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A guide to checking your car’s oil levelsBack

Checking the oil level in your car regularly is important. Failure to make regular checks could cause damage to your engine, or worse still result in a complete engine replacement.

These days, most newer cars will come with a dashboard warning light which will alert you to the fact your oil needs checking, but this isn’t the case for all cars so it is important to follow our advice below, and take the necessary steps to stay safe on the road.

What does oil do?

Engine oil is an important component in keeping a vehicle running smoothly and safely. The oil lubricates the moving parts of an engine as well as cleaning, cooling and protecting these parts, preventing your engine from failure.

Why does oil need changing?

Engine oil needs changing regularly. Its lubricating properties do not last forever, and over time the oil in your vehicle can become dirty, which makes it far less effective.

How can I check my oil?

To check the oil level in your car, open up the bonnet and locate the dipstick. The dipstick is shaped like a ring pull and should be protruding from the engine. Pull the dipstick  completely out and give it a wipe with a cloth so you can get a clear reading . Then, reinsert it into the engine and remove once again to get an accurate reading. Most dipsticks will be marked in two places to identify the minimum and maximum oil levels, but if you’re in any doubt consult the owner’s manual. Do not let your engine level drop below the minimum mark, or rise above the maximum mark.

How do I know if I need an oil change?

Being aware of when your car needs an oil change is essential if you want to keep your car safely on the road. Below we’ve listed some tips to help you make that all-important decision:

Colour – look at the oil on your dipstick. If the colour is a transparent light brown colour it is healthy and good to go, but if the oil is think and black and has lost all its transparency it’s a good sign you might need an oil change.

Consistency – Take a bit of oil off the dipstick and rub it between your finger and thumb. If the oil is coarse or feels gritty, this may be another sign your oil is contaminated and needs changing.

Mileage – if you’re clocking up a lot of miles regularly, you may need your oil replacing more often, but you should check your vehicle manual first for an accurate recommendation from the manufacturers.

Dashboard replacement light – most modern cars will keep track of the oil levels for you and a dashboard light or message will illuminate when your next oil change is due. This will be set by your vehicle manufacturers and will be reset after every oil change. DO NOT confuse this with the oil pressure dashboard light which could suggest you are driving with insufficient oil in the engine. If you see this light, represented by a dripping oil can, stop your car and turn the engine off immediately.

Oil levels are dropping – if you regularly top up your oil but the oil levels keep dropping below the minimum indicator on the dipstick, you could have a leak or the oil in the engine is no longer suitable for the job and a complete oil change is therefore required.

Engine noise – if you hear anything out of the ordinary or you notice your engine is noisier than usual, it could mean your oil needs replacing. As engine oil becomes old and loses its lubricating properties the moving parts in the engine may begin to grind against one another, and could cause major damage if not addressed.


If you have any doubts about the level of your oil, or whether it needs replacing, we’d recommend you visit a Trusted Dealer who should be able to check your oil levels for free.

Posted by Leana Kell on 10/10/2018