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Dip stick visibility

Hi: i have a new subaru and I’m trying to read the dipstick. Car is level and has cooled for over an hour, but I can’ t get a reading on the dipstick. The 0-20 oil doesn’t stick to it!. all I get is some smears on the lower part of it.

I’m tempted to put a piece of tape on the dipstick, but am afraid it will fall off inside.

Any help?


PS, I had the oil changed at 2500 miles, and it now has 3000 miles on it


When you pull out the dipstick the second time (first time you wiped it off, right?), lay the end of it against a paper towel that is lying in your other hand. Don’t move it, just lay it flat against the towel. Then gently roll the dipstick off the spot and you can compare the edge of the spot on the towel with the marks on the dipstick. The oil is very clean and you will only be able to see where it has marked the towel.

I’ll give that a try, thanks.


I have good luck reading oil level in the morning. One pull and read. The oil is thicker. You can wipe and pull again to convince yourself the first pull is accurate.

insightful, I’ll give that a try also. but the oil is very thin (0-20) so it’s never thick. Also, my usual parking space in on a hill, which causes an erroneous reading, or so I think. But last night I parked on the flat, so hopefully I will get a good reading tomorrow.

I’m off for a long trip tuesday so I’d like to get a good reading before then.

Look at it on a slight angle. Any light will reflect off of the “wet” portion of the dipstick differently than the “dry” portion. This works even if the oil is totally clear.

Well I’m just saying that it might be that you are low on oil. Did you check it after having it just changed? I have 0-20 and just checked mine hot and had no problem after 800 miles. I think what you see is residue on the dipstick tube and not the oil level.

Maybe your oil level is below the stick…

Oil will show up big time on a paper towel. If nothing on the paper towel, start adding oil a quart at a time. DON’T DRIVE IT UNTIL YOU’RE SURE!

I like wentwest’s idea of the paper towel.
And, like insightful, I read mine in the morning before starting the engine.

Some people have had good luck with drilling small holes in their dipstick and letting the holes capture the oil via surface tension. Not knowing how wide or of what material your dipstick is made of… or if you have a decent drill press in your basement… I’m reluctant to suggest it, but it’d an idea for you to consider.

Being on a hill will affect the reading. I’d suggest doing comparison readings to determine how much effect it’s having and using it for future reference. You can add a note to yourself on the aircleaner or intake plenum with a magic marker, something like “add 1/4” or whatever. I have lots of magic marker notes in my engine compartment, everything from the proper sparkplug torque value to the part numbers of the oil filter and air filter. It saves looking stuff up over and over.

Well, the paper towel idea didn’t work, even at 7 AM. Again, this 0-20 oil just runs right off of the dipstick, It might be a combo of the dipstick finish and the thin oil.

However, after numerous tries, I did see a very narrow (1/32 inch) line of oil up past the full mark on the edge of the stick. (I knew it was about 1/2 Q low and therefore I added 1 Q yesterday when I could not get a definitive reading. The recent oil change added 5Q with spec being 5.3Q)


all set. I was looking at the wrong marks on the dipstick. It was overfull, mechanic took out that last quart.

I feel stupid…

Roughing-up the surface of the dipstick with some course sandpaper is a good idea–as long as the stick is thoroughly cleaned before reinserting it. Or, the OP might want to take a metal file and “inscribe” some cross-hatching into the stick.

Just the other day, I was checking under the hood of a friend’s brand-new Scion IQ, and once I got over the shock of finding that the dipstick on this tiny car is approximately 3 ft long, I was impressed to see that the bottom of the dipstick has VERY deep cross-hatching. The oil adheres very well to this cross-hatching and this makes it extremely easy to take an accurate reading of the 0W-20 oil.

Incidentally, after driving that IQ, I lost a lot of respect for the objectivity of Consumer Reports’ test drive articles. They had been fairly critical of the IQ, but I have to say that I found this very small car…peppy…relatively roomy…with a surprisingly good ride quality and very responsive handling. If I was comparing it to…lets say…a Toyota Avalon…it might have seemed to be lacking in most respects, but for what it is–namely a very economical car designed for urban dwellers like my friend–I found it to be an amazingly well-designed vehicle.

all set. I was looking at the wrong marks on the dipstick. It was overfull, mechanic took out that last quart.

I feel stupid…


Please don’t feel stupid, Bill.
The only stupid question is the one that you don’t ask…

Been there, done (something like) that…only folks who don’t do something don’t make mistakes…

Lots of discussion about Subaru dipstick reading. Apparently on some, the tube traps oil. Here’s one guy’s solution:

"This morning, I went into the garage and pulled the dipstick. It read way over full (up into the twists of the dipstick). I wiped the stick, left it out, and went back into the house for a few minutes.

I then checked the oil again, and it read between the low and full marks. I added about a third of a quart because I’m 500-1000 miles from my next oil change and because I had a third of a quart sitting in my oil box.

So this is the drill–after car has sat a while, pull the stick, ignore the reading, wipe the stick and leave it out for 5-10 minutes, then recheck."

So there appears to be some stupidity on Subaru’s part, too.