How To Check ATV Oil Level (Simple, clear guide)


I’m a mechanic for over twenty years, and if there’s one thing that can kill an engine, it’s a low oil level. I’ve seen it many times and it’s always makes me feel sad for both the owner and the bike.

Checking ATV oil level is a simple five step process, begin by:

  1. Allowing engine cool
  2. Locate dipstick
  3. Remove dipstick and clean
  4. Refit dipstick
  5. Read the oil level

In this post you’ll learn how to find and check your ATV oil level, you’ll also learn which oil to use and how to add it.

Allow Engine Cool

Park your ATV on level ground, and if you’ve been running your engine, shut it off and allow the engine cool for five minutes.

The oil as you know moves around your engine through a series of small oil galleries. It will take a few minutes for the hot oil to make its way back to the oil pan. This is important, checking the oil level immediately after shut down will give a false reading.

Locate Dipstick

The dipstick is exactly what it sounds like – a metal or plastic stick with a high and a low mark embossed.

It will usually be somewhere convenient either side of the engine. The dipstick or cover will also likely be marked “OIL” or have an oil symbol.

The dipstick is usually screwed into the engine and to remove it, simply requires turning it anti-clockwise.

But before removing the dipstick, using a clean cloth, clean around the dipstick. Dirt and grit will collect in the recess and can fall into the engine when the stick is removed.

Remove 7 Clean Dipstick

Go ahead and remove the dipstick, the most common type just turns anti-clockwise. Clean the stick and familiarize yourself with the high and low marks.

The low level marks – Some sticks may read “ADD” or “LOW” or “L” or simply have a stamped line or dot. Whichever your dipstick has, the lower mark always represents the low oil level danger area.

Allowing the oil level get close to or below the low mark is risking serious engine damage.

The full level marks – The full mark on a dipstick will always be the upper most mark. Common full marks include “F” or “Full” or a dot or stamped line.

The Hatched markings – The hatched markings are the crisscross markings you’ll see on most dipsticks. They will always be between the high and the low oil level marks.

An oil level the reads anywhere within the hatched makings is in theory OK. However it’s always best to run your engine only when the oil level reads full, especially older engines.

Refit Dipstick

Now that you are familiar with the stick markings, go ahead and dip the stick back into its seat. At this point some bikes may differ, some engines will require you to screw the stick all the way in and remove to read.

Others will only require you to seat it and remove to read. Your bike manual will tell you which, it even be stamped into the dipstick itself.

Reading The Dipstick

When you remove the stick, hold it virtually. Some dipsticks can be difficult to read especially on a sunny day. You may need to re-dip to confirm the first reading. Moving to the shade to read dipstick helps, or maybe I just need new glasses.

Adding Oil

OK, so you’ve dipped for oil and you need to add some. Adding oil is easy, you shouldn’t need a funnel but it does help.

When adding oil, add only a little at a time and allow a minute to settle before checking level. Too much oil is bad for your motor. It’s not as bad as too little, but can damage your engine.

Symptoms of too much oil include:

  • Blue/white smoking engine
  • Hard to start
  • Oil leaks from engine
  • Oil leaks from exhaust
  • Engine won’t turn over

Oil Type

Your engine maker will dictate your oil type but your model will also include a temperature chart. If you use your bike in extreme weather temperatures, check the oil type chart. Colder climates will require lighter oil types.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an certified mechanic and writer on ATVFixed.com. I’ve been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of ATV ownership, from maintenance, repair to troubleshooting.

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