How and why you should regularly check your engine oil

A simple but important thing
by Jason Tulio | Jun 17, 2019
PHOTO: Adamsov/Pixabay

In the human body, blood works to transport oxygen and nutrients to your cells and tissues, remove waste materials from your body, and protect you against harmful infection and foreign bodies. Engine oil works the same way in cars. It lubricates all the moving metal parts inside your car, and it keeps the engine clean and protected from contaminants.

But unlike blood, engine oil needs to be replaced periodically so it can do its job properly. But what happens when you get lazy and forget to do your oil change? 

Mechanic Jeffrey De Leon once explained to us: “If you don’t [change your engine oil], the oil gets burned and nagiging sludge siya. The sludge becomes a solid material that will clog the oil passages. If the engine is not running, the oil is stored in the oil pan. In the middle of the oil pan is a strainer. Once you start the engine, the oil pump sucks oil from the pan. If you don’t change oil frequently, the sludge will get into the strainer. Once that’s blocked, oil won’t be supplied 100% to where it needs to go.”

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Now, imagine all the metal parts of your car rubbing against one another sans engine oil. Imagine all the grinding, heat, and friction that happens. If you’re picturing things burning up and breaking apart under your hood, then you start to realize just how vital engine oil really is to your car. 

One important thing you should always do to ensure your oil’s health is to periodically check its level inside the engine. The process takes just a few minutes, but it can go a long way towards your car’s preventive maintenance. For this, all you’ll need is a rag you can wipe the oil on.

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  1. Make sure your engine is cool before checking your oil. It’s best if you do this before you first start your car during the day. 
  2. Ensure you’re parked on an even surface so you get an accurate reading. 
  3. Open up your hood and prop it up.
  4. Find the oil dipstick. In most cars, it’s a yellow handle jutting out from the engine. In front-wheel-drive cars, it’ll be near the front, while rear-wheel-drive cars have them near the center.
  5. Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean. This is to ensure that you get a clear reading of the oil level.
  6. Insert the dipstick back in all the way, and take it back out again. 
  7. Check the end of the dipstick and see where the oil level reaches to. There are two markers that indicate the minimum and maximum oil levels. The reading should be somewhere in between the two.
  8. If the oil falls near or below the minimum line, then you need to add more oil. 
  9. Check the quality of the oil as well by rubbing it between your fingers. A black or brown color indicates normal, healthy oil. A lighter, milky color could mean that coolant is leaking into the oil. If the oil doesn’t drop from the dipstick, it might mean it’s already time for a change. Also feel for any possible contaminants or unusual particles in the oil. 

Now, how often should you check your car’s engine oil? De Leon recommends checking it every day if possible, or at least as often as you can manage. As for oil change intervals, he says that using kilometer readings in our heavily congested environment is a common error. 

“The problem is, let’s say you travel 10 kilometers one way in Metro Manila. In one day that’s 20 kilometers. But your car might be running around two hours one way because of traffic. So you might think that’s only 20 kilometers that your oil will have worked, but that’s not true. Once you start the engine, nagtatrabaho na siya,” he says.

To err on the side of caution, De Leon says changing your oil every 5,000km, regardless whether you use the fully synthetic kind or whatever else, is a good way to go. If you’re in doubt about how to check your oil or how often to change it, your best bet is to consult a mechanic yourself.

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PHOTO: Adamsov/Pixabay
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