Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Oil Capacity question

Alright everyone, please don’t think of me as an idiot, as I’m pretty fluent in cars. I change my oil in my car myself and I have been doing so for a while. Just today I bought a 5 quart jug of Valvoline Synthetic Blend 5w-20 (on sale) and a Purolator PureOne filter (also on sale, and the first time I’ve used that particular filter. I changed my oil like I always did and put in 4.5 quarts of oil as stated by my manual, started her up and all is well. Now, here’s my dilemma. I let the car sit for a while as I waxed, and rechecked the oil and its low (a tad bit higher than the lower mark on the dipstick). I feel like my car has a bottomless oil pit. I do not want to add more oil than I need to, however I feel like if I added enough oil to bring it to the upper mark it would take the whole darn 5 quart jug, if not more. Whats going on here?! I’ve never seemed to notice this before. By the way, this is for a 2002 Honda Accord 2.3 Liter engine with VTEC.

Thanks in Advance,


Well, if you have been doing you own oil for a while and this isn’t usually what happens then the first thing I’d do is double check the actual capacity of the oil jug. This can get confusing b/c a lot of the time oil is sold in gallon (4qt) jugs. Some companies have been putting out 5qt jugs b/c - of course - so many oil changes are 4.5-5qts. So a 4qt jug is a little silly. But tons of the jugs out there are still 4qt. and the 4’s can look exactly like the 5’s - unless you check the fine print. I’m thinking that you may have installed 3.5 qt. rather than 4.5

I also find that its often really hard to get a good read on a fresh oil level until about the next morning. The oil & my dipstick are both really clean at that point. a 5W-xx oil is pretty thin. I always make sure I’m in the right vicinity (above the lower mark is actually fine as long as you check it regularly). Then the next morning when I know the oil has fully settled and is a bit cooler than when it was when I finished I pull the stick before starting the car. Then its much easier to tell.

It probably keeps more “up top” than your other vehicles used to. Perhaps some stays in the oil-operated variable valve timing system.

Can’t hurt to add 1/2 quart.

It sounds like the oil filter you normally use has no anti-drain-back valve, but the one you are using now does.

I would pour a little oil in and check it again. Just put in enough to get it to a safe level, not all the way full. Then keep a close eye on it over the next few days.

Did you use a fresh crush washer?

Have you checked the oil filter to make sure it isn’t leaking?

I’m in agreement with cigroller not only about checking the capacity of the jug that the oil came in but also make sure there’s as much oil in the jug as claimed.

A few weeks ago I changed the oil in my daughter’s Mustang and didn’t think too much of this procedure while talking to her as I did it.
After adding the full 5 quart jug and identical oil filter the car was started and allowed to run for a bit before shutting it off. After sitting for several hours as she visited a recheck showed the oil level was down over 1/2 quart and that’s the first time that has ever happened. We had to assume the jug the oil came in was a tad low.

Some years ago when I worked for VW we had a rash of new VWs arriving at the dealer and every one of them was down 1/2 quart on engine oil. The VW rep did not take kindly to the suggestion by one of the mechanics that some cost cutters were doing this on purpose.
1/2 quart X jillion new cars can add up to some serious money.

How would you like to be a “Quickie Lube” employee that does not have overnight (really not more than a few minutes) to get the oil level right? I have seen some pretty disgusting arguments about that oil not sitting on the stick like the customer wanted.

Alright everyone, so the jug that I am using is indeed 5 quarts. I double checked. In addition, I have added a brand new crush washer to the drain plug and I have not noticed any oil drips or leaks from my car over the past few hours. Its possible that this new oil filter is much better, although I’m positive that my old filters have had an anti-drainback valve. I usually use Fram “ToughGuard” filters (I know, I know, Fram filters have a not so good reputation). So, should I top off the oil to the upper mark even though it exceeds the 4.5 quart capacity?

Back i -77, when I was an apprentice at a VW/AUDI dealership, the factory changed its policy, so thereafter a new car had only oil in the engine to the low level mark. The reason was (back then) the custumer had a free oilchange after 1000 km. (600 m.). I can’t remember how much oil they saved, but it was a huge amount which also saved them at lot of money. I guess that was the real reason for being such cheapskates.

As per ok4450’s comments above I’d trust the dipstick loooong before the actual amount of oil that came in that jug. The engine doesn’t care what you think went into it so just get it right according to the dipstick & drive on.

One possibility that hasn’t been mentioned yet:

The new oil filter might have more capacity inside of it to hold oil than your previous oil filter does.

Regardless, just add the oil until the dipstick reads full.


Is it 4.5 quarts with or without the filter? It reads like you added 4.5 quarts to full, started the engine. filled the filter and the oil level went down as a result.

It seems obvious to me that since this is the first time you’ve used the Purolator PureOne filter and the first time you’ve experienced this situation that the new filter very likely holds more oil than the ones you’ve used before.

I’d be more focused on reaching the ‘full’ mark on the dipstick than I would on what the manual says about the amount of oil that it should require for that to happen.

In a “CYA” situation I put the amount of oil in the manufacture says and as long as it is not below the “low” indication on the stick that is where it stays unless some higher up tells me to put more in. Filters can differ, no question to that, but differ by .5qts? you would see a physical difference in the filters if one held .5 quarts more than the other.

1 Like

A post was split to a new topic: Dipstick length - 2000 Honda Accord

Mid 1970s when I worked at a GM (Buick) dealership all the new cars were delivered low on all fluids and spare wheels with no tire! The customers were mostly mature and affluent. They expected more than GM’s cost cutting. The dealership owner had every fluid topped off and spare tires mounted. Smart businessman. I remember a “little old lady” (mid 70s?) with a as new inside and out white on white very low mileage 1970 Riviera. I so wanted that car! She would have never considered selling her “baby”. She was probably buried in it!

I’m going with the published oil capacity doesn’t include the oil filter.

If the anti drain back valve in the filter doesn’t function, the oil light will take a few seconds to go out instead of going out almost as soon as the engine starts.

I like to prefill the oil filters on my motorcycle so that the oil light doesn’t take “forever” to go out when I start up the engine after an oil/filter change. But in order to do that, I have to temporarily defeat the anti drainback valve in the filter or else the air trapped in the filter makes it impossible to fill the oil filter.
With a prefilled oil filter, the first startup has the oil light out within a second after startup.