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FAQ:  How to Check Your Oil


Instructions & Photos by Ken Middaugh




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NOTE: Although it seems obvious to most of us who have been driving for a while, to the novice driver (or the 'mechanically challenged'), checking the oil is a mysterious task.  For those folks, here's the way to do it properly, from a recent Q & A on the Team3S list.


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Q.>>>: Any tips on how to check my oil level?  The dip stick is always wet and I can't tell what the level is.  I've tried to check it first thing in the morning when the engine is cold, but it's still unreadable.  Any ideas?


A.>>>: The procedure is the same for nearly all cars:  The car should be parked on a level surface, with the engine turned off.  If the car has been running, let it rest for a few minutes or more before taking a reading.

Remove the dip stick from the tube, and dry it off with a cloth or paper towel; then put it back in completely.  Remove it again and check to see the highest point on the dipstick that is wet with oil.  If the oil is at the correct level, the stick will be wet somewhere between the two twists (or indentations) near the bottom of the stick.  If it is below the lowest twist, you should add some oil.  If it indicates above the upper twist, you have too much oil in the crankcase.

To add oil, remove the big cap that says "OIL" that is near the dipstick, and pour in about a quart (or liter) of the same oil that you have been using.  Repeat the procedure of drying the dipstick, reinserting it in the tube, and removing it again.  Check the stick again to observe the point where the stick is wet.  In most cases, one quart will be enough.  If not, add more oil (about a 1/2 quart at a time), and recheck the level on the dipstick until the oil level appears between the two twists.  Make sure to replace the cap after enough oil has been added!  If the oil level is too high, you should siphon out a 1/2 qt at a time, until you get a correct reading on the dipstick.  ...or if you don't have a siphon, any full-service gas station will be happy to do it for you.  Do not discard any oil that you remove - save it and bring it to your local station where they will dispose of it legally.  It is illegal to flush or discard oil improperly - know your local laws!



   Tip:   Check to make sure the dipstick tube is not clogged-- Do an oil change, and take a reading on the dipstick after the oil has been drained. If the stick is dry, then the engine oil had been overfilled. If the stick is still wet, then there is a problem with the tube for your dipstick being clogged.



---  Ken Middaugh




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Article 1998-2004 Ken Middaugh, All Rights Reserved.
Other Images 1995-2004 Bob Forrest, All Rights Reserved.