How to Check and Top Up Your Car's Engine Oil

Your car’s engine oil is crucial in making the engine run smoothly. If the oil level is not checked regularly, it could get dangerously low.

Insufficient engine oil could lead to your car breaking down, or worse,  the engine could become badly damaged.

Not sure how to check your car's engine oil? Here's what you need to know about this essential car maintenance routine 😎. 

How do I check the engine oil level?

Most modern cars now have electronic monitors where the oil level can be easily seen on the dashboard. Or a warning may appear if it starts to get low. 

However, there are still vehicles where you have to get under the bonnet and measure the oil level using a dipstick.

If you need to manually check your car's oil levels, prepare the following:

  • A cloth or paper towel to clean the dipstick, as well as any drips
  • A bottle of engine oil if you need to top up
  • A funnel so you can easily top up your engine oil without spills

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to top up engine oil when you need to.

Step 1: Park Your Car on Level Ground

Before carrying out an engine oil check, make sure your car is parked on level ground. If you park it on a slope, your oil reading might be inaccurate.

The next thing to remember is to make sure that your engine is cool. If you’ve been driving your car and you need to check the oil level, let the engine cool for about ten minutes.

You may also check it before you take your car for a drive. What’s important is to only check under the bonnet when the engine is turned off and cool.

Step 2: Look for the Dipstick

When you open the bonnet of the car, look for the dipstick. It’s hard to miss because the plastic handle usually has a bright colour. In case, you’re having trouble finding it, refer to the owner’s manual.

Once you’ve located the dipstick, have your towel ready to wipe it clean as soon as you remove it. This ensures that you get an accurate oil level reading. 

Step 3: Check the Oil Level

Return the clean dipstick all the way into the tube. Pull it out and check the level by checking where the oil line is.

There are marks for the maximum and minimum levels. If you see that the oil line is between the two, your car should be fine.

If you're not sure, you might want to check it again, wiping it before you re-check. If the mark is already closer to the minimum level, add some engine oil.

When a car runs out of engine oil, it can cause damage that would be costly to repair. So check the oil level regularly to keep your car in top condition

Step 4: Top Up Your Car’s Engine Oil

The first step to top up your car's engine oil is locating the oil filler cap in your engine bay. There’s usually the word “oil” along with an oil can outline. 

Remove the oil filler cap and then place the funnel to pour the engine oil without spilling. Typically, the difference between the dipstick notches of the minimum and maximum levels is about one litre of engine oil.

If the current oil level is below the minimum, then you’re going to need a litre of oil. If you’re not so sure of the amount to put in, add a bit of oil at a time.

Wait for about two minutes so that the oil can run into the bottom of your engine. After that, you may then recheck the oil level with the dipstick.

Once you get the hang of it, topping up your car's engine oil is easy. It doesn't take long, and it helps to keep your car healthy and running properly. 

When should I change my car's engine oil?

Checking the engine oil level and topping it up whenever necessary is among the simplest but most important car maintenance tasks you can do by yourself.

When you take your car for its yearly service, the mechanic may drain out the old oil, replace the filter, and finally place new oil into it. 

While the engine oil can be checked annually by the mechanic,  you don’t have to wait. It is recommended that the oil level be checked every few weeks.

When it comes to how often you should service your car, once a year is usually enough. If you go on long drives, then you may want to check the oil level before you get back on the road again. 

Here’s a little tip before you take your car for an MOT: Make sure that you’ve topped up your engine oil!

The garage will run the engine to check exhaust emission levels. If your car’s oil level is too low, then they might not proceed with the test. 

What happens if I don't change my car engine oil?

If you don't change your car engine oil, it could start to gel or solidify in the engine, eventually turning into sludge.

Once this happens, the oil won't be able to reach every part of the engine. At this point, something called 'engine starvation' happens in the crankshafts, bearings, camshafts and other valve train components.

This may lead to serious problems for the engine, to the point where it needs replacing entirely 😨. So, don't wait for this to happen! Check the engine oil levels regularly.


A low engine oil level means there's less lubrication for the many metal parts moving in the engine. Without the right oil level, they could get damaged, and it would be expensive to repair them!

Avoid having to spend money on repairs that could easily be avoided. Check the engine oil level regularly and top up whenever necessary. 👍