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A modern vehicle generally loses very little oil, but driving behavior and engine malfunctions are liable to increase the oil consumption of your vehicle. It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and check the oil level frequently, especially before a long journey. Also remember that an old vehicle generally consumes more engine oil, and therefore the oil level should be checked more frequently, according to the average oil consumption that you know from experience. It is also recommended to take a look under the vehicle and check that there is no puddle indicating an oil (or water) leak.
Yes, certainly, if you checked and found that the dipstick shows that the oil level is below the minimum line. Check in the vehicle owner’s handbook the recommended frequency of checking the oil level [link to a question about the frequency of checking] and follow the instructions. If the oil level is low, you can add some yourselves. [link to a question about adding oil independently] If the oil level is just above the maximum line, don’t add more. Excess oil is liable to cause too high oil pressure, burning of oil, and wear of engine parts.
You can let the service station attendant do the job of checking and adding oil, but you don’t really have to. Both checking and adding are very simple tasks and it is better if you do them yourself. This way you can be sure that the check is done properly, for example that you have waited long enough after switching off the engine, and that the added oil is of exactly the right kind. This is how you do it, step by step:
- Switch off the engine and wait a few minutes before checking in order to let the oil drain from the engine to the oil sump. If you don’t do so the check might incorrectly indicate a lack of oil.
- Check that the vehicle is standing on a level surface.
- Prepare a clean rag and then remove the dipstick. (It’s usually located in a prominent and accessible place.) Wipe it with a clean rag and then re-insert it. Check that you’ve inserted it fully.
- Remove the dipstick and check the oil level. There are two lines on the dipstick indicating the minimum and maximum levels, and the oil level should be near the upper line.
- If the oil level is below the lower mark, add the required quantity of oil. In some car models the distance between the marks corresponds to one liter of oil, but not in all of them. Check this in the vehicle owner’s handbook.
- Add the required amount of oil through the oil filling opening.
- If you are in doubt regarding the required amount, add less: You can always add more but it’s difficult to remove the excess.