By Shell on May 10, 2021
If your car hasn't seen the inside of a workshop for a while, a pre-trip service is the best insurance against spending your hard-earned holiday time sitting by the side of the road waiting for mechanical assistance.
But even if it is freshly serviced, there are some quick and simple checks you should always do before a long drive to minimise your odds of striking trouble. At the top of the list – checking your oil.
Why checking oil is important
Oil is the lifeblood of an engine, so you don't want to be driving around with too little. Being low on oil can mean your engine doesn't get the lubrication it needs, which causes it to prematurely wear. Thankfully, checking and/or topping up your oil is one of the easiest car-maintenance jobs you can tackle.
Checking and topping up your oil – the steps
First, you need your engine to be warm; if it isn't, take it for a little drive. Then park on a flat, level surface, stop the engine and wait about five minutes for the oil to settle.
Next, pop your bonnet, locate the engine-oil dipstick (look to your owner's manual or vehicle manufacturer’s website for guidance), remove it and wipe it with a clean, lint-free rag.
Now, reinsert the dipstick, wait a second or two, then remove it again. You should see a clean oil level on the dipstick and it should be located between the 'minimum' and 'maximum' markers, and ideally nearer the latter.
If it's closer to minimum? Relax – topping up your oil is just as easy as checking it.
First, remove the engine-oil cap on the top of the engine (again, look to your owner's manual), then insert a funnel and pour in the oil in small amounts, periodically checking the level using the dipstick.
Why small amounts? Because the oil will take a while to settle and you could potentially overfill it if you try to do it one big gulp. And an engine with more oil than it needs can damage exhaust-treatment devices such as catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters (DPFs).
When you're happy with the level, remove the funnel, reattach the oil cap and wipe away any spillage. That's it – no reason to put it off.
What oil should I use?
Your owner's manual will tell you what oil your engine needs and many lubricant manufacturers also offer oil-selection guidance, including Shell with its LubeMatch tool. Alternatively, you can use a top-up oil like Shell's Helix Top Up 0W-30. This type of oil is formulated specifically for minor top-ups between scheduled oil changes and can be mixed with most engine oils, saving you the trouble of selecting the right one.
Keep a 1L bottle of top-up oil in your boot and you'll always be ready to give your car the protection it needs.
Grab a bottle of Shell Helix Top Up OW-30 next time you fill up petrol at any Shell service station*. Watch a video on how to check and top up your oil.
*Shell recommends the use of no more than one bottle of a Top Up between consecutive oil-change intervals. For larger quantities, a regular oil change should be made with a Shell Helix product as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.