One topic that we get asked about fairly regularly revolves around car engine oil.

There are plenty of drivers who have poured far too much oil into their system, only to be followed by huge clouds of smoke. Then there are those who wait for a warning light to determine too little and those who couldn’t find their oil cap if their lives depended on it.

Amazingly—to us, but perhaps not to you—there are far too many drivers who never check their engine oil, believing that’s what a car service is for, some who only check it before long journeys, and those who didn’t even know their car used oil in the first place.

To keep your car in prime operating condition, you should check your oil level—along with coolant and a few other consumables—every couple of weeks. Paying regular attention to your car’s consumable items helps you to spot problems sooner and put them straight before any real damage is done.

How much oil does my car need?

There are a few ways to find out the oil quantity you need, as each engine holds a different capacity.

1. Check the owner’s manual

Everything you need to know about your car is in your owner’s manual. From tyre pressures to service schedules, it’s got the lot, including how much engine oil your car holds.

However, if you’ve lost your copy or never had one in the first place, it’s time to get a little creative.

2. Consult the product guides

There are many online services—most provided by service centres and oil manufacturers—where you can fill in your registration, and lo and behold, you’ll be provided with the oil capacity of your car and also the appropriate oil grades.

If you’d like to know more about the different oil grades and which is the best option for your car, check out our page detailing all the differences and what they mean. 

3. Ask a professional

If you can’t find a service online that helps, pick up the phone directory (if such a thing exists in your home! Perhaps Google ‘local dealerships’ instead) and call your car makes office. They’ll have all the details you need and should be happy to advise you. You can speed up the process with your vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to hand. You’ll find it stamped onto your engine chassis, on your dashboard, on the driver’s side door, or on the registration document.

4. Estimate the amount by engine size

If you check how many cylinders your engine operates on, that provides a fair estimation of how much oil it should take.

  • Four-cylinder engines – around 3.5 to 4.5 litres
  • Six-cylinder engines – around 4.5 to 5.5 litres
  • Eight-cylinder engines – around 5.5 to 7.5 litres

As we said, this is only an estimation. However, we’d suggest checking the previous options first to learn the precise figures.

Checking a car’s oil level

Unless you’ve got a digital display showing every last consumable level in your car, you’ll have to lift the bonnet, find the dipstick and pull it out. Clean off any residue with a rag or tissue to get a clear reading, and then insert it back in place. When you remove it this time, it should indicate the level quite clearly, ideally between the two marker points. If not, it’s time to add a little extra through the oil cap on your engine or drain it accordingly.

How to change the oil in my car?