The engine of a car contains many moving parts, all of which require lubrication to work as they should. Without the proper amount of lubrication, the parts rub together causing friction, which eventually leads to wear. Motor oil provides the engine with the lubrication it needs to keep all components operating smoothly. It also keeps the engine clean, free from dirt build-up and prevents overheating. Checking the motor oil on a regular basis ensures the engine continues running at an optimal level and that you get the most out of the vehicle. With a few tips, checking a car's oil is quick and easy, even if you are not an experienced mechanic.
Locate the Dipstick
Before beginning, park the vehicle in a spot where it is sitting on level ground and make sure that the engine is cold. Checking the oil when the car is hot can result in serious burns. With the engine off, open the bonnet and make sure it is securely propped open. Locate the oil dipstick. This is often marked with a bright-coloured handle.
Read the Dipstick
Taking a rag or cloth, wipe any oil off the end of the dipstick. Put the dipstick back into the engine completely. Pull it back out and look at both sides to determine where the oil level is. All dipsticks have some type of indicator such as "min", "max", "L", "H" or "Add." If you are uncertain about what your exact dipstick indicates, refer to your vehicle's owner's manual.
If the level is at the right spot on the dipstick, avoid adding more oil. Overfilling the engine can cause damage if the oil begins to seep out into other parts. If the oil looks clean, you can insert the dipstick, make sure it is tight and close the bonnet.
Learn Oil TypesIf the level is below the minimum mark, add oil. To add oil, use the grade recommended for your vehicle. Vehicle manufacturer's often recommend a range of viscosities that work for the exact vehicle. This information is located in the owner's manual. There are also different types and learning a bit about these oils comes in handy when you have to top off your vehicle. Conventional motor oil comes from crude oil and it is made with petroleum products. This type is suitable for older cars, or ones that have frequent oil changes as it breaks down quicker than the other types. Synthetic motor oil contains a synthetic base and other manmade chemicals. This type is usually recommended for high-tech engines, but it can extend the life of any engine since it offers longer-lasting performance. A synthetic blend is also available and this is made up of both natural and manmade materials. Synthetic blends are designed for engines under heavy loads, or ones that tend to run in high-temperature areas. Another option is a high-mileage oil, which contains seal conditioners. High-mileage oil is beneficial to vehicles that have been driven a great deal.
If the level of oil is severely low, avoid driving the vehicle until you can add more. Driving on dangerously low levels can cause irreversible engine damage. When adding motor oil, it should be done slowly to prevent overfilling. Remove the filler cap from the top of the engine and add a half a litre using a funnel to prevent spills. Wait a few minutes and check the dipstick again. If the level is still below the minimum indicator, add another half of a litre. Continue doing this until the level is accurate. After the dipstick shows that the oil is at the correct level, place the filler cap back on making sure you tighten it to prevent it from coming off or loose.
Changing the Oil
Unless the car is burning or leaking oil, it is unusual for a car to need the oil refilled on a regular basis. This does not mean that you should not check it regularly. If you find yourself constantly topping the oil off, have the car looked at by an experienced mechanic to determine the issue. Along with checking it on a regular basis, many manufacturer recommend oil changes every 8 000 km to 10 000 km. If the oil appears dirty or contaminated, a change is needed sooner.
When checking the oil, it should be a dark brown or black colour. If it is not, this indicates a potential problem. Oil that has a light or milky appearance can have coolant mixed in. This often results from the coolant leaking directly into the engine. If not repaired, this can cause severe engine damage. If the oil appears to have metal particles in it, this can be a sign that there is internal engine damage.
Since oil is an essential part of maintaining the engine, checking it periodically is vital. While there is not set schedule for checking the oil, you should do it more frequently on older vehicles. Doing a proper check just takes minutes and does not require the use of any tools. Checking the oil and maintaining a proper level can keep the engine healthy and extend the life of it.