How to Check Oil in a Car

Updated: Jun. 07, 2023

Knowing how to check the oil is one of the most essential tasks you can do to take care of your car. It's also one of the easiest and fastest, too.

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Checking the oil once a month will keep your engine running smoothly between oil changes, which should be done every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Check the oil first thing in the morning when the car is cool and hasn't been running, and have a quart or two of oil ready to go in case you need it.

Tools Required

  • Funnel

Materials Required

  • Engine oil (one to two quarts)
  • Paper towels

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Locate the Dipstick

  • Pop the hood and locate the dipstick, which tells you if your oil level is optimal or too low.
    • The dipstick is typically at the top front of the hood near the engine and/or oil filter. Consult your owner’s manual, if necessary.

Locate the DipstickVeronica Graham for Family Handyman

Step 2

Clean the Dipstick

  • Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a paper towel.
  • Locate the two indicators at the end of the dipstick.
    • An oil level between the two indicators means more oil needs to be added. An oil level above the two indicators means the amount is fine as is.

Clean the DipstickVeronica Graham for Family Handyman

Step 3

Reinsert the Dipstick

  • Reinsert the dipstick in its entirety.
  • Remove the dipstick slowly and smoothly after a few seconds.

Reinsert the DipstickVeronica Graham for Family Handyman

Step 4

Read the Dipstick

  • Hold the dipstick level with both hands so oil doesn’t flow up or down the dipstick.
  • Look at the oil on the end of the dipstick to determine the oil level.
  • If the oil level falls between the two indicators, use your funnel to add one quart of oil and repeat steps three and four until your dipstick doesn’t indicate more oil is needed.
  • Reinsert the dipstick.

In case you need an oil change, opt for an oil extractor pump for mess free project.

Read the DipstickVeronica Graham for Family Handyman