engine
If you start to notice one or more of the aforementioned symptoms or find that your oil level is low, you’ll need to change your oil to avoid unnecessary (and costly) engine damage.
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