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How to properly check engine oil

Oil is critical to keeping your vehicle running. Ensuring your vehicle has the proper amount of oil will help reduce wear an decrease the risk of a costly repair.

  • Start be ensuring your vehicle is level – avoid steep inclines such as driveways, hills, etc. If your vehicle is tilted too much, you will not be able to get an accurate reading.
  • Your vehicle MUST be OFF. Do not check engine oil while the vehicle is running.
  • Open the hood on your vehicle and ensure it is properly supported.
  • Locate the dipstick
Dipstick example
  • Remove the dipstick, by pulling it.
  • Using a rag or paper towel, wiper off any oil on the end of the dipstick
  • Re-insert the dip stick, fully, and remove it again.
  • Look to see where the oil is on the dipstick.

Every dipstick works on the same principle, however, they may look a little different. The goal is to keep the oil at the full level (or safe level, on some dipsticks). At the same time, you do not want to overfill the engine either, so its important to not go past the “full” level indicator.

Here are a few examples:

This is a dipstick that uses two dots. One indicates the minimum level the other the maximum. This engine, would require the oil to be topped up.
This style uses a “F” for full and an “L” for low. This engine, has the proper amount of oil
This style has a simple line indicating the maximum amount of oil. The other end reads “add oil”. This dipstick would appear to indicate the engine is oil is overfilled.
Owners manuals will have a page about oil and how to check it. Here is an example from Toyota.

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