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How to check your engine oil

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If you've never checked your engine oil before, here are some easy steps to show you how.

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Checking your engine oil level is one of the most important checks that you must carry out regularly on your car. Engine oil lubricates the moving parts of the engine - if the level gets too low the engine might overheat, the moving parts would begin to wear out and the engine may eventually seize up, leading to costly repairs.

If you've never done it before, it's a quick and simple test to do - all you need is a clean cloth or paper towel and to know how to locate the dipstick.

1. Prepare your vehicle

To make sure you get an accurate reading, park your car on level ground and ensure the engine is cool. You should wait 30 minutes after switching the engine off so that the oil that has been circulating the engine has time to drain down into its resevoir (called the 'sump').

2. Locate the dipstick

The dipstick is located under the bonnet at the side of the engine. It normally has a brightly coloured handle to make it easy to find. When you have located it, gently pull the stick from its tube.

3. Clean the dipstick

Use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the oil off the length of the dipstick.

4. Locate the oil level markers

Once clean, you should be able to see the two oil level markers at the end of the dipstick. These might be notches on the sides, pinholes, 'H' and 'L' (high and low), or cross hatch markings.

5. Check the oil level

Carefully insert the dipstick back into its tube, all the way in, then pull it out again. The oil should be between the upper and lower markers. If it is below the lower one, you need to top up. If it is above the higher one, you need to drain some oil off.