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How often should you check your oil?

We are all living busy lives these days, with places to go and people to see. Driving our cars is part of our daily routine, using them to transport us from A to B, therefore we often don’t really give much thought to it – we just get in our cars and go. So it’s understandable that sometimes, car maintenance isn’t at the top of our to do list and unfortunately, it’s not until something goes wrong that we find ourselves at the garage using up our precious time sorting out a problem, that often comes with a unwelcome bill to.

So, how often should you check your oil? As part of your cars maintenance, checking your oil levels on a regular basis is essential, as the oil in your car is key to ensuring your engine works properly and keeps all the parts moving as they should.

By keeping on top of the maintenance of your car, you can hopefully avoid any issues, making it safer and avoid spending money when you don’t need to. It’s better to maintain your car well and keep it on the road, rather than waiting for a problem to occur, and paying the price.


How to check your engine oil level

There is no set amount of oil that you should have in your car, as every vehicle is different depending on the manufacturer and engine size. To check your oil level, make sure that your engine is cold, and the car is on a flat, level surface. Make sure your bonnet is open and secured and locate the dipstick – there is usually a ring shape at the top. Pull out the dipstick and using a rag or tissue and wipe the stick clean,  you should see two markers indicating a minimum and maximum level. Then, put the dipstick back into the tube, and wait a few moment before taking it out again – the oil level should be around half way between the minimum and maximum markers, if it is more towards the minimum level, you will need to add some oil, as you are running low. Be sure to add the oil a little at a time, and check the levels as you go, as adding too much oil can cause damage to your engine. To find out how to check your oil in more detail, the RAC have a handy guide online, including a YouTube tutorial that can be found here, so check this out if you want to see how it’s done before you check your own car.

This check is straight forward and simple, so you can check your own oil at home, however if you don’t feel comfortable, you can of course take it to your local garage, who will check the oil for you.

Checking the oil level in your car is just one of the checks drivers need to do on a regular basis, in order to make sure their cars are road worthy and well maintained.  Completing these checks ensures you are a responsible driver and being conscious of maintaining our vehicles properly means we are doing all we can to keep ourselves and other road users safe.


Getting your Oil Checked for an MOT

If you have not leased a brand new car then you may have a car that is over three years old. With these vehicles It’s essential that you book your car in for a MOT each year as it is not only a legal requirement, but one of the most important tests conducted at an MOT.[1] The garage will then let you know if your oil levels are correct and may offer to add some while your car is with them. However it’s best to ensure that the oil level is OK before your MOT, as the garage needs the level to be correct in order to test emission levels and your car will fail, or the MOT may not take place at all, again using up your time and money unnecessarily.

It’s for these reasons that sometimes it can be cheaper leasing a new vehicle instead of buying or leasing an older car. When you lease a car on a short term contract or for a maximum of three years you will not need to have an MOT carried out on the vehicle, only servicing!

However, it is advised that you check your oil levels at least once per month as a general rule. But if you are planning on taking a long journey – perhaps for work or taking your family away on holiday, it is recommended that you check your oil before you leave. On top of this, it’s always a good idea to check your tyre tread and pressure, fuel and washer fluid levels, to ensure your journey goes as smoothly as possible. Not having enough oil in your car, even for a short amount of time, means there is nothing separating the internal parts of your engine, causing metal on metal contact, which is definitely something you want to avoid as it can damage your engine in a matter of seconds.

Sometimes, you may find that your car will indicate when there is a problem with your oil level, which may be due to the temperature of your oil.  You can check this by monitoring the oil temperature gauge, which is sometimes located on the dash, on the dials in front of the driver or in the vehicle settings on the cars infotainment system. In most cars, there will be a symbol on your dash that will light up if the car detects that something isn’t quite right with your oil, it’s usually a small oil can symbol, but this does vary by manufacturer – so check your cars handbook if you’re unsure.

As well as your MOT, it’s important that you get your car serviced regularly. When you get your car serviced, the oil level will also be checked and topped up if needed. It is recommended that the oil in your car is changed about every 12 months, but again this is dependant on driving style, mileage and your vehicle. Using the correct type of oil for your car is also very important, as using the wrong oil can cause serious damage to your engine. To ensure you are using the right oil for your car, check your handbook or contact the manufacturer as each car will have its own specific requirements.

[1] RAC. (2020). New MOT rules – how do they affect you?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Feb. 2020].