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A tip for unreadable dipsticks

Thought I’d pass this on. This week I was prepping my snowblower for the winter. As always, the oil level on the manufacturer-supplied dipstick was almost impossible to read with fresh oil. I struck on the idea last night of making a dipstick out of a zip-tie, on the principle that the tiny ridges would hold the oil on the stick, and the possibility that the plastic would allow the oil to stick better. The results? The oil level is very easy to read. Note that with a longer zip tie this should also work beautifully on cars too. Zip-ties are just the right combination of flexibility and rigidity that they should work beautifully, and the loop at the end will prevent them from falling in.

I would caution that the dipstick cannot be left in the engine. In both snowblowers and cars it’s important that the hole/tube be capped when the engine is operating.


@the_same_mountainbik Good Tip I like it.

I don’t have any problem seeing the oil level on my dipsticks " when I have my glasses on " .

Seems to me, you’re going to be one plate short, at the next family get-together :fearful:


Huh? _____________
Oh, now I see it! It’s a paper plate. Besides, I never liked family get togethers anyway! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Good idea. How do you keep the looped end of the zip tie from sliding out of place, changing the length of your measuring stick?

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I found that if you pull out the dipstick and they lay it on a piece of paper towel and wait a few seconds, the oil on the stick will stain the paper towel and you can easily see where the stain stops next to the stick.

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Simple. The strain from the loop wanting to straighten out tends to resist force that wants the loop to close. Tighten the loop and the strain increases.
Besides, I make two marks (after the photo was taken) so I could tell easily of it did. Because it’s a zip tie, the loop can only close and not open. :grinning:

For the record, the dipstick (seen in the photo with the yellow plastic end) is the same color as the oil (I believe it’s a chromate coating), its surface does not cause the oil to form a stable meniscus, and it has a shiny surface, all combining to make it next to impossible to read with clean oil. The nylon has none of these negative characteristics.

That is an excellent tip, MB!
I am lucky that the dipstick on my snowblower’s engine is actually easy to read, but if I had one of those problematic dipsticks, I would definitely fashion a zip-tie dipstick as you have suggested.


Well, you can’t argue with the results. Very easy to see. I might be inclined to drill a series of small holes in a line in the OEM stick to improve its readability just so I don’t have to keep track of the special one when I need it…

Similarly, as some have probably guessed, I’d be inclined to drip a few drops of industrial adhesive into the looped end of the zip tie to make sure it never moves accidentally.

Something I have or had used a white plastic dip stick but can’t recall what it is. I think it is my Toro mower with the Suzuki engine on it that I haven’t used for years but is still stored. Yeah those metal sticks are hard to read. I wonder if you would just a metal paint pen and paint a white line on it if it would help. Checking my mower oil yesterday, I noticed it was really black and I have less than 10 hours on the synthetic oil. Must be from all the leaf mulching I’ve been doing or something.

Or use the paper plate. :wink:

I like the tip. I had trouble reading the level in my Subaru this past week after an oil change. In the light of my garage it is almost invisible.

Now that I think about it, my lawn mower had a plastic dipstick, with a couple o f notches in it.
I can no longer use a gas mower due to physical problems, so I now use an extremely lightweight electric. Everything on it but the blade, the handle, and the motor parts is plastic. The body, the shroud, the wheels, everything is molded plastic. It doesn’t even have metal axles. I call it my “Barbie mower” (it’s faded red… now pink).

I had a dipstick like that which was hard to read so I re-grooved it with a Dremel tool which worked great (but your idea of the zip tie is quicker and easier, I’m sure). :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Great tip. But this is 2016, who changes or checks oil anymore?

I REALLY hope that those words were typed in jest…

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If they did we’d get fewer posts from people with ruined engines.
There’d also be fewer premature timing chain failures.
And less oil burning.
And fewer posts from desperate people whose engines no longer have the compression to operate properly.

I hope you’re joking. If not, I suggest you educate yourself about the way engines work. And the functions of oil.

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