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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.

How to Check Your Car Engine Oil

How to check car engine oil


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How to check your engine oil

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:

  • Clean cloth or paper towel
  • Car parked on a level surface
  • Disposable gloves (if required)


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

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.

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

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.