Driving a car feels like a breeze… that is, until those miles start racking up on the odometer and your dashboard lights up brighter than a Christmas tree. The harsh truth about cars is that they get old. Regardless of whether they’re sophisticated sports cars or humble hatchbacks, every mile spent on the road inches them closer and closer to that dreaded check-engine light. The bad news is that nothing can stop wear and tear on a vehicle. The good news though, is that with proper maintenance, it’s possible to prolong the life of your car. One of the most valuable maintenance routines you can practice is checking the dipstick to confirm your engine oil is fresh.
Make a Habit of It:
Checking dipsticks is a major part of regular upkeep on your car. It’s easy to do, and provides valuable clues not only about whether the fluid levels are sufficient, but also about the condition of several vital systems on your vehicle. Oil reduces the friction in your engine and keeps it running smoothly. This is why it’s highly advisable to check engine oil frequently long before it’s time to have an oil change. If you detect something wrong with the oil in advance, it can spare you the trouble of damaging your engine with excessive friction. Here are a few tips on the right way to personally inspect your vehicle’s oil levels:
1. Locate the Dipstick First:
The dipstick is a removable wire connected to the oil reservoir of your vehicle. It’s designed with removability so that gauges etched onto its surface can be viewed to examine the oil. If you can’t find the dipstick in your vehicle, check the owner’s manual for instructions on the proper way to access it.
2. Clean the Dipstick:
With the engine off and cold, pull out the dipstick and wipe it using a clean, lint-free rag. Cleaning the stick is necessary because oil may have splashed all over the gauge during regular operation of the vehicle.
3. Get a Fresh Reading:
Once it’s clean, carefully reinsert the stick back into the pipe. If the dipstick gets stuck on the way in, jiggle/turn it around. The pipe it fits into is curved, and the metal stick bends naturally in the direction of the curve if you insert it the same way it came out.
4. Analyze the Oil Levels:
Pull the dipstick out again and look at the film of oil on the end of the stick. Note how high the oil film reaches on the dipstick and the condition of the oil as well. Dark oil indicates the car may be due for a fresh batch of lubrication. Also, if the current levels indicated on the stick are low, it might be necessary to top up on some more oil. If your oil looks clean enough but only reaches the “Add” level on the dipstick, you need to add oil. You can buy oil the next time you fill up with gas at a service station or you can find it at auto supply stores.
It is highly recommended for drivers to check their engine oil at least once a month to make sure that levels are stable, and that the oil isn’t contaminated. If you’ve never checked a dipstick before, or if you’re having trouble locating the dipstick on your car, simply refer to your owner’s manual or ask a service station attendant to help check it for you. Even if you don’t end up changing the oil without professional help, practicing this ritual gives you a better understanding of how your engine is performing as it accrues more miles. The more attentive you are to its deterioration, the faster you can jump to the rescue when malfunctions become frequent.