Checking the engine oil level on your car isn’t difficult, but it probably isn’t at the top of everyone’s list. Most of us simply take our vehicles to the garage get the oil changed every 5,000 miles, or at whatever interval your mechanic has instructed you to follow. I’ve had colleagues NEVER realize that they had to change the oil in their vehicles, and had gone 20,000 miles! Thanks to the marvel of modern manufacturing, their cars still run.
That’s not recommended, unless you’re the type to get a new car every five years anyway. For most cars built within the last decade, you really just need to stick with the routine oil maintenance schedule. There are some people who like to stretch out the oil change interval using fancy filters and synthetic oil, but a regular interval will keep you safe.
However, there are several makes of cars that consume large amounts of oil. These are more common in flat engine vehicles like Subarus. Other cars that are known to “burn” oil include Audis, Porsche’s, and some BMW’s. I remember reading a report years ago that over half of the 2010 Audi A4’s required additional engine oil between oil changes!
If you own any of these cars, you should learn to check the oil levels. Don’t wait until the fancy Google-enabled computer system in your Audi A8 to kick on. Just check the oil levels routinely.
This is how I check the oil on my Subaru Impreza:
Pop the hood.
Don’t be scared! The hood release is usually under the steering wheel close to the driver’s side door of your vehicle. Take a look at the engine:
There is usually a cap that is labeled for engine oil, and a dipstick.
The dipstick allows you to check the oil levels in the reservoir. Most dipsticks have a high and low level hatch mark. When you first take out the dipstick, be sure to wipe it dry, place it back into the engine, and then take it out to read. You will be able to get a more accurate reading. If there is no oil on the dipstick, you are likely short at least 1 qt.
The dipstick on my car has two holes indicating both the low and high levels:
If the engine oil level is low, simply visit your friendly auto store (or Walmart) and pick up a few quarts of engine oil rated for your vehicle. Use a funnel to prevent spillage, and try to add the oil gradually while checking the dipstick in between. If you overfill the engine, then you will have to take the car to a garage to have them drain some of it out.
I typically change my engine oil and filter once a year (yes, that is long interval), and I usually end up adding about 2 quarts of oil throughout the year!
Any questions on vehicle maintenance? Sound out below!