How to fill & check engine oil

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Step 1 Park your car and turn off the engine

Check your car’s parked on level ground, as a slope might give an inaccurate oil reading.

Your engine should be cool. If you’ve just driven your car, wait for 5-10 minutes before you check your oil level, or check it first thing before you use the car.

Never try to check anything under the bonnet with the engine running.

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What happens if you run out of oil?

It’s important not to let your engine oil level get too low.

With low oil pressure, there’s less lubricant for the bearings and other moving parts in your engine. Metal rubs on metal, quickly causing irreversible and expensive damage.

If the oil level drops too far, you might see the oil pressure warning light come on when you’re cornering.

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Step 2: Tools Needed

  • Car ramps
  • Oil funnel
  • Paper towels
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Oil drain pan
  • Ratchet or wrench
  • Socket (which ever size that your engine drain plug is)
  • A light

Step 15: Start Your Vehicle

When starting your vehicle look at the oil pressure gauge; it should go from zero to forty psi.

**Note some vehicles do not have a oil pressure gauge.**

Step 1: Park your car on flat ground

To start with, make sure your car is parked in the right place, on flat ground. If the car is on a slope, the readings won’t be accurate.

How and When to Check Your Oil

Knowing when to check your oil is vital – one should never wait for warning lights or engine seizure because then it's already too late. And, since checking a car's oil is one of the easiest maintenance jobs you could do, should be done at least once every month. Checking your car oil does not require you to remove an engine oil pump, engine oil cap and pan. All you need to do is to locate the oil dipstick, the location of which will be clearly indicated in your owner's manual, although it is usually colored to stand out in the engine bay. The question often arises whether you should check engine oil at a hot or cold temperature, and while some manufacturers recommend getting the car up to operating temperature, working with cold oil is safer.

Pull the dipstick out and wipe away any excess oil. Place the dipstick back and push all the way in. Now remove the stick once again and look on both sides where the oil level is. Dipsticks usually have indicators such as pinholes, or the working min/max, or high/low. If the level is between the two marks then it is perfect. If it is below the markings, it might be due to an engine oil leak and time for a top up, but make sure to check the engine's oil capacity to avoid an overfill. Checking motor oil levels is extremely important.

Drop the Oil

Dropping cold oil is not a recommended practice. First, turn on the vehicle and let it idle for about 5 minutes before proceeding with the oil change. Once the engine is warmed up, shut off the engine and open the hood.

  • The first thing you should do is remove the engine oil cap. This allows airflow and quicker draining when you drain the oil from below

  • You will need a large tub to collect the oil in. Something that can hold at least as many litres as your engine requires in oil. There are tubs made for purchase that are specifically designed for oil changes. These are made of a hard plastic and have a draining spout so it is easy to empty the container. These typically retail for around $20.00

  • You will need a socket wrench with various sizes to remove the drain plug. Depending on the vehicle, the drain plug will loosen by turning either clockwise or counterclockwise. Check your owner’s manual to be sure. Slowly loosen the oil plug, and ensure your face is turned away from the area. The oil will be warm, but should not be scalding. Make sure to wear your PPE, especially your gloves when pulling the drain plug

Step 2: Unplug It, Drain It

Situate your oil receptacle—five-gallon bucket, oil drain pan (available at an auto-parts store), oil reservoir, or any other sizable liquid-holding container—in such a way that the oil will drain into it without getting all over the ground or otherwise making a mess. Remember, there will be a lot of oil: Most cars have at least a gallon in their crankcase, and some a lot more. Remove the drain plug by loosening it (counterclockwise) with the proper wrench and unscrewing it. Hold on to the drain plug as you remove it; the oil will start pouring out as you pull it away from the oil pan. Allow the engine to drain for five minutes or until the flow of oil has slowed to a trickle.

Warnings

  • Keep any open flames away from the engine as you work.

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  • Be cautious when working on the car while the engine is hot.

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About this article

Co-authored by: Alexander Douglas Auto Mechanic This article was co-authored by Alexander Douglas. Alexander Douglas is a mechanic at Planet Auto in California. He has been a mechanic since 1997 and is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified. This article has been viewed 1,973,218 times. 34 votes – 91% Co-authors: 130 Updated: May 5, 2021 Views: 1,973,218

Article SummaryX

To change the oil in your car, start by parking your car on a level surface and putting on the parking brake. Jack the car up, place the oil drain pan underneath the engine, then give your engine about 10 minutes to cool down. Once it’s cool, remove the oil plug underneath your car and allow the oil to drain out into the pan. Then, unscrew the old oil filter and screw in a new, lubricated replacement. Consult your owner’s manual to see how much and what kind of oil your car takes, then add the new oil to the fill hole. To learn more from our Mechanic co-author, like how to get rid of your car’s old oil, keep reading the article!

Did this summary help you?

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,973,218 times.

Wear the Proper PPE

PPE is not just for the workplace. To safely complete an oil change in the workplace or at home, you should have the following PPE:

  • Safety glasses: To protect the eyes from debris that may come loose when under the vehicle

  • Gloves: To ensure you do not burn your hands on the filters or oil

  • Long sleeves: To protect your arms from burns and oil

Disposing of Dirty Oil and Filter

After the oil change is complete you will have a volume of dirty oil and a dirty filter. These items must be returned to any auto parts store which will be glad to take these hazards from you for no charge. This action will help to keep the environment clean. Never dump waste oil down a drain or in waste cans.

Step 4: Drain Plug in, Filter On

Replace the drain plug and tighten it until it’s snug, but not too much: Overtightening can cause damage to the oil pan and drain plug. Put some effort into tightening it, but not all of your strength. Some manufacturers have a torque spec that you can follow, using a torque wrench. In any case, do not try to rip off the head of the drain plug. Certain vehicles use a washer behind the drain plug that must be replaced when you reinstall the plug (check your owner’s manual to see if this washer needs to be replaced). Next, take your new oil filter and apply a light coating of oil (from a dab on the end of your finger) all around the rubber gasket on the top of the filter. This will help create a proper seal as you tighten the filter. The same rule applies when installing the filter: Don’t screw too hard, but rather turn it until it’s “hand tight” and then just a bit more, so it’s snug.

FAQs

How long will a car run without oil?

To prove just how important proper oil lubrication is to a car’s engine, running an engine without it will result in complete seizure in around 15 to 30 minutes. This translates to major damage to most moving parts within the engine, causing some parts to almost melt together. The financial implications are severe.

What happens if your car is low on oil?

When your car is low on oil, it will still be able to operate to a certain extent, but it will certainly strain, and in some cases severely damage internal moving parts such as the crank and pistons. Your engine should warn you when your engine oil pressure is low by showing a warning light on the dashboard.

How do I know when my car needs oil?

There are two ways of knowing whether your car is in need of a top off: firstly, a quick check of the oil dipstick will tell you your car’s oil level. The second and riskier method is to wait for your car to give you a low oil level warning light on the dashboard. By the time this warning light appears, some damage might have already taken place, though, so it is recommended to check regularly yourself.

What happens with too much oil in a car? When there’s too much oil in your engine, this will produce more pressure, which can lead to oil leaks, or even worse, it can lead to fouled spark plugs, valve issues, and even bent engine rods. Remember that if you are draining used or excess oil, to follow responsible engine oil disposal guidelines and look into recycling the plastic bottle.

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