Making time to check your oil
As much as people talk about it, you’d be amazed how often people overlook checking their oil. A simple check is one of the best and most important things you can do for your car. Granted, there are some newer cars that don’t have an engine oil dipstick and instead monitor oil level and condition electronically. However, for most of us, the process is the same as it’s been for much of the past century – pop the hood, pull and wipe the dipstick, then reinsert it and pull it back out to check the oil level.
The ideal time to do this is when you’re stopped at the gas station to fill up. If you get in the habit of checking your oil every time you get gas, you’ll be far more in tune to spot a problem when it happens. One thing to keep in mind, though is to check the oil AFTER you fill up with gas. This will give the hot engine oil a few minutes to all drip back to the oil pan, ensuring a more accurate reading when you check the level.
Why, you may ask, would you check the oil at all? The truth is that most cars do lose oil between oil changes. Either engine seals are worn and the engine will gradually leak and drip oil, or some of it will get burned up when the engine is running. If you don’t monitor the level, the engine could eventually run dry, resulting in catastrophic damage.
When you check it, the oil level should be somewhere between the minimum and maximum markings on the dipstick. If you find that the oil level is low, this is the time to correct that. I find it useful to keep a quart or two of fresh oil stashed in the trunk for just such occasions. If you don’t have any with you, chances are that the gas station sells oil. Just make sure before you add anything that you check your owner’s manual to make sure it matches the specifications recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should keep a record of the date and mileage of your oil changes. I keep a small spiral notebook in my glove compartment to log maintenance items, but you may have another way you prefer to keep records. It’s important to keep track of this, especially if you drive a lot. You won’t be able to tell too much about the oil’s condition by