Should I check my oil when the engine is hot or cold?

By Product Expert | Posted in FAQs, Tips and Tricks on Monday, February 10th, 2020 at 10:49 pm
A man's hands check oil under the hood.

Ideal Engine Temperature for Oil Check

Oil is a very important part of an automobile, as it lubricates the machinery inside so that everything can stay in healthy motion. In order to ensure your vehicle has enough of this precious slippery juice in its system, it’s a good idea to check one’s oil from time to time. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends doing so at every other fuel-stop.

But different opinions abound on the exact conditions that oil should be checked in. One area that seems “hotly” debated is the ideal engine temperature. Should you check your oil with a hot or cold engine?

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A woman grins as she wipes off a dipstick before an open car hood.

With most cars, it’s recommended that drivers check their oil when the engine is cold. However, some automakers recommend checking when the engine is warm for certain vehicles. To determine for sure which one applies to your car, check your Owner’s Manual. If you’ve misplaced your physical copy, a digital Owner’s Manual can likely be found online with a little digging.

Other factors affecting ideal engine temperature for oil-checking include the type of oil used and the current outside temperature at your location. The details regarding these additional elements should also be available in your Owner’s Manual.

Note that if you are checking when the machinery is hot, be very careful not to burn yourself on the engine.

How often should I check my oil?

As mentioned above, Consumer Reports recommends checking your vehicle’s oil at every other gas fill-up. All that’s needed to do so is a rag or paper towel for wiping off the dipstick.

How can I perform an oil check?

To check your oil:

  1. First make sure your engine is off (no matter which temperature you’re after).
  2. Open your hood and find the dipstick.
  3. Pull out the dipstick and wipe off the oil.
  4. Reinsert the dipstick into its tube. Be sure to push it all the way in.
  5. Pull the dipstick out again and check the oil level, looking at both sides. If the top of the oil streak is between the upper/lower (maximum/minimum) marks, then the level is good. However, if the oil is below the minimum mark, it’s time to add some oil.