Oil Dipstick Reading According to Ford

I thought this was interesting.

Normally when I check a dipstick there is the min and max levels indicated. If I find the oil to be below the max level - I will add oil until its right to that point, being careful to not overfill.

Now, according to my manual for my 2003 f150, if the oil level is anywhere between the min and max indicators on the dipstick DO NOT ADD OIL. It actually says this in caps. It says that anywhere between those indicator marks are an acceptable level of oil in the engine, and to only add oil if its below the min mark.

Sounds strange to me.

liability protection.
Far too many people ( of those few who actually look ) pull the dipstick just seconds after parking at the gas pump. Not enought time to drip down all the oil in the engine.
If you are looking at the dipstick in the morning after it’s parked all night, it should be to the top line,but they just don’t get in to all the perameters in the owner’s manual and just suffice to say anywhere between the lines.

For my Accord, it is. Quart low when it gets to the bottom of the cross hatches on the dip stick. That’s when Honda wants me to add oil. I’m willing to go in half quart increments, though, and I check the oil level on a Saturday or Sunday morning. And shortly after leaving Jiffy Lube.

The comment is there to prevent people from overfilling the oil pan. In some engines, when the oil gets above a quart beyond the full mark. the crankshaft can begin to ship the oil into a frappe, and that can prevent the oil from being able to properly flow through the lubrication channels and perform its function.

Oil can ,however, safely lubricate the engine below the “fill” line. The oil pan is just a pan full of oil. The oil pump draws the oil from about 1/4" to 3/8" above the bottom of the pan. As long as the oil stays above that level, the lubrication system will function.

Having explained that, it is recommended that you NOT allow the oil to get below a quart low. When it approaches the Fill line, put a quart in a drive with confidence that you’ve doen the right thing. Do not fret that you might have gone 1/4 quart above the full line. It will do no harm.

And a sincere tip of the hat to you. If more people learned about their cars and monitored their fluids, we’d have far fewer disaster posts here. I’d far rather explain to someone how something works than to have to help them after their engine has seized.

Agree; you should wait till the oil level goes down to the lower mark; that’s when you can add a full quart.

Don’t check oil at a service station, unless it has a restaurant and you can check it after having had your lunch and all the oil has drained down to the crankcase.

And don’t check so infrequently that the oil level is near the quart low line the first time you check. It is boring to check every couple of weeks but worth it if you start to see a little drop in the level. It is an indication that something is starting to go wrong.

I check mine in the morning before I start the engine about once a week. I add some if it’s more than about 1/4 qt down, but only the amount that’s missing. If it’s down 1/4 quart, I add 1/4 qt. Since I don’t drive anywhere nearly as many miles since retiring, that means I rarely have to add any.

My first car, a 1947 Pontiac that I bought in 1962 used a quart of oil every 250-300 miles. I checked the oil every time I bought gas. I still do that even though I haven’t had a car that uses any oil between changes in years.

I think Ford’s advice is pragmatic risk management. There’s little to be gained by adding a half-quart to bring the level to the top mark. But there’s a lot to be lost if it is over-filled, or the wrong type of oil is added, or it is added to the wrong filler hole, or the oil cap is left off … etc … etc … .

I think Ken is right. Sorry but I never let mine get more than 1/2 quart down before adding the 1/2. I check it after it has been sitting a sufficient length of time, but I’d never take off on a trip when the oil was a half quart low without adding some. Actually though its a rote point. The only oil I’ve had to add in the last couple years is 4 ounces in my lawn mower.

Now not to pick on Ford, or change the subject, but I was following a couple Ford products the other day and noticed how uneven the trunk gaps were from one side to the other. One side would be a quarter inch and the other side would be almost no gap. Then the tail light in the trunk did not match the tail light on the 1/4 panel. One was a Lincoln sedan and the other was a Merc. Seems to me this should be unacceptable quality, especially on the Lincoln. Something must be off at the plants, either the tooling is off or getting worn, the welding jigs or robots are off, or something is wrong. I don’t think its just adjustment of the trunk because getting the lights to line up would be tough.

Adding full quarts could be an environmental plus by reducing spillage, especially by those not so coordinated at pouring, or at the full line in their belly with beer.

It’s no coincidence that the low mark is equal to a quart and the service station sells oil in quarts. Too much incentive to dump the whole thing in there so you don’t have a half full jug to leak in your trunk or to throw a half full can in the trash at the gas station to avoid trunk spillage…

Aw, circuitsmith, you’ve discovered my sloppiness!

You should see the passenger side door on my Ford truck @Bing ! There’s gaps so uneven it looks like David Letterman’s teeth … lol … I attributed that to Ford’s old way though, their way of doing things back in the 70’s. I call that door the “Friday Door”, as it was probably installed on a Friday afternoon, just before the weekend, and the Ford worker must not have had his full attention on the job. “Bolt it on, and let’s get out of here! As long as it doesn’t fall off, good enuf!” … The Ford trucks I’ve seen on the road these days though all seem pretty solidly put together, with even gaps all around.

The only time I don’t fill up to full is when I know I am changing the oil in the next few days.

For me it has been very easy to look at the dipstick and know what fraction of the quart I have to add to get to full. But I can see how the manufacturer’s don’t want to risk it.

I am afraid soon enough they will get rid of engine dipsticks too and you would need a scan tool to check the oil level in your car. (I have patent rights to this idea by the way)

Half a quart and I’ll add some. There’s always a partial quart on the shelf.

Less than 1/2 quart low and it will keep until I check it next week. I know my truck only uses less than a quart a month, so because I check it every 7-10 days…it’ll be ok.

I’m not going to get nuts about adding a teaspoon if it’s low.


@galant I dunno maybe too late. My son’s BMW doesn’t have a dipstick for oil. The computer tells him when he needs to add oil. Actually not a bad idea except I would want a dipstick too. My old Riv had the dipstick and if it was a quart down, I’d get the message to add oil.

I always check my oil on a level surface the first thing in the morning before the engine is started. I no longer need a rag to wipe the oil because the reading is so precise on the oil stick. I never add oil until it gets one quart low but I rarely need to before an oil change. I sometimes teach a class for beginning drivers in properly maintaining their vehicles. It’s a rare student who can even find their oil stick much less check their oil properly.

I wouldn’t want to rely on just the computer to warn me either. I’ve seen too many engines that the oil low light didn’t come on until they were 3 quarts low.
I wouldn’t trust the sensors. Mine goes on at just under a quart low…but I still check it.


How ridiculous - the BMW doesn’t have a dipstick, but I’d be willing to bet the large majority of the owners never pulled the hood pop latch