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Need help with refilling oil – car newbie!

Forums Banter Need help with refilling oil – car newbie!

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    • I was checking the oil today and noticed that it’s on the low side – the car was parked on a small incline, so I will need get it up to the working temperature on a level surface to make sure it’s actually low. The oil (not 710!) light is not on, so not sure what to make out of it. The current reading is right in the middle of “C” territory according to this picture:

      I bought the car less than a year ago and it was serviced at Arnold Clark, but not sure as to what oil has been used – there seems to be long-life (flexible service, VW 504 00) and fixed service (VW 502 00) options that confuse me even more.

      I do have a yearly service plan with them, but I bought the car after it has been serviced – so they wouldn’t have filled the oil depending on the flexible/fixed service type. I’ve done about 7k miles since getting the car. There are still 3.5 months left until the next service, so I’d rather not wait.

      Do I need to top it up if the oil light is not on yet? Can I just use VW 504 00 long-life oil to top it up? I don’t mind dropping the car in the garage, but I feel that’s being too paranoid. I already had to do that once to change the DRL bulb as apparently, the car had to be jacked to access it!

      The car is 2014 VW Polo 1.0 petrol 59bhp. 32k miles.

    • We need weekly utterli idiot awards – that’s a competition I could win.

      The service history book says whether long life oil or not has been used. Where else would that information be?! I had that page open today to check the mileage since last service as well.

    • It’s good practice to keep the oil topped up. When oil light comes on then it’s last chance saloon really.

      On the dipstick there is usually a min mark and a max mark. Usually (but not always) the difference between min and max is 1 litre, most petrol stations sell the 1 litre top up size bottle.

      Where does it go? Oil gets burnt away with the petrol but only in tiny amounts but over time it adds up and shows this on the dipstick. It’s normal to top up oil occasionally.

      Go on euro car parts website, enter your reg number and the page will show every part they sell for your car. Go on service items/engine oil and it’ll show you a range of oils sutiable for your car. Petrol station oil is vastly overpriced, euro car parts is about the cheapest you’ll get.

    • You can ring up the garage and ask what oil they used, have heard different opinions on whether you can mix oils but probably preferable to running with the light on. If light is not on yet not an emergency. Don’t overfill oil

      You can do a full oil change if you fancy, hour or so, borrow a proper torque wrench

      • You can ring up the garage and ask what oil they used

        The OP said that the car was serviced by Arnold Clark. They probably don’t even know themselves what they put into it.

    • Looks like you’ve figured out the oil type!

      You do need the car level as possible to check the dipstick, inclines do make a difference. I’m not sure about your ‘up to operating temperature’ comment, (although I’m no expert), as that shouldn’t be an issue.

      The important thing is to leave it a few minutes after turning off the engine before checking the level, this allows oil held up in the engine to drain back to the sump to get a true idea of the actual level. If you check it straight after running the engine the dip stick will read low, even with the correct amount of oil in there, and you could overfill the sump trying to top it up.

      Overfilling the oil doesn’t do the engine any good, as you can damage the seals.

      Finally, yes, you should keep the oil at the correct level between services. All cars burn oil to an extent, and IIRC VW’s tend to use a fair bit of oil. DO NOT wait for an oil warning light.

    • If the oil is on the dip stick it’s not going to be too far off. Maybe just getting it on level ground will give you the correct reading (although like Ridge mentioned – make sure the engine is cool or you risk getting an inaccurate reading and over filling)

      The oil light is a real last resort. I checked my oil the other day and it wasn’t recording on the dip stick. took 2 litres of oil to even reach the bottom of the dip stick….and the oil warning light never came on… (maybe the bulb was broken!?)

    • I work for a lubricant manufacturer in a sales/technical role and have done for 22yrs. I’ll offer my 2p worth from the oil side.

      My database suggests you need a 5w30 or 5w40 oil meeting the VW specifications you mention. To simplify things you are most likely to find a 5w30. Don’t worry too much about that difference. The 5w30 part refers to the oils viscosity characteristics (it is an SAE 5 oil when cold (Winter – hence the w) and has polymers that make it behave like an SAE 30 when hot) and is not indicative of quality. The small numbers and letters refer to the quality and performance of the oil. There should be a generic API rating for petrol engines, currently at around SL/SM/SN And then brand specific ratings such as the VW 504.00 / 502.00. These indicate the quality and suitability of the oil.

      Don’t worry too much about semi/fully synthetic, if it meets the VW spec it will be fine. I always refer to car oil semi/synthetics as Semi-semantics, its word play, it (well, a few exceptions, mostly found in motorsport oils) all comes from crude oil and refers to how refined it is, and what catagory of base stock is used to make the oil. No need for any more on that here…

      Don’t get too hung up on the service interval/long life element of the specs especially if you are running ~10k miles per year. Both will be fine. I’m not too familiar with those specs but I’d expect that the difference is primarily in the additive package with a higher level of detergent/dispersant to clean the oil and possibly a higher level of high catagory base stock to resist degradation. Both oils will lap up sub 10k annual mileage with annual changes.

      Oils will readily mix. The only oils that don’t mix are Poly Glycol Synthetics, and they typically go no where near a car engine. Some people have a vested interest in perpetuating myths about oils.

      Petrol engines are more forgiving of poor oil selection than Diesel engines. DPFs are notorious for sensitivity to the wrong oil.

      The point about petrol stations bring overpriced is a good one. Go to a trade motor factor, get an oil filter as well, and if you really want to protect your oil, a new air filter. This is often overlooked. I’d echo those warning against overfilling too.

      • Interesting post, thanks.

        Re: the synthetic / semi-synthetic malarky. I recall being told years ago that semi-synthetics were for engines that needed a higher mineral oil (without getting technical..) content to protect seals that weren’t compatible with fully synthetic oil. Is that an urban myth?

      • I’m referring to engine oils here, the base stock is classed in 5 groups, the first 3 of which are derived from crude oil. Group 1 is ‘mineral’ oil, Groups 2 & 3 are mineral oils further hydrocracked to remove impurities. There is no real description of what “semi-synthetic” actually means, and can in reality be any blend of base stocks, though “fully-synthetic” would mean 100% group 3 base stock.

        So, any seal compatibility with these should be similar as they are essentially the same oil, just cleaner, typically with less sulphur content. ‘Synthetic’ oils tend to be thinner than mineral oils (SAE 0w, 5w, 10w as opposed to SAE 15w, 20w etc) and might find faults in seals that thicker mineral oils don’t). What really does start to confuse things are when groups 4 and 5 start to be included. These are things like PAO synthetics and Esters. These are expensive and are not common in most passenger car oils, but they do find their way into Motorsport and very high performance oils. I’m not really able to offer much information on these without going very far from my comfort zone!

      • Oils will readily mix. The only oils that don’t mix are Poly Glycol Synthetics, and they typically go no where near a car engine. Some people have a vested interest in perpetuating myths about oils.

        Is it worth the risk though? I learned the hard way about mixing oils when I topped up a machine and it seized up a week later. The oil had turned to a thick jelly and wasn’t much good for the splash fed gear lubrication. The warranty cost me 20k.

      • Again, I was thinking mainly of Engine oils, and that a Comma 5w30 will mix happily with Quantum 5w30 and a dash of Halfords 5w30 won’t do any harm. I should have made that clear, that part of my post was sloppily worded and should be disregarded. If all oils mixed freely and did a good job of it, well, we would sell one product and I’d be out of a job.

        Machine lubrication is another pot of fish. Gear boxes in particular. It sounds possible that your mistake was mixing 2 incompatible gear oils, if it needed mineral gear oils or PAO synthetic gear oils (which are miscible), and you used a PG synthetic type (or vice versa) it won’t mix and would cause severe problems. Other things to be mindful of are oils containing Zinc if silver is present, and oils containing Sulphur/Phosphorous if yellow or white metal is present. Compressors are another minefield for the unwary, as is selecting greases.

        I’d always recommend checking with the manual before filling, and asking your supplier!

    • One top tip is to get a funnel as trying to pour the oil into the little filling hole when you take the dipstick out is frustrating and messy in equal measure!

    • Thanks everyone! Just got a 4L bottle of Castrol Edge 5W-30. The local petrol station had a 1L bottle for £23, while Tesco were selling the 4L bottle for £24.50!

      Obviously, there’s a lot of oil left. Given that the oil survives in the engine, I take it’s okay to close the bottle with the remaining oil and keep it in a cool, dry place?

      • Absolutely fine, it’ll keep in the shed for ages. perhaps get a plastic bottle and leave full of new oil in the spare wheel well, it could get you or a mate out of a pickle should the oil light ever come on

      • It’s usually works out more economical to buy larger containers of oil, wherever you buy from. I also keep an empty 1 litre bottle and decant oil into that when I’m topping up so I have a better idea of how much I’m putting in. As was mentioned earlier, the difference between a high and low reading on the dipstick is often 1 litre.






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