Should I Check My Car Oil Hot or Cold?

Just like you cannot walk without blood, a vehicle will not run for long without engine oil. You need to put the right type and the right amount of engine oil. If you go wrong in any of these, then it will cause issues.

Oil lubricates the internal moving parts of the engine and prevents them from wearing out fast. Hence, you need to ensure it stays at the right level for proper lubrication.

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, it’s good to check your engine oil level regularly. But should you check oil Hot or Cold?  To get maximum performance of the engine, you need to know how to check engine oil like an expert.

check oil hot or cold

Check Oil Hot or Cold

Checking the level of your motor oil prevents you from inconveniences when driving. It is advisable that you check the oil regularly to help you know the oil level and prevent low oil issues.

The best time to check engine oil is before starting the vehicle or 5 to 15 minutes after turning off the engine so all the oil will be in the crankcase for accurate measurement. However, some manufacturers recommend checking the engine oil when warm, and others think it is better to check while cold. You can consult your owner’s manual to determine which applies to your car.

Aside from checking the oil when cold or warm, you must park the vehicle on flat pavement before checking the engine oil. This will allow you to get accurate measurements. If the vehicle is parked on a hill or sloppy area, the engine oil will go to one side, and you won’t have an accurate measurement.

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What to Use When Checking Oil

The dipstick is designed for checking the motor oil level. Thus, you should use the dipstick when checking your oil level.

To check the oil level, remove the dipstick and wipe it with a clean cloth before dipping it back. After that, pull it out and check the oil level on the dipstick. The oil should be at the maximum mark or close to it.

The dipstick has some markings on it. It shows you the highest and the lowest level. Your oil should not exceed the maximum marking; neither should it go below the minimum marking on the dipstick. The motor oil is overfilled if it is above the max line. But if it is below the minimum line, you have low engine oil.

Read Also: How to Remove a Stuck Oil Dipstick Tube? All that You Need to Know

How to Check Engine Oil Like a Pro 

Checking engine oil is not a difficult task, and it will also not take you too much time. These are the steps on how you check the oil in your vehicle.

Step 1: Park Your Vehicle

Start by parking your car on a level surface. This will help you get the correct reading. If the engine was in use for a long time, wait for it to cool down for around 5 to 15 minutes. It will allow the oil to settle down. Most manufacturers have recalibrated the dipstick to give a correct reading, irrespective of whether the oil is hot or cold.

Step 2: Pop the Hood

Always remember that checking the oil should be done when the engine is off. Open the hood of the vehicle and locate where the dipstick is. It is mainly located around the engine. In most cases, it has an orange or red plastic tab on it.

Step 3: Remove and Wipe the Dipstick

After locating the dipstick, remove it. It will mostly have some oil readings. Wipe the oil off the dipstick with a clean cloth and ensure it is dry.

Step 4: Insert the dipstick

Insert the dipstick into its tube and pull it out. You will see the oil level on the dipstick. Wipe the dipstick and re-insert for confirmation.

The first reading may not be accurate since the vehicle oil can wink or splash upward on the dipstick. Re-check the oil level on both sides of the dipstick. The indicators on the dipstick will help you know whether the level is low, high, or normal.

Step 5: Check the Color and Consistency

Before you finish the process, inspect the consistency and color of the oil. This will help you know if the oil needs to be changed. In case the oil on the stick is gritty, thick, or black, then that is an indicator that it needs to be changed.

But if it is milky, you likely have coolant in the oil. Changing the oil in this situation will not fix the problem. Contact your mechanic to track the culprit and fix it.

Step 6: Put the dipstick back

If you are comfortable with the level, color, and consistency of the motor oil, wipe the dipstick with a cloth and put it back in the tube. Ensure that the stick is well inserted and close the hood.

In case the oil is off-colored, or the level is low, then it is advisable to take necessary actions as soon as possible. You can refill the oil if it is low or change it if off-colored. If you do not know how to go about it, visit your garage or consult an oil expert.

ReadAlso: Can I use 10w30 Instead of 5w30? All That You Need to Know

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it OK to check the oil when the engine is hot?

No, it is not okay to check the motor oil when the vehicle is hot. It is best to check the engine oil level before starting the car or 5 to 15 minutes after shutting it off. This way, you’ll have all the oil in the crankcase for an accurate reading.

Does oil read higher or lower when hot?

Engine oil will read lower if you check it when hot because some of the oil has not settled in the oil sump. The dipstick only reads the engine oil level in the oil sump, meaning the dipstick will not read the oil that travels to the valvetrain. This will invariably cause the reading to be lower.

Always allow the engine to rest for a while after shutting it down to prevent inaccurate readings.

How much-overfilled is oil, OK?

Oil levels should always stay at the recommended line. However, it is okay if it is slightly above the max line because it won’t cause any problems. But if the oil is overfilled with a half quart or more, or you see frothing on the dipstick, it’ll cause catastrophic issues. Thankfully, the only solution is to drain the overfilled oil.

What Temperature Should You Check Your Oil At?

There is no specific temperature set at which you should check the motor oil. You can check if it is hot or cold, and it will give you almost the same reading. However, if you live in a very cold area, it is crucial to warm up the oil first before you check.

You can let the engine temperature reach 230-260 Degrees Fahrenheit to get the best result. You do this by leaving the engine to run for some minutes – 10-15 minutes, to be specific. You can also check the car owner’s manual to see their recommendations.

How Long Does a Car Have to Sit Before You Check the Oil?

As we have said, you can check the oil when it is warm or cold, and you will get the same reading. However, if the engine has been running for a long, let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes to let the oil settle down in the crankcase for an accurate reading.

Do You Check Whether Honda Oil is Hot or Cold?

On whether to check the oil hot or cold for Honda, you can check it when warm or cold. The temperature of the oil will not make so much difference. But you have to let the oil settle in the crankcase before checking the oil level.

If you leave in an extremely cold environment, start the vehicle and idle it for a while. After that, turn it off and wait for the oil to settle on the oil sump before checking the oil level. This will make the oil a little warm for accurate readings.

What Happens If Oil Level Is Too High?

Overfilling oil can cause foaming, which is dangerous for the engine. As the crankshaft spins, it may whip the oil, causing it to froth.  The froth may cause the engine to wear drastically.

The maximum and minimum marks on the dipstick guide you on where the oil level should be. It should not go beyond the maximum marking nor below the minimum marking. The correct level of oil should be at the max line or slightly below the max line.

Final Words

Now you know whether to check the motor oil hot or cold. It’s advisable to check the oil when cold or warm accurate reading. If you live in an extremely cold environment, then you should warm the engine before checking the oil level. It is advisable to have a regular oil check to avoid having problems with your vehicle.

Remember, motor oils can be contaminated in many ways, like debris from metal shavings of the engine and combustion by-products. When the engine gets the care it needs, it gives you the peace you deserve.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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