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How Much Oil Does My Car Need? (+ FAQs)

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How much oil does my car need?” 
That’s something you might ask when you need to top up your engine oil. Or it could be, “How many quarts of oil does my car take?”

In this article, we’ll guide you on how much oil you need, how to check your oil levels, what happens if you add the wrong amount, and how to choose the right motor oil. We’ll also mention the tell-tale signs that your car needs an oil change. 

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Let’s begin.

How Much Oil Does My Car Need

So how many quarts of oil does my car need? 
Well, it depends on your car’s engine.

As a rough guide, you can estimate how much oil you need based on your car’s approximate oil capacity and engine size

Note: Motor oil and the approximate oil capacity for a vehicle’s oil tank is generally measured in ‘Quart’. One quart equals 0.95 liter and 0.25 gallon of fluid (oil). So 2 quarts equals 1.9 liter (or 0.5 gallon), 4 quarts is double that amount, and so on.

However, remember that your owners manual will tell you everything you need to know regarding how much mineral oil or synthetic motor oil your car needs. 

Why does the engine need oil?
Without enough oil, your engine will cease to function. This fluid ensures that all of the fast-moving engine parts within the engine don’t contact each other. 

Low oil levels will cause friction, which can lead to engine overheating. It’ll also increase engine wear and tear on the engine parts.

Excess oil levels will make the oil come in contact with the crankshaft and aerate it. Aside from diminishing the quality of the oil, having bubbles in your oil will cause unnecessary friction between your engine parts.

Clearly, it’s a good idea to check your oil levels every few weeks. 
But how do you do that? 

How To Check The Engine Oil Level (Step-By-Step)

The best way to check your oil level is with the oil dipstick. 
The dip stick will have markings indicating the right oil level with an L for low and an H for high. 

Ideally, you want the correct amount to be right in the middle between the L and the H
Here’s a quick walkthrough of how to properly check your oil level with the dipstick: 

1. Park your vehicle on a level surface. Some manufacturers recommend checking your oil with a warm engine, but the important thing is to leave your truck or car off for about 10 – 15 minutes before checking so the engine oil can settle in the oil pan.

2. Open your hood and pull out the car’s dipstick from the dipstick tube.

3. Wipe the end of the oil dipstick with a rag and fully reinsert the dip stick into the oil well.

4. Pull the car’s dipstick out again from the dipstick tube and read the oil level. You want it between the H and L markings.

5. If it shows a low oil level, simply unscrew the engine oil filler cap and add some new oil. Do not let it cross the H marking, or you may end up with excess oil.

For best results, you’ll need to pick the right oil for your car. 
Let’s take a closer look. 

How Do I Know Which Motor Oil To Use?

With so many oils available, you may not know which is best for your truck or car. 
And considering that using the wrong oil can damage your car, you probably don’t want to wing it either.

When it’s time to buy new oil to top up your oil levels, the most important thing for a car owner to know is the oil viscosity. This applies whether yours is a modern car model or an older, classic car. 

When you look at the label, you should see two numbers that represent the grade. One of the most common oil grades is 5W-30. 

In this case, the first number (5) describes the oil viscosity at low temperatures. 
The lower this number is, the better the oil will perform during the winter — winter being what the W stands for. 

The second number (30) describes its viscosity at higher temperatures. 
As your engine warms up, the oil thins. The higher this second number is, the better it will perform during the summer months. 

You should be aware of the type of oil that your truck or car needs, whether that’s mineral oil, synthetic motor oil, or synthetic blend oil

Mineral oil (or conventional motor oil) is made out of crude oil, while synthetic motor oil and synthetic blend oil are made out of synthetic sources. You may also opt for high mileage oil to help lubricate piston rings and other components in older vehicles.

Regular oil (conventional oil) is cheaper but has a shorter oil life than synthetic oil or synthetic blend oil (which is used in most modern car models). 

The best way to determine the right oil for you is to check your owners manual. It’s also important to get regular oil changes depending on your car’s oil consumption. 

But what if you add too much or too little oil to your engine?  

What Happens If You Add Too Much Or Too Little Oil?

If you accidentally add too much oil to the crankcase, the oil pump and crankshaft tend to aerate it while the oil pump develops air gaps. This turns the oil into a rather frothy, thicker oil. It can happen due to an operator’s error or fuel dilution and is pretty dangerous. 

In that case, you’ll need to drain excess oil in the oil pan through the drain plug. 

Similarly, low oil levels can be caused by excessive oil consumption or an oil leak (like from a damaged oil pan) and can cause engine wear and other issues. So if you notice oil leaks, contact a mechanic and top up the engine oil to the correct amount ASAP. 

5 Signs That Your Car Is Overdue For An Oil Change

If it’s been too long since the last oil change, your car will start exhibiting certain symptoms. These should tell you when it’s time for a synthetic oil change (or a conventional oil change):

1. The Oil Light

This will likely be the first and most obvious clue that your car needs some new oil. If this light activates, it’s time to check the car’s dipstick to see what’s happening. Your engine’s oil capacity and oil consumption will dictate your oil change intervals.

Worst case scenario, the Check Engine Light and Oil Pressure Light will also activate, indicating a low oil level and putting your engine at risk of damage. If there are oil leaks puddling under your car, you might need more than an oil change.

2. Knocking Sounds In The Engine

Since oil lubricates all the moving parts within your vehicle’s engine, when there isn’t enough, your car engine may get noisy. 

In severe cases, you might hear the knocking sounds of metal-on-metal, indicating parts like piston rings or seals are contacting and tearing themselves apart. Get an oil change service immediately in this case. 

3. Exhaust Smoke

While there’s always some translucent vapor escaping through your exhaust pipe, it turning to smoke is never a good sign. 

You may have a damaged component or an oil leak into your engine, and you should immediately get your vehicle’s engine checked. You should change your oil filter at this point since the old oil filter has likely clogged up and is causing the oil leak.

This may be a sign to get a conventional oil change or synthetic oil change.

4. Dark Or Dirty Engine Oil

Fresh oil is slightly translucent and amber in color. In contrast, old, muddy oil is a darker and thicker oil than regular mineral oil. 

Ideally, every car owner should be aware of their oil tank capacity and oil life. Dirty, old oil can affect the fuel economy and cause car engine wear. If your oil is getting dirty frequently, you may need to check the oil pressure and get a new oil filter.

5. Ticking Sound When Starting The Car 

Once you start your vehicle’s engine, oil begins circulating. If you have a low oil level or the old oil has expired, this may take longer than normal. 

When this happens, you’ll often hear a ticking sound while the engine warms up. This noise stems from valves trying to move the old oil around.

Final Thoughts 

If you notice your car’s oil is a little low, double-check your vehicle owner’s manual for the correct type of oil (whether it needs conventional oil, synthetic blend, or synthetic oil). 

Topping up your car’s oil level is easy enough to do on your own. However, if your car is frequently burning oil or dirtying it faster, you may need to get an oil change

And when you need one, simply contact RepairSmith

RepairSmith is a convenient and mobile auto-repair and maintenance solution offering competitive and upfront pricing. Our expert mechanics will handle any oil change service you may need. 

Fill out this form for the cost estimate of an oil change service.