Most vehicle manufacturers say it's okay to wait until the level reaches the add mark to add oil. The add mark But considering that the crankcase capacity on most passenger cars today is only four quarts, running the engine 25% low on oil (one quart) may not be wise. Here's why.
Oil not only lubricates the engine's internal parts, but also helps cool the bearings. The total amount of oil in the engine, therefore, serves as a heat sink to help control heat. Under normal driving conditions, running a quart low probably doesn't make much difference in terms of bearing temperature or overall engine lubrication. But during extremely hot weather, when driving at sustained highway speeds and/or when towing a trailer, running a quart low may increase the risk of accelerated engine wear and/or damage.
The best advice, therefore, is to add oil whenever the dipstick reads low. Don't wait until it is down a full quart. If it needs half a quart, add half a quart to bring it back up to the full mark.
CAUTION: Do not overfill the engine. Adding too much oil can overfill the crankcase. As the crankshaft spins around, it can whip the oil into foam if the level is too high. This, in turn, can cause a drop in oil pressure and loss of lubrication to critical engine parts. Also, too much oil may cause leaks as the extra oil is forced past seals and gaskets.
Follow your vehicle manufacturer's guidelines for the type and viscosity of oil to use in your engine.