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 can burn off or drip plenty. 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 road trip. After all, sensors and dash lights can both fail without you knowing about it.
To check your engine oil level, first make sure to park your car on level ground, then wait at least 10 minutes to let the oil drain out of the engine and back into the sump. Raise and secure the hood, then locate the top of the dipstick, which is usually pretty easy to see and to reach. Pull it out and use a rag 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.
If the oil level is close to or below the minimum mark, you definitely need to top off your oil right away. If the level is mid way, then topping off your engine oil level is optional.
Importantly, even if you only need to add a little oil, you must make sure you add the correct type and grade of oil.
It's also important to know that if you have to drive somewhere to buy motor oil - our Where to Buy tool can help you find a nearby retailer or service center that stocks Castrol motor oil - that you again park on level ground and wait ten minutes for the oil to drain into the sump before you make a top-off. That's because over-filling your engine oil is just as bad for your engine as running low, and can cause serious damage, particularly to vehicles fitted with catalytic convertors.
Once you've parked and waited, check the dipstick as before, and add a little oil at a time, cleaning and checking the dipstick after every addition, and making sure that you don't take the level above the 'maximum' mark on the dipstick.
Regular oil changes are essential for every car. So it makes sense to check your car's recommended drain intervals to make sure your oil is always strong enough to protect your engine. Performing an engine oil change is also a simple piece of car maintenance that just about everyone can do at home.
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 hood; it's a good idea to check your engine oil at the dipstick at least once a week, and always before a road trip.
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 center, as this ensures that it won't leak into the ground, potentially causing hazards to wildlife and water resources.
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.