Check Oil Hot Or Cold

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: What You Need To Know

Have you ever owned a car before, even if it was for a short period? Then you should at least know that it is very important to check whether the oil is hot or cold periodically. When you need to check oil hot or cold, there are many ways to do that. Keep on reading to find out!

Most gasoline and diesel engines tend to slowly leak or consume their lubricating oil. Even if you got your shiny brand new car. It will eventually start to consume oil as well. Your engine will end up getting some extreme damage if the level of the oil drops too low.

This is because the engine needs lubrication. If it doesn’t get that, important engine components will completely stop. And that will very quickly damage your engine.

At times like this, questions such as “Do you check oil hot or cold?” comes up. We are here to answer them for you all in this article.

Do You Check Oil Hot Or Cold

Before we get into anything, we need to get some understanding. The engine in your vehicle is lubricated with the use of oil. Let’s consider most of the cars that are made today. Whether or not you put on fuel, the engine stores all that oil in a reservoir. It’s known as the oil pan or even the sump. You will find this pan at the bottom of your engine.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold

When the engine operates, the oil in the pan is picked up by a pump. It is then circulated to the oil filter first. And then it circulates to all of the other areas in the engine. These areas require lubrication. After doing all that, it goes back in the pan again.

When the engine of your car is turned off, it also stops the pump. And all of the remaining drains back into the sump. This is basically how the general engine lubrication system operates.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: How Do You Check The Oil Level Of Your Engine

When it comes to checking the oil level of your engine, you can easily do that. You can easily do that with the help of a dipstick. It works with almost every car.

Are you unsure of what a dipstick exactly is? Well, it is just what it sounds like! It is a stick that you just dip into the oil that is in the oil pan.

It looks like a long and slender rod of metal. Could be cylindrical or flat, and typically you can find them with a metal ring. Or a yellow handle on the upper end.

You will most likely be able to find it on top of the engine of your vehicle. If you still can’t find it, then you can check the owner’s manual. It’ll help to find out the exact location for the dipstick.

Checking The Oil Level

You will be able to tell the level of oil when the oil pan is full with the upper mark indication. And you can tell that you need more engine oil when you see the indication at a lower mark.

These dipsticks have the lower mark. You can go back to the full mark by just filling up the pan with exactly one quart.

The blank spaces that you see in between those lines might just simply be blank or cross-hatched. The area in-between represents the level of oil below full so the engine will have enough oil to run.

If the level of oil is in the middle range, there is no need for you to add more oil.

When Is It Better To Check Oil Hot Or Cold?

A lot of people are often confused about when to check their engine oil. They do not know whether to check the oil when the engine is hot or cold. However, the actual truth of it is that it’s better to check your engine oil when it’s cold. The reason behind doing this is that it would be harder to handle a hot engine.

Compared to a hot engine, you would have a far easier time working with a cold engine. There would be no fear of you accidentally burning yourself from the heat. Moreover, the oil can also reach temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius or 250 Fahrenheit as well.

It’s still actually a lot better to check the oil in your engine when it is still actually warmed up.

If you think that the engine is cold, then you can fire up the engine for a minute or two. Doing this allows you to have the best condition when you are checking your engine oil.

Can You Check Engine Oil When The Engine Is Hot?

Checking the oil in your engine is not a very ideal thing to do when the engine is hot. This is because the engines in most cars tend to get hot. It happens when you try to check the oil right after you just drove.

Of course, there are health and safety concerns. But, apart from that, some cars just require warming up the engine. This is another reason why checking the engine oil depends on the type of car that you are driving.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold

However, if you aren’t sure, then as a general rule of thumb, it’s better to let your vehicle rest. Do that before you go in and check if the oil is hot or cold. This allows the engine to cool down a slight bit, making the work a bit less hard to deal with.

When Is The Best Time To Check Oil Level?

What if you are not sure when the best time would be to check the level of oil? Then the following conditions can help you out.

1. Engine Cold Or Hot?

Generally, for most cars, the engine being cold is the best time to check. When the engine is cold, all of the oil in it will be drained back.

Naturally, a hot engine will have hotter oil. It can have high temperatures so you could easily cause a really bad burn. It could happen if you are not careful enough when checking oil levels in a hot engine.

2. Engine Stopped Or Engine Running?

Usually, the best time to measure the oil level of your engine would be when the engine stops. When the engine is running, it will be pumping the oil. So the oil pan will very likely not be full. If you were to run an oil check, you would get inaccurate results. And it would show too little oil in the oil pan.

Something to consider is that even that rule has exceptions. This comes in when you are dealing with cars that have dry lubrication systems for the sump. When dealing with these cars, you will have to check their oil level. Do that when the engine is warm and running. An example of this would be the Corvette C8 LT2.

3. How Long Should The Engine Be Stopped For?

Before starting to check oil hot or cold in your engine, keep your engine stopped for 5 minutes. So, you are allowing all of the oil to drain back into the oil pan from the engine.

However, do not think that just because you waited 5 minutes the engine will be cooler. It will not cool down a lot within such a short amount of time. It’s advised that you remain cautious and be careful if you do not want to burn your fingers.

Does The Engine Oil Expand When It Is Hot?

Well if you want the short and straight answer, then yes, it does expand when it is hot. When the temperature is increased, all types of oils tend to expand. And engine oil is no exception to that rule either.

This is also a reason that a few cars that come with sensors. These sensors help to measure the oil. If this is not done then you would get a lower reading from these sensors. It would of course be inaccurate.

For some other cars, both the engine and the oil in the engine need to cool down. It’s important so that you can take a proper dipstick reading that is also accurate. Of course, remember what we said before? When’s the best time to check the oil in your engine? It’s when the oil is just warm enough.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold

It does depend from car to car. Volkswagen suggests that you take their oil level readings when the engine is hot and not cold. They think that it gives them a more accurate reading. And the expansion of oil that happens is small enough to not make a big difference in the reading.

The engine of your car is just left to sit overnight. The oil inside keeps on getting colder and eventually thickens up. When the oil is in such a cold and thick state, the movement of the oil is restricted a lot more than it would be when the oil is warm.

How Do You Check Oil Hot Or Cold Properly?

Okay, so you want to check the oil level in your engine, but you are not sure how to do that. Have nothing to worry about because we are going to walk you through a step-by-step procedure on how you can do it.

Some things that you would do before starting would be a clean towel or a bunch of paper towels would do the job as well, just make sure that they are all within reach. It would also be helpful for you to have an adequate amount of lighting to work with.

Keep in mind here that when you are working with a car that has been newly purchased, it would be better for you to refer to the owner’s manual for the particular instructions and cautions from the manufacturer when you are checking the oil level of your engine.

With all that said, let’s jump right into the step-by-step process of checking the engine oil!

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Make Sure That The Car Is Parked On A Level Surface

The first thing that you would want to do when you are going to check your engine oil is to make sure that your car is parked on a level surface. What this does is that it ensures you get the most accurate measurement since the oil that is in the oil pan will also be level.

You can either put your transmission in gear or just go into “Park” and of course set the emergency brake as well.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Open The Hood

If the hood of your car does not come with gas struts, or even if it is not self-supporting then you absolutely must make sure that the support rod for the hood is secure in the right support hole which is in the underside of the hood.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Find The Dipstick

You need to withdraw the dipstick partially and then stop. What you would want to do after stopping is to wrap your paper towel or just the towel around it. Once you have done that, just withdraw the full thing while you are wiping it dry with the towel in the process.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Put The Dry Dipstick Back Inside The Dipstick Tube

After you have your dipstick all dried up and cleaned up as well, you need to put it back inside the tube for the dipstick. When you are inserting it inside, make sure that you slide it down.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Pull The Dipstick Out Again

Now, this time around you need to make sure that you are not wiping it. What you need to do is just hold the towel underneath the bottom end of the dipstick so that you can catch any of the drips that can fall on the ground.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Find The Oil’s Top Edge On The Lower End Of The Dipstick

If you can spot the top edge of the oil being on the top line of the dipstick, then it means that the oil pan is full. If you find it at or even below the bottom line, then it means that you need to add more oil.

And of course, if you see that it is somewhere in the middle of the two lines, then it means that you do not need to be adding oil at the given moment, but you will need to soon enough. However, be wary about whether should your car be running when adding fresh oil.

When you put in the dipstick and you notice that the mark is above the top line, then it just means that your oil pan is actually over full. If this is an issue that you are facing, that means that some oil needs to be drained from your oil pan.

If you are unsure about how to do that then you can easily just look it up on YouTube and find yourself tons of different ways.

Check Oil Hot Or Cold: Make Sure You Take Action As Soon As Possible When Oil Level Is Low

You can do this by going and buying the correct oil that was meant for your car and then adding the sufficient amount of oil that is needed to bring the level to the line. If you do not know what the correct oil for the engine of your car is then you just need to go back and review the owner’s manual again.

The owner’s manual of a car contains a lot of valuable information about the car that you are going to need and learn about. When you are adding the oil, you also need to make sure that you are not adding too much oil in the oil pan either.

When you are pouring the oil into the oil pan to fill it up, it would be easier if you used a funnel that is sized appropriately so that you can have an easy pouring of the oil.

If you do not feel confident about pouring in the oil yourself, then you do not have to do that. You can just take your car to an oil changing shop that you prefer and the workers there can take the necessary actions.


When you are checking the oil level of the engine oil, you will notice that the cap of the oil pan will usually be yellow. If you are not feeling so sure about where it is located then you can always go back and look at the owner’s manual.

Make sure that you have the right port, because if you add oil to the wrong port then you can risk causing some significant problems. These problems will not be easy to fix at all if you get something important messed up.

What To Do If Your Car Does Not Have A Dipstick?

This is not dumb, it is quite possible that you might not have a dipstick to check the engine oil in your car. There has been quite a decent number of new models and makes that have decided to ditch this reliable and clever feature.

For example many models from BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, some Fords, Mazda, Chevy, Lincoln, Chrysler, the brand new Toyota Supra, and of course the Porsche Cayman, the mid-engined one.

When it comes to the Cayman, you can only access the top of the engine from inside the cabin, which makes having no dipstick more justifiable for this car.

When manufacturers eliminate a reliable solution, such as the old-fashioned, but still clever dipstick, they end up having to install some complex circuitry and sensors that can communicate with the computer of the car.

This system is installed so that the driver can get the indication for the oil levels in the engine, and at times even get warnings when the oil level in the engine is dropping down too low.

However, the overall reliability of these systems is pretty good, but if there was to be a little failure in indicating low oil levels in the oil pan, then you are looking at some severe damage to the engine.

If that happens, you can easily expect a hefty bill to repair the damages.


When you do check the level of engine oil in the oil pan with the use of a dipstick and you find that the oil level is below the bottom mark on the dipstick, then you should not be driving that car at all.

Not until you have the oil level brought back to the full mark. You should also have a technician check what caused the oil level to go down that much.

Final Words

So, check the oil while the car is heated but has been turned off for roughly 5 minutes. This assures that the oil has drained down to the sump you’re measuring, but will flow fast.

To ensure that the oil has been pumped throughout the engine, check the oil after it has been running for several minutes. Stop the engine after a minute or two of operation and check the oil. In a cold engine that has been sitting for hours, the oil level will be slightly higher. Overfilling is preferable to a little low oil level.

“Check oil hot or cold?” is a question that almost everyone has. It is asked more often when the driver is newly driving a car. It is extremely important to check your engine oil periodically to make sure that everything is safe and sound, and working the way it is supposed to be!

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