How Much Oil Does My Car Need?

It’s a well-known fact, to keep your car running properly, you need to change the oil regularly. Your dad will tell you-he may even change it for you. Your spouse will remind you when it’s time for an oil change. It’s the battle cry of every mechanic, “Just change the oil regularly and it should be a reliable car.” But do you know how much oil your car needs?

The amount of oil a vehicle needs depends on a few different things. The size of the engine is an important factor. A larger engine has more surface area to cover and larger parts to lubricate, so it takes more oil. The manufacturer of your vehicle can also come into play as some carmakers use technology that enables a V-8 engine to only need a smaller amount of oil. Replacing the oil filter also affects the amount of oil you need to put in your car.

To find the answer, you can always consult your owner’s manual. It will be in the Vehicle Specifications under the subheading Lubrication Systems. You can also take your vehicle to a professional to change the oil for you. The service department of a dealer who sells your make and model is a good place. They may be a bit more expensive than a quick-change establishment but the employees at the dealer are extremely knowledgeable regarding the specifications of your make and model.

Motor oil is the life blood of your vehicle. If you do not change the oil regularly, you will cause costly damage to your vehicle’s engine. Not only does motor oil lubricate the moving parts of the engine, but it also keeps the engine clean and free of dirt and other contaminants.


Depends on your Engine

If you plan the change the oil yourself, there are some things you need to remember. A few factors will come into play, namely, the size of your engine and if you will be changing the filter.

The size of your engine determines how much oil is needed.

A four-cylinder engine, being the smallest, takes the least amount of oil. An eight-cylinder engine takes the largest amount due to having the largest capacity and the most surface area to cover. A six-cylinder engine falls in between the largest and smallest amount.

A diesel pickup with a V-8 engine will take seven or eight quarts of oil. Some car manufacturers have designed V-8 car engines to be smaller and have smaller parts to lubricate. They require five to six quarts of oil. This is why you always consult your owner’s manual. You do not want to overfill your engine

Replacing the filter at the time of an oil change affects the amount of oil your vehicle needs.

The oil filter keeps your motor oil clean. It is designed to pull solid contaminants from the oil. Carmakers recommend changing the oil regularly to keep your vehicle in peak condition. They also recommend replacing the filter every time you change the oil. When the filter pulls in contaminant it also pulls in small amounts of motor oil.

Because the filter may hold a small amount of oil, your engine will not need as much if you choose not to replace the filter. However, if you replace the filter at the time of an oil change, your engine will need more oil.

How Much Oil Does My Car Hold?

If you plan on a diy oil change, remember, there is no room for guess work. Putting the        correct amount of oil in your car is imperative. But there are several places you can find the information.

Consult your owner’s manual.

Your owner’s manual has been placed in your car by the manufacturer for your benefit. It contains all the information you need to keep your car in good condition. The owner’s manual gives you all the specifications for an oil change, including type of oil, amount, and how often to change it.

The owner’s manual is divided into sections, there is a table of contents in the front that lists the sections as headings and subheadings. The information you need will be under the heading Vehicle Specifications and the subheading labeled Lubrication Systems. There you will find all the specifications from amount to type of oil.

Consult the Manufacturer’s Website

The owner’s manual is a great resource for information regarding your vehicle, but they often get misplaced or lost forever. If this is the case, check the manufacturer’s website. The website should keep all the information and vehicle specifications to your make and model.

If you do not find the information you need on the carmaker’s website, there are other sources on the internet, such as motor oil manufacturer’s websites. These sites will require you to enter your make and model. To find these sites just enter a keyword search. They will require you to answer a few questions before they give you the information.

Check your dipstick.

To check the oil level in your engine, check the dipstick. A dipstick is a thin rod inserted in your engine. To check the oil, first turn on the engine and let it run for a few minutes-not too long or the engine will be too hot to touch. Turn the engine off and wait a couple of minutes to let the oil settle. Pull the dipstick out, wipe it off with a cloth then insert it again.

There are two markings at the tip of the dipstick. The mark closest to the end is the lowest amount of oil you want to have in your engine. The mark that is farthest from the end is the highest amount of oil. Your oil level should hit somewhere between those two lines. If the level hits below the lowest line, you need more oil.

Take your car to the dealer.

Every auto dealer has a service center. The employees of that service center are the most knowledgeable individuals regarding every make and model of that particular carmaker. When you take your car to a dealer who sells your make and model, your car is being serviced by people who are highly trained on every mechanical aspect of your car.

The dealer also keeps a record of all your service visits. Give them your phone number or e mail address and they will send you reminders when it is time for another service visit. Some service centers may require you to make an appointment for an oil change, but in most cases, you can show up with no appointment required.

What If I Put in Too Little Oil?

Motor oil is the life blood of your engine, it keeps all the moving parts lubricated. If the oil level gets low, friction will build up and cause wear and tear on the engine parts. It will also cause your vehicle to overheat which will most likely lead to very expensive damage.

Trouble during startup.

It will not hurt your car to drive it when the oil is a bit low. But you can only drive it for so long before damage sets in. Whether you initially put too little oil in your engine or, you skip an oil change, driving your car too long with too little oil in the engine will eventually cause problems during startup.

Starting up your car is the most crucial time to your engine. When you start your vehicle, there should be enough oil in the engine, so it gets distributed to all the moving parts within a few seconds. If there is too little, the oil will not make it to crucial parts in the upper section of the engine, causing damage to these components.

Engine oil won’t last long.

Having too little oil in your engine will cause thermal breakdown. This occurs when oil is exposed to extremely high temperatures. The viscosity breaks down. Not having enough oil in your engine causes friction, the parts grind together which can cause it to run too hot. Heat causes the viscosity, or thickness and flow, to break down which diminishes the amount of oil running through your engine.

This breakdown in viscosity leads to chemical reactions that can create sludge and soot to build up in the engine. The lack of oil and buildup of contaminants means the engine parts are not being lubricated properly which ultimately causes wear and tear on your engine.

All this wear and tear on your engine will eventually cause it to seize up and one day, your vehicle will fail to start. Your engine will require some costly repairs in order to reverse the effects of too little oil. The worst case scenario is that your engine will need to be replaced. Either way it is very expensive and very avoidable.

What Happens If I Put in Too Much Oil?

Just like having too little lubrication is detrimental to the life of your engine, having too much oil in the crankcase will also damage your engine. Being a quart over will lead to oil leaks and possibly a smell of burning oil. Having two or three quarts over will cause a drop in oil pressure and lead to serious engine damage.

Having too much in your engine will create thin frothy oil.

A crankshaft is an important part of an engine. It takes the up and down motion coming from the pistons and converts it into rotational motion that drives the wheels of the car. In most engines the crankshaft is located directly above the oil pan. The oil pan is the reservoir for the oil that is bolted to the bottom of the engine block. An oil pump pressurizes the oil from the pan and forces it through a filter to clean it of dirt and debris before it is ultimately distributed throughout the engine. The oil forms a thin barrier of lubrication on the crucial parts of the engine.

When the oil has been overfilled, the level in the oil pan will become so high that the turning crankshaft may come in contact with the lubricant. The motion of the crankshaft will cause agitation to that whips the oil and cause it to become frothy. This frothy, bubbly oil is too light to lubricate the moving parts of the engine. This results in increased wear and tear on your engine.

What is Oil Dilution and Why is it Bad?

It is not unusual to have small amounts of fuel in your oil pan. The heat from your engine will burn off the gasoline with normal use of the engine. It is when you have large amounts of fuel accumulating in your engine and diluting the oil that problems start to develop.

Oil dilution or fuel dilution occurs when extra unburned fuel gets mixed in with the engine oil.

The fuel thins the oil and lowers the oil film thickness, causing the oil to lose its effectiveness. Oil dilution is caused by several factors.

It is normal to have a small amount of gas in your oil pan and it usually does not cause a problem. The combustion that occurs in your engine is hot enough to vaporize the fuel. However, when your engine is cold, the fuel will not vaporize. If you take a lot of short trips in your car, you may not be giving your engine time to warm up enough and instead of evaporating, the fuel will continue to accumulate in your oil pan. This will eventually cause wear and tear on your engine.

What is fuel dilution and why is it a problem?

Fuel dilution occurs when there is a buildup of fuel in the oil pan. If the issue persists, in time it will cause damage to your engine.
The dilution of fuel and engine oil will break down the viscosity of the oil and render it less effective in lubricating the crucial moving parts of the engine. This causes wear and tear on your engine and eventually irreparable damage.

Most modern day engine oils contain additives that are designed to increase the effectiveness of the lubrication. With too much fuel dilution, those additives are also diluted they become ineffective.

What if I suspect fuel dilution?

There are a few ways to tell if there is too much fuel in your oil pan. The most obvious is a smell of gasoline when you start your engine.

If you suspect that your car has oil dilution, you may be able to solve the problem on your own. Changing your driving habits can go a long way to reduce the amount of fuel in your oil. Reducing idling time and combining trips will give your vehicle longer running time and ensure the engine will be at the peak operating temperature for evaporating extra fuel in the oil pan.

Always use high quality oil preferably synthetic oil in your engine and maintain your vehicle according to the specifications outlined in your owner’s manual. You can also try an oil system cleaner. This will flush out any debris in the fuel injector.

If none of these solutions work, it is time to take your car to a mechanic. The mechanic will run an oil analysis to determine the amount of fuel that is being leaked. If there is enough fuel dilution to warrant repairs, those will be done, and the oil will be changed. The vehicle should be operated for about one hundred hours and then the oil checked again to determine if there is still fuel in the oil.

Wrap Up

The amount of oil that your car requires depends on the size of your engine. Generally, the larger the engine, the more oil you need. There are ways to determine for yourself what amount your car takes, namely, the owner’s manual, or the carmaker’s website, or another automotive website.

Changing and checking the oil regularly is the easiest and cheapest way to maintain your vehicle, and it can keep you from potentially expensive repairs in the future.

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