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How Often Should I Really Check My Oil?

Being a vehicle owner requires performing routine maintenance. Some tasks require more work than others. Staying up to date on your vehicle’s maintenance can help extend the life of your car and avoid a costly repair down the road. One of the most straightforward maintenance tasks is checking your oil. So if you’re wondering, “How often should I check my oil?” Wonder no more!

We’ll answer this question and help you with what you need to know when checking your oil. Let’s get started!

diesel oil change

What Is Engine Oil and Why Is It So Important?

A vehicle’s engine is a complex combination of moving parts that need lubrication to work. Oil is what lubricates the engine and allows the metal parts to move without significant friction wearing them out. Any time you run your engine without sufficient oil, you risk irreversible damage to the engine and other components. When metal surfaces contact without lubrication they heat up, wear out, and can even fuse or weld together seizing the engine permanently.

How often should you change your Oil? / What happens if you don't? / Auto Advice

How Often Should You Check Your Vehicle’s Oil?

How often you need to check your vehicle’s oil will depend significantly on your vehicle type and driving style. Many new cars have sensors that detect leaks or low oil levels and alert you on the dashboard. However, technology isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t hurt to check your oil once a month.

If you have a leak or are burning an excessive amount of oil in your vehicle, you want to catch it as early as possible to avoid damage. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend checking your oil more than once a month if you drive a sports car or an older model.

Many owners will check their oil weekly when they purchase a new vehicle. This helps ensure the engine operates as it should and that there are no issues from the factory or the previous owner. You want to catch low oil as soon as possible to avoid causing any problems.

Mom and son changing car oil together
How often you need to check your oil will depend on the type of vehicle you have and how you drive it.

When You Might Need to Check Your Oil More Often

How you drive your vehicle can cause you to need to check your oil more often. Those who log many miles or use their vehicle for towing should check their oil more frequently than someone who isn’t asking as much from their car. Running a vehicle under tough conditions will increase the likelihood of developing a leak or burning oil. By checking regularly it’s more likely you will catch it early.

Much like humans, cars require more frequent checkups the older they get. The older a vehicle is, the more miles an engine has on it, and the more likely it is to have an issue. An older engine can develop leaks and burn more oil.

In general, we recommend checking oil before any big trip or every few thousand miles when towing or hauling.

Pro Tip: Pro Tip: If you’re going to take your vehicle off-roading, make sure to pack a winch! We took a closer look at How They Work and Components Explained.

semi truck driver checking oil
If you use your vehicle for towing, you’ll need to check your oil more regularly. Semi-truck drivers frequently check oil at every fill.

How to Check Your Oil

Checking your oil is a simple procedure that every person that drives a vehicle should know how to do. First, locate the oil dipstick. This is usually a bright yellow handle in the engine compartment under your hood. Consult your owner’s manual if you have trouble finding it.

Let the engine sit for 5 to 10 minutes to let the oil settle in the oil pan. Find a paper towel, pull the dipstick and wipe off excess oil from the dipstick before putting it back into the dipstick tube. Let it sit for 5 seconds, and pull it back out to see your oil level. You want to note the level on the hash marks on the dipstick and if it is telling you to add oil or not. Take a mental note of this level the next time you check to help you catch if your vehicle is burning oil.

Dad and son cleaning dipstick to check oil
Remove and clean your dipstick and then reinsert it into the tube to measure how much oil you have left.

Pro Tip: Monitoring your vehicle is important to keep it in good condition. Find our How Often Do I Really Need to Check My Tire Pressure?

What to Do If You’re Low On Oil

If you notice the oil light indicator on your dashboard, it’s a good idea to pull over as soon as you find a safe place. Make it to a service station if there is one nearby. You might need a few supplies!

The indicator likely means you have low oil pressure, which typically results from a lack of oil. If you had your oil changed at a shop, they might have put a sticker on the corner of your windshield to let you know when it was time for your following oil change. If it was recently or less than 10,000 miles, there’s a good chance you have a leak or are having issues with your pistons or other components.

Man pouring oil during oil change.
Don’t drive on low oil. It can cause major damage to your vehicle!

Let the engine cool down for 5 or 10 minutes before checking the oil. If the dipstick indicates that you’re low on oil, find the nearest place to buy some. Whether it’s a big box retailer like Walmart or one of the many car part stores like AutoZone, ensure you get the appropriate oil for your vehicle.

Pro Tip: Get the inside scoop on RV Oil Changes: What Every RV Owner Needs to Know.


Don’t Wait to Check Your Oil

Keeping oil in your engine is very important. If you don’t, you could do catastrophic damage to your engine and have a costly bill from your mechanic. Some of these repairs can cost thousands of dollars! Save yourself the trouble and check your oil regularly. Check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure how often your manufacturer recommends you check your oil. It’s a simple and easy thing to check that you shouldn’t put off regularly doing.

How often do you check the oil in your vehicle? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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