Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Dipstick -- reading it

OK, I am no newbie at this. I have been changing the oil and working on my own rigs since about 1973…

However, lately, and maybe I am just getting old and senile, but I am having trouble reading dipsticks. Oh, I can see them OK, but the sticks themselves seem to be wacko.

It is only on the newer cars, but I’ll pull the dipstick and I will swear the oil level is up two-thirds past MAX, despite the fact I changed the oil myself two weeks ago.

So, this seems to be a problem on my three later model rigs. My older ones, no problem.

So, any thoughts, other than I am as crazy as “Tappit brother Tommy…”

Well it’s pretty much impossible to answer your questions without knowing what car you own, how many quarts of oil the owners manual calls for and how many quarts you used.

If the car calls for 4.5 quarts with filter and you use 5 quarts when you change the oil it’s going to read a little high, but it won’t hurt anything. But like I said we don’t know any important details. In light of the missing information I’m going to declare though with strong certainty that yes-you are senile :wink:

On some of the newer cars, you need to look at both sides. Sometimes, the curve in the dipstick tube will ‘rub’ some of the oil off one face, and give erratic readings. Always make sure the car is level. Some cars only require 4 quarts. I usually add only 4 quarts to a car unless the engine is really small then 3. Give the oil 10 minutes to run down into the block and read. Sometimes it is dead on. Other times it is a quart low. For a quart low, I add one more quart. If it is 1/2 a quart low, I add 1/2 a quart.

When you are filling the oil after a change, do you fill it with the amount of oil listed in the manual or do you fill it to the spot on the dipstick? You may not be getting a full drain or maybe you have a damaged oil sump.

There is also another possibility. Check your coolant and transmission fluid levels.