One of the best ways to ensure that a vehicle runs smoothly is by using the correct type of motor oil compatible with its engine, but this is not where a vehicle owner’s duty ends. One needs to make sure that one checks the oil levels from time to time, depending on the vehicle’s usage. As car experts, whether to check the oil when hot or cold is one of the most frequently asked questions. 

Checking the oil level will help you gauge the need to refill the oil in time before it starts affecting your vehicle’s health. 

Read this article thoroughly to understand the science behind whether you should check the oil when hot or cold. 

Do You Check the Oil When The Engine Is Hot or Cold?

If you’re not aware, engine oil expands when it’s heated. That means if you check your oil when it is hot, there is a high chance that the dipstick will show a higher oil level than it has, producing a false reading. 

Checking the oil level when the car is at room temperature is considered the best choice keeping in mind that there are no variations in the actual levels. 

Another reason to check the oil when cold is that engine parts and even the oil get extremely hot if used for a certain period, which can lead to accidentally burning your skin. 

Oil can reach a temperature of up to 120 degrees celsius when in use, giving your skin a third-degree burn

When do I check car oil when hot or cold? A simple and logical answer would be to check it when it’s cold

How to Check Engine Oil Level in Car? 

Garage visits can be costly, and to avoid these charges as much as possible, every car owner should learn to do some stuff themselves. 

To check the car oil, go through the owner’s manual and find the automaker’s suggestions on how to check the car oil. Some users even ask if you can check the oil with car running. Well, we don’t recommend trying that 🙂

With technology taking over, most of the new cars in the market have electronic oil monitors. If your car doesn’t have one, you will have to take the traditional way. Follow the below steps to see if your car needs an oil refill. 

Step 1: Make sure you park your car on an even surface. If the car is slanted, the dipstick might not show the correct readings. (Because of physics!)

Step 2: As mentioned earlier, figure out the location of the dipstick from the owner’s manual provided to you by the manufacturer. A dipstick is usually on the left side of the engine and is a long piece of metal attached to a plastic handle. 

Step 3: If you live in a harshly cold region, turn on the engine for a few minutes to bring the oil to normal consistency. (Don’t run the engine for more than 10 minutes)

Step 4: Pull the dipstick out from the oil tray and wipe the dipstick with a clean towel. This is an important step because you might not get the correct reading considering the movement of oil within the chamber when the car last ran.  

Step 5: Put the dipstick back and pull it out. Check the level of oil by seeing the bottom part of the dipstick. Automobile manufacturers put a  maximum and minimum mark on dipsticks.

Step 6: Once you are done checking the oil level on the dipstick, try to make out the texture and color of the oil visually. Though this might be a little difficult for newbies, you can find reference images on the internet for some help.  

It is important to check if the oil has lost its original texture and has gone bad and needs a complete oil change. 

Are Different Types of Oil Affected by Outside Temperatures? 

Outside temperature is something that most people neglect when checking oil levels in their vehicles. But can be an important factor when taking a reading from your dipstick. How? 

Temperature can change the basic consistency and expansion of motor oil in your engine. It depends on the type of oil that you have used in your engine. 

Synthetic Oil 

Synthetic oils are made of high-quality base oils, which give them a higher protective quality for the engine and are more chemically stable than regular oils. 

These oils thicken when exposed to colder temperatures, and if your car is used in a cold climate, you should run the car for a few miles or at least turn on the engine for 10 minutes before taking a reading on your dipstick to get the right levels. 

Regular Oil

Regular oils go through a much lesser expansion and compression when compared to synthetic oils and hence are not as affected by the outside temperatures in general. But again, if your vehicle is used in areas where temperature meters show a single digit, you should get the oil a little warm. 

Is it Okay to Check the Oil When the Engine is Running? 

You can check the oil whenever you want to, but the best way would be when the engine is not turned on. A running engine is actively pumping oil around the engine for lubrication, making it difficult to get the right reading. Not to mention, opening the oil cap of running engine can be even riskier for your skin.

Frequently Asked Questions on Check Oil When Hot or Cold

One should wait 10 minutes after turning the engine off before checking. It gives the oil enough time to drain back into the oil compartment.

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