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The reason to check your oil begins with an understanding of the oiling system itself. Bolted up to the underside of the engine is an oil pan. At the bottom of the oil pan lives a pickup for the oil pump. The oil pump takes up oil through the pickup and circulates it through the engine. In this way the miraculous lubricating properties of oil stop friction and heat from destroying the engine. This miracle will continue unabated unless one neglects to check the oil level. Engine damage will visit those who lapse in this most basic of automobile ownership responsibilities.

Checking the oil level is as simple as popping the hood and reading the dipstick. Since the dipstick only reads how much oil is in the pan itself there are a few rules to follow. The first and foremost rule is to check oil only when the vehicle is on level ground. Since the dipstick extends into the bottom of the oil pan it will give an inaccurate reading if the oil is gathered up at the back, front, or sides of the pan. The second rule is to wait long enough for oil to drain back down from the engine into the oil pan before checking the oil. This can be as short as a few minutes, such as when tanking up at a gas station.

Hot or cold is where the argument starts. The check-when-cold crew maintains since all the oil is in the pan when the engine is cold, the dipstick will give the most accurate reading. The check-when-hot crowd counters that since oil expands when hot, the best time to check the oil is when the engine is warm. As people truly seem to love arguing about oil the argument will certainly not stop here. Both arguments are valid as long as the first two rules are followed. If your driveway is flat then check your oil in the cold morning air. If you have to chock your wheels against the curb of a steep slope when parking at night, then check your oil at the gas station when the engine is warm and on a flat surface. Checking the oil level every other fill-up is a good schedule to follow.

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Stuff You'll Need:

· Rags
· Recommended Viscosity and Type of Oil
· Funnel
· Owner's Manual

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Begin checking the oil by finding the dipstick. Park the automobile on level ground, and set the emergency brake. Open and prop up the hood, then look for this.

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Pinch a rag or around the dipstick to remove oil as it is drawn out of the engine. Remove the dipstick.

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Reinsert the clean dipstick into the engine until the handle bottoms out in the dipstick tube.

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Draw the dipstick back out and take a reading. On the bottom of this dipstick are two marks. The upper mark indicates full. The lower mark indicates add. Time to add one quart!

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To add oil first locate and remove the oil filler cap. While this may seem obvious, pour engine oil only into the engine itself. Engine oil filler caps are usually clearly labeled with the word OIL or a pictogram of what looks magically like Aladdin's oil lamp.

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Add one quart of oil only if the oil on the dipstick is below the add mark. Too much oil can be detrimental to the gaskets and seals designed to keep oil inside the engine. Use a funnel unless you have super pouring abilities. Consult the owner's manual for exact quantity and type of oil.

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Check the oil level one more time.

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Replace and tighten oil filler cap. Double-check dipstick for proper seating. Be certain that all funnels, rags, and portable electronic devices are removed from the engine compartment before closing the hood.

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Related:
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Parts [Internal]

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