All cars consume a little oil, and it's a mistake to rely on warning lights alone. Checking your oil is a simple car maintenance task everybody can perform.
While some cars consume hardly any engine oil, others require regular top ups. That's why it makes sense to check your oil level frequently between oil changes, as running with a low oil level increases stress on the engine and can seriously reduce the working life of the oil and the engine.
Some modern cars have an electronic oil sensor that warns you when your engine oil is approaching the minimum safe level. But whether your car has one or not, it's good practice to check your engine oil level manually on a regular basis, especially if you're planning a long journey. After all, sensors and dash lights can both fail without you knowing about it.
To check your engine oil level you will need the following:
1. First make sure to park your car on level ground, then wait at least 10 minutes to let the oil drain back into the sump.
2. Raise and secure the bonnet, then locate the oil level dipstick, which is usually pretty easy to see and to reach.
Car engine oil dip stick
3. Pull it out and use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the end clean. Then replace it, making sure it goes all the way in, before immediately lifting it out and holding it in a horizontal position.
4. Near the end of the dipstick there should be two lines, sometimes with a cross-hatched area in between. Ideally, the oil level should be at or near the highest line, though anywhere above the lower line is still OK.
Dip stick showing correct engine oil level
If the oil level is close to or below the minimum (lower) mark, you definitely need to top up your oil right away. If the level is mid way, then topping up your engine oil level is recommended to bring the oil level up to near the maximum (higher) mark to offer the best protection for your engine.
Importantly, even if you only need to add a little oil, you must make sure you add the correct viscosity and specification of oil, which you can identify using our quick and easy Oil Finder tool.
If you need to buy oil to top up - our Where to Buy tool can help you find a nearby retailer or service station that stocks Castrol engine oils.
When topping up your oil, be careful not to over-fill your engine. Add small amounts at a time until you reach the correct level.
Your engine doesn't simply need the right specification of engine oil, it also needs to have the right amount at all times. So don't wait for a dashboard warning light before you pop the bonnet; it's a good idea to check your engine oil at the dipstick at least once a week, and always before a road trip.
Most cars use a little engine oil over time so it is essential to maintain the right level of engine oil by topping up with the right oil whenever your dipstick check says your oil level is low.
Why choose full synthetic engine oil? Even if your warranty doesn't depend on you choosing synthetic engine oil, it's still the strongest and best choice for every engine. As long as you choose the right grade and specification of synthetic oil, it is guaranteed to exceed the manufacturer's requirements and give your engine the best possible protection.
While oil is a natural resource, it occurs deep in the ground where it can't damage plant and animal life. It's vitally important that any used engine oil from home car maintenance makes it to a recycling centre, as this ensures that it won't leak into the ground, potentially causing hazards to wildlife and water resources.