How to Read an Oil Dipstick (Expert Video)by Joshua SmythUpdated July 18, 2023
Motor oil lubricates and cleans the engine of your car, and regularly checking the oil level will ensure that your engine runs well. You will get more miles out of an engine that is well-oiled and avoid the expensive repairs and cleaning that can result from driving with insufficient or dirty motor oil. Checking your oil should be done as often as possible. All engines have an oil dipstick, a metal rod that extends into the oil reservoir. With a moment's preparation, reading the oil level from the dipstick is simple.
1. Check Manual about Engine
Check your car's owners' manual to see whether the oil should be checked while the engine is hot or cold. If you can check the oil while cold, do so before starting the car. If it needs to be warm, check the oil after driving the car.
2. Park on level ground
Ensure your car is parked on level ground. A level surface will allow an accurate reading of the level of oil in the engine.
3. Open hood and locate dipstick
Open the hood of your car and find the dipstick. It will be a circular cap with a handle allowing it to be grasped and pulled out. The dipstick is usually marked with a small graphic depicting an oil can.
4. Pull dipstick and wipe clean
Pull the dipstick out of the engine and use a rag or paper towel to wipe it clean.
5. Insert back all the way
Insert the dipstick back into the dipstick tube you pulled it out from. Ensure that you push it all the way down.
6. Pull back out and read oil level
Pull the dipstick back out and read the engine oil level on both sides of the engine oil dipstick. Dipsticks are marked with the optimal level. This can be indicated with a pair of pinholes, lines marked MAX (for maximum) and MIN (for minimum), the letters H (for high) and L (for low) or a crosshatched area on the dipstick. If the oil is within the crosshatching, between H and L, between MIN and MAX, or between the pinholes, then your oil level is acceptable. If oil does not reach the L, MIN, crosshatching, full mark, or lower pinhole, you will need to add a quart of oil. This is important to make sure you don’t overfill.
7. Wipe again and reinsert
Wipe the dipstick and reinsert it into the oil tank. Recheck the dipstick oil level to see if you have enough oil if necessary.
Its important to get an oil change regularly for the vehicle’s engine and to maintain the car’s oil level. Lubrication is essential, and without it your risk overheating. Go to a car repair shop or check the owner’s manual if you can’t diy the step-by-step oil change.
Depending on the amount of oil you’re changing, its good to have an oil pan under the car to catch any oil leaks
Video: Check Oil Level
Helpful comments from the video:
- I love tutorials that gets straight to the point! No long intros etc… Thank you!!
- Very informative and straight forward. Thank you.
- I never really thought to look this up until today. Never did this myself but will now. So simple.
- The note about checking the quality & darkness of the dipstick is really important. Thanks!
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Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.