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How to check and refill your car’s oil

Added April 8, 2021
Someone checking the oil level in a car using the dipstick

Regularly checking and maintaining your car’s oil level is one of the best things you can do to take care of your engine. And, it’ll save you money on a mechanic in the long run since you can easily perform this maintenance at home.

First things first—how do you know when you need to check and refill your oil?  With recent advancements in motor oil, typical engines have recommended oil change intervals between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. Some newer cars can even go as far as 15,000 miles between services.

Assuming all is well with your car, your “check engine” or “oil change” light should pop up on your dashboard to tell you when it’s time for an oil change. However, sometimes—like when your engine is running louder than normal—you may need to add oil between oil changes.

We’ll share five easy steps to help check and refill your car’s oil. Keep in mind, topping off your oil doesn’t replace the need for regular oil changes.

1. Gather your materials

Before you begin, make sure you’ve got everything on hand to put oil in your car. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Engine oil: One of the most important elements of an oil change is making sure you have the correct type of oil for your car. Check your owner’s manual to confirm your vehicle’s oil type.
  • Funnel: Using a funnel is the fool-proof way to get oil into your car without spilling it everywhere.
  • Towel: Oil is dirty; be sure to have a towel nearby to help clean up any messes.
  • Rubber gloves: Oil can stain your hands, so make sure to protect them with gloves.

We also recommend parking your car on flat ground before you start working, as parking on a hill or slope can affect oil level readings.

2. Locate the dipstick and check your car’s oil level

Your car’s dipstick is a helpful tool for this maintenance. It’s located near the engine and should be marked “engine oil.” Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean with a towel, replace it until it clicks into place, and pull it out again. Check the level of the oil on the dipstick.

If it reads at the “low/add” level, that shows you need to add oil. If it comes out as “full,” the oil level is fine, and you do not need to add oil. If there is no oil on the dipstick, we recommend giving your local mechanic a call to take a quick look.

3. Remove the cap and place your funnel

To fill the oil, you need to locate the oil filler cap on the engine. It should be marked “oil” or show a drawing of an oil can. Place a clean funnel at the top of the spout and prepare to pour the oil.

4. Pour oil

Double check you are using the correct oil for your car, then pour the oil. We recommend adding a half quart at a time to prevent overfilling. If your oil level read “add” when you checked, you’ll likely need about two quarts of oil total.

5. Re-check the oil level

Use the clean dipstick to check the oil level again, making sure it’s at the proper level and you didn’t over or under fill it.

That’s it–you’ve refilled your oil! Don’t forget to routinely schedule or perform a full oil change as well. Learn more ways to keep repair costs down by completing car maintenance at home.

Related links

Want to give your car a tune-up? Read about how to care for your car when it’s been parked a while.

Looking for more car-focused activities? Learn how to properly wash your car at home.

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