How to Put Oil in a Car
How to Put Oil in a Car
by Tammatha R. Conerly
If you don’t have the right amount of oil in your vehicle, you can ruin your engine, which can cost you thousands. Putting oil in is easy and can save you a lot of money, especially if you have an older vehicle that has developed leaks.
Remove the dipstick to determine if you need to add oil. The dipstick is located near the engine, and will be marked «engine oil.» Pull the dipstick out, wipe it with a paper towel or clean cloth, replace it and pull it back out again. See where the oil is on the dipstick. The dipstick will be marked «low/add» and «full,» indicating the need to add oil. If the oil is below the full line, you need to add oil. If there is no oil on the dipstick, seek help from a licensed mechanic.
Remove the oil cap located on the engine and place a clean funnel in it.
Poor oil in. If oil was on the «add» mark, you need approximately 2 qts. of oil. If it is in between the «add» and «full» marks, add 1/2 qt. at a time and recheck the level to prevent overfilling.
Crank the engine until the oil light goes off (or the oil pressure rises on the oil gauge, if your vehicle is equipped with one), then turn the engine off. Recheck the oil by pulling the dipstick, wiping it and then reading it to ensure it is at the proper level.
- Check your owner’s manual for suggestions on the weight of oil needed for your vehicle.
- The weight of the oil needed will depend on how many miles are on the vehicle, the age of the vehicle, the part of the country you live in, the altitude and the time of year.
- Do not overfill.
- Do not skip the regular oil changes recommended in your owner’s manual.
Items you will need
- Oil in appropriate weight
- Paper towel
About the Author
Tammatha R. Conerly has been writing professionally since 2004 and is a freelance writer, reporter and photographer. Conerly has worked as a correspondent for several newspapers in Louisiana, Wyoming and Idaho. Conerly is the President and CEO of The WRITE Business Solutions, which she founded in late 2004.
- Photos by Tammatha R. Conerly
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How to Top Up the Oil in Your Car
Regular car maintenance can make a huge difference with keeping your vehicle in good condition. For major repairs and special jobs, hiring a professional mechanic from Your Mechanic is a simple and convenient solution, but there are a few small tasks that all drivers can do to keep their car running at its best.
One of those small but important tasks is making sure there’s enough oil in your engine and to add any if it’s low. Newer cars have sensors to let the driver know if the oil is low, but it’s still a good idea to check the oil regularly. This should be done about once per month. And don’t worry—even if you’re one of those drivers who wouldn’t dare peak under the hood of your car, we’ll show you how to add oil to your engine in a few simple steps.
Part 1 of 3: Park your car on a level surface
Before checking the current level of oil in your engine, or adding any oil, you’ll want to make sure that your car is parked on an even surface. That way, you can be sure you’ll get an accurate reading.
Step 1: Park on flat ground. Check the level of the ground where your car is parked. Make sure the car is parked on flat ground.
Step 2: You must park on a flat surface. If the cat is parked on a slope, drive your car to a flat surface before checking the oil.
- Tip: If you’ve just driven your car, make sure to allow 5 to 10 minutes before checking the oil level. You need to give the oil a few minutes to drain from the top of the engine down to the tank where the oil sits when the car isn’t running.
Part 2 of 3: Check the level of oil
Checking the level of your oil is essential for knowing whether you need to add more oil to your engine or not. If your engine runs out of oil, it can immediately fail because the engine parts will grind against each other. If your engine has too much oil, it can flood the engine or damage the clutch.
So, monitoring the level of your oil can save you a lot of time and money in unnecessary repairs. And it only takes a few steps to complete this task.
Step 1: Pull hood release lever. In order to check your oil, you need to open the hood of your car. Most cars have a lever located somewhere beneath the steering wheel and near the foot petals. Simply pull on the lever and your hood will open. If you can’t find the lever, check your owner’s manual for its location.
Step 2: Undo safety latch, open hood. After releasing the hood, you’ll need to undo the safety latch that prevents your hood from opening on its own. Normally, the safety latch can be undone with a lever under the ledge of the hood. This will allow you to fully open the hood.
Step 3: Prop open hood. Prop the hood open so that you aren’t injured by the hood falling down. Some cars have hoods that will stay open on their own with hood shocks; however, if yours does not, you’ll need to make sure you secure it so that you can safely check the oil.
First, hold the hood open with one hand while you use your free hand to locate the metal rod that is located on either the underside of the hood or along the edge.
Make sure to secure the hood prop in a slot along the underside of the hood or the side of the engine console so that it is sturdy.
Step 4: Locate the dipstick. The dip stick is a long, thin piece of metal that slides down into the oil reservoir of your car. It should be easy to find and typically has a small yellow loop or hook on the end of it so that it’s convenient to hold onto.
Step 5: Remove dipstick and wipe clean. Remove the dip stick from the engine and wipe it down with a clean cloth. It’s necessary to wipe the dip stick clean so that you can get a good reading. After wiping it down, make sure to slide it all the way down back into the engine.
- Tip: Use an old rag, paper towel or some other cloth that you won’t need for anything else. Wiping off the dip stick will definitely leave oil stains on the cloth, so you don’t want to use anything that shouldn’t be stained.
Step 6: Remove dipstick and read oil level. Remove the dip stick and read the level of oil in your car. The dipstick should have two points on it that identify minimum and maximum oil levels. The oil level should fall between these two points. If your oil is close to or below the minimum, you should add oil. After reading the level, replace the dip stick to its original position.
- Tip: The space between marks on a dip stick is equal to a quart of oil. If your oil is at the minimum level, you should probably add a quart, although it’s wise to add a little at a time to make sure you aren’t putting in too much at once. Oil is sold in single liter plastic bottles.
Part 3 of 3: Adding oil to your car
Now that you’ve got an accurate reading of the oil in your engine, you’re ready to add oil.
- Warning: Adding oil to your car is not a substitute for getting your oil changed. It’s important to check your owner’s manual regarding how often you should have your oil changed, although most experts suggest changing your oil every 5,000 miles or every three months. Changing your oil is a more complicated process than adding oil to your engine, and one of our mobile mechanics would be happy to do this for you wherever your car is located.
Step 1: Make sure you have the right type of oil. Your owner’s manual is the ideal place to learn what type of oil to use.
Normally, the viscosity of oils is identified with two different numbers (viscosity is the thickness of a fluid). The first number is followed by a W and represents how well the oil can circulate the engine during cold temperatures, like in winter. The second number refers to its thickness in warmer temperatures. For example, 10W – 30.
Because heat will thin oil and cold will thicken it, it’s important to choose oil that won’t get too thin in high temperatures or too thick in cold temperatures.
Synthetic oils are typically more expensive but they last longer than mineral oil, withstand higher temperatures, and flow better in cold temperatures. It’s not necessary to use synthetic oil unless specified by your owner’s manual.
Step 2: Locate and remove the oil cap on your engine. The cap is normally clearly marked with the word OIL or it’ll have a large graphic of a dripping oil can.
- Tip: Make sure you’ve found the right cap. You don’t want to accidentally pour oil into another part of the engine, such as the brake fluid or coolant. When it doubt, check the owner’s manual of your car to see exactly where the oil cap is located.
Step 3: Place the funnel in the oil spout and add oil. It’s not necessary to use a funnel, but using one can make the process much cleaner. It’s harder to get the oil directly into the spout without a funnel, which might result in oil spilling over the engine.
Step 4: Replace oil cap: After adding oil, replace the oil cap and dispose of the empty oil bottle.
- Warning: If you notice that you need to add oil frequently to your engine, your car may have a leak or some other serious condition and it should be seen by a mechanic.
If you notice that the oil on the dipstick is any other color than black or a light copper color, you should have a professional check it out, as that can be a sign of much larger problem with your engine.
How Do You Top-up Oil in a Car
Engine oil plays a very important role in the running of a car so it’s essential that you check your oil levels regularly and top up when necessary. If you are near or below minimum levels you should put oil in your car so it doesn’t run out.
Remember that oil loses its properties over time and slowly becomes contaminated so it’s important that you change the oil completely after a certain number of miles (normally between 3,500 and 5,000 miles).
Engine oil’s main functions are: lubricating moving parts, cooling the engine, sealing the space between the pistons and piston rings and cleaning the engine to remove any carbon residue build-up which could form inside. Seeing how important it is, at OneHowTo we want to show you how you top-up oil in a car.
Steps to follow:
Leave your car to cool before putting oil in your car, otherwise you’ll burn yourself. Cars can become very hot so it’s very important you do this, making sure that your car has cooled completely.
Lift the bonnet of your car and look for the oil cap, which is normally labelled ‘OIL’ and, in some cars, is even accompanied with a picture so that it is easily identified. Check the level with the dipstick, which will usually be a marked with a colored handle near to the oil cap. There will be high and low markings on the dipstick, but you may need to clean it first and then reinsert it to get an accurate reading.
Once you’ve located the oil cap, open it and pour the oil into the hole. Be careful while doing this: pour it in slowly, starting with half a litre of oil.
After you’ve poured in the first half liter, screw on the lid and wait for 5 minutes to give the oil a chance to settle so that you get an accurate indication of the Oil level.
After this, check the oil level again. Does your car require more engine oil? Always try to make sure that the oil level is near the maximum line.
Now you’ve successfully topped-up the oil in your car, if you notice that your car’s oil levels are running low, repeat steps 2,3,4 and 5 until the oil is at the optimum level. If it has been a while since you changed the oil or you do a lot of miles, it may be time to go to a mechanic so that they can change it completely.
If you want to improve the performance and lifespan of your car then have a look at our other car maintenance and repair articles here.
If you want to read similar articles to How Do You Top-up Oil in a Car, we recommend you visit our Car Maintenance and Repair category.
- For your own safety, always make sure that your car engine is fully cooled before adding the oil. If the engine and the oil are hot, when you open the cap, the oil might squirt out and burn you.
- To make sure that you add oil that’s suitable for your car, visit your mechanic to ask what type of oil you should use, with specific information about the brand, the additive type and the viscosity grade.
Too Much Oil in Car? Even an Extra Quart Can Cause Big Problems
It happens. You put too much oil in the car. It doesn’t matter why your engine has too much oil, but you have to do something about it. And quickly.
Usually excess oil won’t be a big problem, so long as you’re using the right type of oil. But when it comes to too much oil in the car engine, it is definitely a bad thing.
So what happens if you put an extra quart of oil in your engine. Or for that matter, if you somehow put an extra two or three quarts in there? How serious is the problem and what should you do about it?
Oil will turn into foam, and foam can’t build up oil pressure. The spinning crankshaft will dip into the high level of oil resting in the oil pan, and whip it to a frenzy just like a blender making your favorite daiquiris. Same principle here, except it will happen inside your very expensive engine.
Engine oil does contain some anti-foaming additives, but that is only adequate for normal operating conditions. In fact, high performance engines have windage trays to divert the oil that the crankshaft slings off, so it doesn’t form a rotating mass around the crankshaft and start foaming.
Either way, a crankcase filled with whipped foam won’t supply the critical oil pressure needed to protect expensive engine parts. The excess oil must be removed. Sorry.
OK, so maybe you didn’t over fill the engine by two or three quarts. Maybe you just added one quart too many.
The spinning crankshaft will not dip so deeply into the ocean of oil inside the oil pan, but it will still sling all that oil around. That slinging will create a lot of extra oil mist inside the engine, oil mist that will want to escape any way it can.
Usually it forces itself out of the engine past gaskets and seals, then drips on the hot exhaust system and ignites. After all, oil is a combustible fluid.
When you smell the burning vapor you will instantly remember those worst-case stories you friends warned you about when you asked them about putting too much oil in your car.
If you are lucky, you won’t have a fire. But you will see oil drops, a lot of them, on your driveway. Then everybody will know that you did something wrong.
Yes, peer pressure can be a good motivation to fix your car right.
Emissions Components (Expensive Parts) Will be Ruined
What else could that foam and oil mist do that you wouldn’t like? It will ruin the very expensive emissions components in your car.
Engine crankcases tend to build up pressure in normal use, which comes from blow-by past the piston rings. Until the mid-1960s car engines had a breather mechanism that let the excess pressure, oil mist and the toxic contaminants from combustion vent easily into the atmosphere. You see the point, it caused air pollution.
Enter the EPA. Now cars are required by law to have closed systems to capture the crankcase pressure and route it (and the oil mist and the toxic combustion contaminants) back into the intake tract of the engine.
The hopes are that a normally operating engine will simply burn all that bad stuff along with the gasoline and air during the combustion process.
The parts that route the oil mist and contaminants back into the intake tract are collectively called the Positive Crankcase Ventilation system, or PCV for short. Things always sound more impressive when they have acronyms for names. If you’ve ever replaced the PCV valve on your car, that was the system you were working on.
But with too much oil foaming and misting around inside your engine, and the PCV system sending it into the combustion chambers, bad things will happen.
Cars are designed to burn gasoline, not oil. Oil doesn’t burn cleanly in a gasoline engine. It forms thick soot which goes right into the exhaust system.
That thick soot will coat the primary oxygen sensors in the exhaust manifolds and the secondary oxygen sensors that fit behind the catalytic convertor. All those expensive sensors will be ruined by the soot.
Likewise, the soot will ruin the delicate elements within your catalytic convertor, which are called “noble metals,” meaning, among other things, that they are expensive. The catalytic convertor costs a lot more to replace than a few quarts of oil.
It’s Easy to Fix
OK, so now we understand that it’s not good to leave an extra quart of oil inside your engine. And that it’s definitely not safe to leave two or three extra quarts in there. But it’s easy to get the oil out.
You’ll want to clean your drain pan really well. Then drain all your engine oil into your newly cleaned drain pan. You can drain your engine oil, right? It is one of the most basic car maintenance projects.
Drain your engine oil into your newly cleaned drain pan. Then it’s best to pour engine oil into something more manageable before trying to pour the correct amount of oil into the engine. It would be difficult to pour the oil out into the engine from the drain pan.
That’s a good reason to always buy your engine oil by the gallon jug. Use the big funnel to empty the drain pan back into the gallon jug. Then refill your engine with the correct about of oil from the jug.
Run it a minute, then let it sit still another minute, then read the level on the dipstick. Another crisis averted.