How to Read an Oil Dipstick

A yellow car on the road.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
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What You'll Need
What You'll Need

Knowing how to use an oil dipstick is a simple task to handle. Maintaining the correct oil levels in your car will help to keep it running smoothly, and can help to reduce maintenance costs in the future.

Step 1 - Determine if the Vehicle Should be Warm or Cold

A red car on the road.

Determine whether the vehicle should be warm or cold, when reading the oil dipstick. The vehicle manual will tell you the best way to check the oil, since it depends on the engine. Wait at least one hour before checking the oil if a cold engine is required. Park the vehicle out of the sun, and on a flat surface. If it is okay to check with a warm engine, then the vehicle can be parked and checked in five minutes.

Step 2 - Remove the Dipstick

A black car on the road.

Once the hood is opened, remove the oil dipstick and wipe it with a cloth. Then, replace it back into the tube. Pull the dipstick back out.

Step 3 - Read the Dipstick

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There may be letters such as an "A" or "L" on the dipstick. "A" means add. "L" means that the oil level is low. If there are no letters on the dipstick, then dripping oil from the stick will indicate that there is enough oil in the vehicle. If the oil is towards the top of the stick, then there is enough oil in the vehicle. Place the dipstick back into the tube after seeing what it reads.