Checking the oil levels and condition of your vehicle’s engine is one of the most important car maintenance practices you need to learn. The prices of vehicles, whether used or new, are always on the rise. Taking great care of your vehicle will ensure the money you invested does not go to waste.

Consider oil the life’s blood of your vehicle’s engine.

In the absence of oil, your engine will burn out in seconds. Oil is important in lubricating the internal parts of your engine and fighting the two greatest enemies of any motor: friction and heat. Friction produces motor wear and continuous wear will eventually damage your engine. Heat causes overheating and oil prevents this from happening. Aside from lubrication, oil keeps the engine clean by preventing dirt buildup. Because friction and heat degrade oil over time, you need to replace your oil and filter regularly.

It is usually recommended to check your motor oil levels once a month or every 5,000 miles. It’s a good precaution to inspect your motor oil before a long trip where heavy engine use will be involved. The consensus may vary and your vehicle’s manufacturer must be consulted to know how frequent you should check your oil levels.

Here’s a simple step by step guide for checking your motor oil levels. If you’re not familiar with car parts and the right gauges in the engine compartment, consult your vehicle’s manual.

Safety warning: you might need to wear safety glasses and other protective equipment (e.g., latex gloves) while working on your vehicle.

  1. Make sure your vehicle is parked on a flat even surface. Some manufacturers require to warm up the engine first before inspecting. Others suggest it should be checked while the engine is cold. So, it all depends on your vehicle’s manufacturer.


  1. With the engine off, wait for 5-10 minutes and allow the oil to drain back into the oil pan to get an accurate reading.


  1.  Locate the oil dipstick. The dipstick varies in color from bright orange to red or yellow. It can be circular or rectangular in shape. You can see it pointing out directly from the engine block.


  1. Pull the dipstick slowly and wipe the submerged end using a paper towel or clean cloth.


  1. You can now examine your oil’s condition by inspecting its quality and color. Examine the paper towel or rag. The oil should be slightly yellowish or greenish in color. If your oil is too dark, brackish or chunky, it’s a sign that it must be changed.


  1. Dry off the dipstick and put it back into the hole. Pull it back again to examine the amount of oil. On the other end of most dipsticks, there are two corresponding dots or marks, which indicates the proper oil level. The first dot closer to the tip signifies the minimum oil level and the other dot signifies the maximum. Normal oil level must fall halfway between the two dots. If the line of oil falls between the tip and the first dot, you need to add oil to your vehicle.

Other oil indications:

  • Oil that is brown, amber, or slightly dark in color is normal.
  • Oil that is light colored or with milky appearance may indicate that coolant is leaking into the engine.

• Any metal particles in the oil could mean internal engine damage.