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Hey, you're in the vehicle / car zone--YOUR HANDYMAN ZONE!

Cars / Trucks / Vans Category: Oil

Maintenance Issues:

How to check engine / motor oil.

Tools / Materials (See Below for Applicability):

  • Clean rag or paper towel

  • Appropriate engine / motor oil  (see section on how to choose the right oil)


As to the maintenance of the oil in your vehicle, it does not necessarily just encompass keeping up with regularly scheduled oil changes to maintain your vehicle (and, what is more, the validity of your vehicle manufacturer's warranty).  You must also make sure that you regularly check the oil in your vehicle even between oil changes.

Your vehicle was manufactured with the necessary "built-in" assessment equipment for you to conduct this recommended weekly task of checking the engine/motor oil: Specifically, in a narrow slot found near your engine is what is called a "dipstick."  This dipstick, in many ways, is like a special measuring stick with specific measurement notations engraved on it in that it provides the vehicle owner two important pieces of information: 1) Whether the vehicle--the engine--has enough oil to meet the required level set by the manufacturer for operation; and 2) Whether the oil needs an otherwise unexpected oil change.

In checking your engine/motor oil, specifically do the following:

  1. When the vehicle is "cold" (i.e., having not been used for at least 3 hours), pop open the hood of your vehicle.

  2. Remove the dipstick from its slot.

  3. Wipe the dipstick clean of any oil with a clean rag or paper towel.

  4. Fully re-insert the dipstick into its slot, and then remove it from the slot once again.

  5. This time, once removed from its slot, take a close look at the dipstick to identify the generally aforementioned information bits provided by such dipsticks, and take


    additional action if necessary: 1) Whether the amount of oil in the vehicle is sufficient enough to have met (marked with oil remnants on the stick) a level on the dipstick that is between the engraved markings of ADD and  FULL, or, if below the marking of ADD, in that case, add more appropriate engine/motor oil until the dipstick reads (through a repeat of instructions 1-5) that the oil meets the appropriate level of being between the markings of ADD and FULL; and 2) Whether the oil that is shown on the dipstick contains any sort of a white, milky substance, and, if so, have the oil and oil filter replaced without delay.  (Otherwise, if the oil looks a bit dirty, that's normal and does not prompt an immediate change of oil or of an oil filter so long as you still maintain your routinely scheduled oil change per the vehicle manufacturer.)

Suffice it to say, don't just rely on a routine of oil changes every few months, make sure you actually use the dipstick since it is a real concrete way in which your vehicle "communicates" to you its service needs before costly problems come about as a result of neglect.

Ed the Handyman


Your Handyman Zone Team




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