Oil is a vital liquid to your vehicle. Like saliva to chew your food, oil lubricates the engine’s moving parts and gears. By cutting down friction, you decrease the chances of engine damage–just as saliva stops you from choking. That’s why you need to regularly check your oil levels, especially before long journeys and periodically change the oil. Here’s how.

The Dipstick

The dipstick is helpful because it indicates the volume of oil in the engine and can offer insight into the quality of the fluid. First things first, find out where your dipstick is located in the engine. The owner’s manual or Google should tell you where this long rod. Get the kitchen roll at the ready, run the engine for about five minutes to put the heat in. Clean the dipstick, then dip and then check the reading. Repeat 2-3 times to ensure you’ve got consistent result. The dipstick usually gives maximum and minimum levels.

Top tip: check your oil after a journey to save you running the engine just for the sake of an oil check.

Too Much Oil

Now you have an idea of your oil level, you need to know how to react. If there’s too much oil, it sounds like someone’s been overfilling the oil tank. However, water and coolant leaks could cause this result too. The way to check if there’s water  in your oil is to flick the dipstick residue onto a hot engine. If it sizzles, rather than just melting into an oily blob, there’s water in your engine and you need to make an appointment with the garage.

Too Little Oil

If you haven’t enough oil on your dipstick, you’ll need to top up. There’s a cap (usually indicating it’s for oil, as opposed to screen wash) you can top up from there. When choosing your engine oil, it’s important get the right oil for your engine. If the viscosity is wrong, it’ll damage your engine, i.e. don’t buy oil for a performance car, if you’ve only got a cheap little runaround. The dusty can of remnant engine oil lying at the back of the garage won’t ‘just do’.

Are you wanting to find out what oil to buy? Click here

Check out our guide on how to change a tyre here.

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Problem Signs with Your Oil

The appearance of the oil on your dipstick also gives clues as to the quality of the oil in your engine and any problems you might face.

Sludge and grit in the oil – oil is a clear honey coloured fluid. If your oil is thick and black,  your oil is old. It picks up deposits of carbon and other muck in the engine. This is especially true, if there’s a rotten dairy smell. Time for an oil change.

Crusty residue on the dipstick – this is also a way of telling whether you have coolant or water in your engine. Best contact your garage to get the engine serviced.