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How To Check Your Oil Like a Pro

Ladies, knowing how to checking your car’s oil is a necessity. Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide by Patrice Banks takes you through the process.

Normally, you’ll get things checked out every six months at your regularly scheduled maintenance appointments, and anytime your oil change monitor pipes up. But there are a few circumstances in which manually checking your oil yourself is necessary:

  • Before going on a road trip longer than two hours
  • Monthly once the car passes the 100,000-mile mark
  • Weekly if you have a small oil leak

That may sound like a lot. But checking your oil takes only two minutes and requires no tools or props other than a rag or a paper towel and gloves. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Park the car on level ground and turn off the engine. Checking the oil on a hill will result in an inaccurate reading.
  2. Pop your hood and locate the oil dipstick. The dipstick is a long rod that sits inside your engine and oil pan (the container that holds the engine oil). The head of the dipstick is usually a bright orange or yellow ring, making it easy to spot.
  3. Pull the dipstick all the way out, paying attention to the location of the small hole it came out of. Wipe off the dipstick with your rag or paper towel, then take a look at the indicator marks. A typical dipstick has two marks: F (Full) and L (Low); Min and Max; or two dots or lines.
  4. Place the dipstick back in the hole and push it all the way down into the engine. The tip of the dipstick will reach the oil pan.
  5. Pull the dipstick all the way out and read the oil level on its tip. You want the level to be between the F and L or Max and Min indicators.

An oil level at or below minimum or low needs to be dealt with ASAP. But you don’t want to overfill the engine and oil pan either. Too much oil in your engine will increase pressure and could lead to your blowing an engine head gasket. If the level is too high, take your car to your PCT and have some of the oil drained off.

If there’s no oil on your dipstick (mechanics call this bone dry), there is little to no oil in your engine and you are at risk of causing major damage. Either you have a leak somewhere, or you haven’t changed your oil in a really, really long time. You will need to add at least 3 quarts of oil and then take your car to a mechanic to have things checked out.

If the oil level is at the Min or Low mark, your engine is probably pretty unhappy. You’re likely to need an oil change (not just a refill), and you may notice your car running a little rougher. It’s missing that good lube! Take your car in for an oil change as soon as possible; if you’ve just had an oil change, you may have a leak, so turn right around and pay another visit to your PCT.

How does the oil look? Dark brown or black oil needs to be changed. Black particles usually indicate a lack of regular oil changes and some sludge buildup in the engine. Your PCT may recommend a fluid flush to clean things up.

Now that you can check your oil like a top mechanic, take a look at parking lot safety tips.

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