A guide to car engine oil

Motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Primarily, the engine oil’s job is to stop all the metal surfaces in your engine from grinding together. It also cleans the engine of nasty oils and build-ups; keeping the moving parts coated in oil.

What happens if I don’t put oil in my car?

Oil to an engine is what blood is to the human body. It can’t run without it.

Motor oil lubes the mechanical parts in your car so that they can run smoothly in conjunction with each other. If you don’t put oil in your car, then the engine can’t operate smoothly, leaving dry metals to rub against each other, causing all kinds of problems, primarily extreme heat. Low oil levels can not only damage your engine by causing overheating but can even result in the engine seizing completely.

But the oil gauge says that there is lots of oil in my car!

Let’s say that your engine has plenty of oil, but you never change it. Two things will definitely happen:

  • Dirt will accumulate in the oil. The filter will remove the dirt for a while, but eventually, the filter will clog and the dirty oil will automatically bypass the filter through a relief valve. Dirty oil is thick and abrasive, so it causes more wear.
  • Additives in the oil like detergents, dispersants, rust-fighters and friction reducers will wear out, so the oil won’t lubricate as well as it should.

How do I check the oil level?

Things you’ll need:

  • Container of Motor Oil
  • Paper towels
  • Rags
  1. Check the oil when the engine is warm. Oil expands when it’s hot and contracts when it’s cold. Different temperatures will give you different readings.
  2. Park the car on a level surface.
  3. Turn off the engine.
  4. Pull the bonnet release lever under the dashboard.
  5. Walk around the front of the car, reach under the bonnet, find the latch and squeeze it. As you squeeze the latch, open the hood bonnet.
  6. Find the dipstick, a long piece of metal sticking out of the engine with a loop at one end, usually located near the spark plugs.
  7. Pull on the loop and draw the dipstick all the way out.
  8. Wipe the oil off the dipstick with a paper towel or rag.
  9. Replace the clean dipstick, making sure to push it all the way in, then pull it back out and hold it horizontally in front of you.
  10. Look at the pointy end of the dipstick. If the oil on the dipstick is below the line marked ‘full’, add a small amount of oil (less than a quarter of a quart) with a funnel. Many dipsticks simply have 2 lines with a cross hatch design in between. The oil level should be halfway between these 2 lines.
  11. Add the oil by unscrewing the oil filler cap, which is about 3 inches in diameter and located on the very top of the engine.
  12. Check the oil level with the dipstick after adding oil. Add more if necessary. It’s easier to add more oil, but fairly difficult to remove oil if you add too much.
  13. Put the oil filler cap back on and secure it tightly.

How do I put oil in my car?

  1. Locate the oil filler cap on top of the engine. Remove it.
  2. Place the funnel in the opening and pour in the new oil. Check your manual for the correct oil capacity.
  3. Replace the cap when you’re finished.
  4. Run the engine for a minute, then check the dipstick. Add more oil if necessary.
  5. Check the area around the oil drain plug and the filter for oil leaks. Tighten the plug or oil filter if you find leakage.
  6. Use rags and newspapers to wipe away excess oil.
  7. Pour the used oil into a plastic container after the used oil cools.
  8. Dispose the used oil properly: either take it to a recycling centre or to a car repair shop that can recycle it for you. Don’t pour it down the drain!

How do I change the oil in my car?

Getting Ready…….

  1. If you plan to change your oil regularly, consider investing in jack stands, a socket set and an oil drain pan.
  2. Run the car’s engine for 10 minutes before you drain the oil. Warm oil drains faster than cold oil.
  3. Park the car on a level surface, engage the parking brake and turn off the engine. If your car has a low clearance, raise it by driving it onto a ramp or by jacking it up and supporting it securely.
  4. Open the bonnet and place the new oil and funnel on top of the engine to ensure that you won’t forget to add oil afterwards (an expensive mistake!).

What kind of oil should I be using?

Using the correct grade of oil will offer your engine protection from the moment you turn the key. It will also improve performance and increase engine economy. There is a large range of engine oils available which are suitable for most types of car.

How often should I check and change the oil?

It’s a good habit to keep a container of oil in the boot of your car. To keep your engine in top condition, you should change your oil regularly. Plan to change your motor oil every 3,000 miles or every 3 months if you want to be on the safe side.


Always remember that your oil light won’t illuminate until your oil level is already low.