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

September 9, 2021

How much oil does my car need?

There’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point!

The good news is, the answer’s pretty simple. 

In this article, we’ll guide you on how much oil you need, when you need to change it, how to check your oil levels, 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? 

It depends on your car’s engine.

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

However, remember that your vehicle owner’s 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. The lubricant 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 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 dipstick will have markings indicating the right oil level with an L for low and H for high. 

Ideally, you want the correct level 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 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 dipstick with a rag and fully reinsert the dipstick 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 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 to know is the oil viscosity. 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, which is why you must use the correct oil for your car’s engine. 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 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 for older vehicles.

Regular oil (conventional oil) is cheaper but isn’t as refined as synthetic oil or synthetic blend oil. 

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

So how do you tell when you’re in need of an oil change? 

When Should I Change My Car Oil?

The best way to determine when you’re due for an oil change is to check your user manual or the service manual. 

Previously, you’d have to change your oil every 3,000 miles or so. However, modern lubricants (like synthetic oil, synthetic blend oil, and high mileage oil) allow engines to run between 5,000 to 7,500 miles before needing a change. 

In older cars, oil change intervals are typically based on mileage. Though there tend to be two maintenance schedules, one for cars driven in “normal” operation, and the other for cars used in “severe service.”

The latter involves driving your vehicle in one or more of the following conditions: 

If your vehicle falls into one of these categories, you should maintain more rigorous oil change intervals. Many newer cars come equipped with an oil-life monitoring system that will automatically keep you informed about your oil capacity. 

But to be safe, here are some signs that you need to look out for when your car’s engine needs an oil change. 

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 will also activate, indicating a low oil level and putting your engine at risk of damage. 

2. Knocking Sounds In The Engine

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

In severe cases, you might hear the knocking sounds of metal-on-metal, indicating parts 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. As it’s used within your engine, it collects particles and turns darker. 

Of course, you won’t know exactly when this starts happening, so you should check your oil about once a month. Dirty, old oil can increase your fuel consumption and wear and tear. If your oil is getting dirty frequently, you may need 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 

Ensuring your car has enough fresh oil is critical to keeping it running smoothly. As a result, you should check your car’s oil levels regularly. 

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. Their ASE-certified mechanics will handle any oil change service you may need. 

RepairSmith also provides a 12-month | 12,000-mile service warranty on all repairs. Fill out this form for the cost estimate of an oil change service.