Basic Car Maintenance - Checking Your Oil (& Why You Should Do it))

Added: 19 December 2017

Engine oil or motor oil is an essential component of your engine, and one that is all too often neglected by drivers. Whether due to a lack of knowledge as to how t check it r simple forgetfulness, our service team encounters problems caused by low or old engine oil more often than we’d like to!

What does engine oil do?

In short, the oil is designed to help keep your engine cool and lubricated. This prevents it from overheating as you drive it (leading to other related issues that are a lot more expensive ot fix than a simple oil top up would have been), and also stops parts from grinding against each other and wearing down. With so many moving parts in an engine, keeping them all moving smoothly is essential engine maintenance, extending the lifetime of your vehicle.

Why does engine oil need checking?

Over time, oil picks up particulates from the engine, little pieces of grit and grime that gradually change the colour of the oil from a honey gold to brown, and then to a treacly black. As you can imagine, all of these deposits and bits of gunk are going into your engine, which can lead to problems and blockages down the line.

In addition, engine oil levels gradually go down over time, through general consumption and sometimes small leaks. A certain level of oil is necessary for your engine to keep running optimally, so if the level has dropped below this we need to know about it so we can top it up and keep your engine running smoothly.

What am I looking for when I check my engine oil?

Firstly, you should look for the level of the oil. All modern cars come with a dipstick, a long wand that inserts into the oil, with a measure on the side. Look for the oil symbol (see the photo below), unscrew or remove the cap and use it to pull out the dipstick.

Engine Oil Cap and Symbol

Wipe the dipstick clean as that you can see the level clearly, insert back into the oil completely and draw out. You are looking for the oil to be between the upper and lower marks on the stick – too much oil can be just as bad as too little.

Note: don’t check the oil when the engine is hot as you could burn yourself.

Checking the level of your engine oil

As well as the level, make a note of the colour oil you are seeing on the cloth you wipe the dipstick with. This will tell you a lot about the condition of your oil.

Do I need to top up my engine oil, or change it completely?

If the colour of the oil isn’t too dark, but the level is low, you can top the oil up using the recommended oil type in the vehicle’s handbook. There are a lot of different types of oil, so make sure to use the right one.

If the oil is dark brown or black, or has visible deposits in it, we would recommend you change the oil. This is usually best done by your local garage or by a specialist, as it usually involves going under the car, draining the tank and replacing the oil.

Changing your engine oil

Finally, cars also have scheduled oil changes after certain lengths of time or numbers of miles. These should be clearly listed in your vehicle’s handbook, or your coal garage can confirm. It’s also useful to get an oil change sticker to remind you of the next due date.

How do I change my engine oil?

To change your engine oil, we generally recommend you come into our service centre where we can check the levels, complete the change and also change your oil filter if required. This is because most people aren’t equipped to change these elements on the drive at home, and we’d recommend doing it correctly as it is such an important part of your vehicle’s maintenance.

If you think you are due an oil change, or have any more questions about this essential car maintenance, then call our service desk on 01324 440270 or send us an online enquiry here. We’d be happy to help!