All cars with combustion engines must have an adequate amount of oil to ensure efficient lubrication, cooling, cleaning and internal component protection.
How much oil your car needs will depend on how big your engine is. For example, a small car with a one-litre engine will need far less oil than a car with a three-litre engine.
The handbook that came with your car will tell you how much oil to use. If you've lost your handbook, contact the dealership that sold you the car, or contact the manufacturer directly. Otherwise, your local garage should be able to advise you.
What type of oil should I use in my car?
Once again, your vehicle's handbook will tell you exactly what type of oil to add. It's important to use the right type of oil and to avoid introducing old or poor quality oil. You can read more on this here.
How often should I check my car's oil?
You should check your oil regularly - once every two weeks at least. If you’re planning a long journey, it’s advisable to check your oil levels then, too. One multiple choice survey suggested that only 24% of UK motorists check their oil weekly, 29% monthly, 21% "only before a long journey", 43% responded "Never - that's why my car is serviced every 12 months," and 9% said "Oil level? Don't know what you mean."
Ensuring your car is topped up with sufficient oil will prolong the life of your engine.
How to check your oil level:
- Lift your bonnet and find the dipstick - it will be near your engine and may have a brightly coloured T-shaped handle.
- Remove the dipstick and clean it with a clean rag or tissue, then slot it back in.
- Remove it once more and you should see oil on it. There are two stamped markings on the dipstick - the oil level should be between these points. If this is the case, you have sufficient oil and can continue driving.
- If the oil level is below the lower mark, you should top up your oil, then check the oil level again before driving.
Other signs your car’s oil levels are low
Checking your oil levels regularly should prevent the following happening in the first instance…
Oil pressure warning light comes on - the vast majority of modern cars are fitted with this kind of system
Smell of burning oil - there could be a leak causing oil to drip on to hot engine parts, burning the oil
Clunking sound from the engine - due to poorly-lubricated parts
Poor engine performance - engine components must work harder if they are not well-lubricated
Overheated engine - due to moving parts rubbing against each other without sufficient lubrication
Read our helpful guide on choosing the right engine oil.