I thought of the sanding bit. It’s not the typical chrome plated steel, could be plastic.
Checking online, there are numerous complaints about subaru dipsticks.
one official subaru site lists:
by Subaru Engineering:
Park the vehicle on a level surface and stop the engine. If you check the oil level just after stopping the engine, wait a few minutes for the oil to drain back into the oil pan before checking the level.
Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, and insert it again.
Be sure the dipstick is correctly inserted until it stops.
Pull out the dipstick again.
Check the oil levels on both sides of the dipstick. The engine oil level must be judged by the lowest of the two levels. If the oil level is below the low-level mark, add oil so that the full level is reached.
Be interesting to see if the dealer agrees with step 5. I plan to go back and ask them (in my dumb sounding voice) to show me how to check the oil level.
The problems with step 5 are obvious. If you can get different readings on the two sides of the dipstick, then they could both read high, causing you to remove oil incorrectly. And that appears to be the official Subaru answer.
Amazing that after all these years, they can’t design a dipstick that works.
PS, good news is that I found (online) I have a oil level warning light (yellow) as well as the normal red oil pressure light. I know, I should have RTFM, but that’s 546 pages, much of it in bad english.
“Amazing that after all these years, they can’t design a dipstick that works.”
Ironically, I have no problem reading the dipstick on my 2011 Outback, but whenever I checked the one on my friend’s 2008 Rav-4, I had the same problems that you are experiencing.
No matter how many times I checked the dipstick or how long I waited after shutting down the engine, the level would be very different on its two sides. The solution–as per mountainbike’s suggestion–was to take a file and inscribe a few hash marks on both sides of the stick.
Voila! No more problems reading the Rav’s dipstick!
If you decide to “rough-up” the dipstick with some sandpaper, or to file some hash marks onto it, just make sure that you completely clean all of the debris/filings off of the dipstick before re-inserting it into the engine.
Interestingly, I was just poking through the service manual for my car (not a Subaru) and it has this tidbit: “Checking engine oil level on a cold engine is not accurate.” They want you to run the engine for 10 minutes, then let the oil ‘settle’ for 5 before checking. Perhaps this is in case the filter is not full, which can skew the reading?
I Almost Always Check My Engine Oil Stone Cold. I Lift The Stick Only Enough To Read It And Push It Back In, No Wiping Involved, Simple, Neat, And Quick.
On very long trips when I must check it in a hot engine at gas stops, I have found that I get better (crisp, easier) readings by removing the stick and wiping it off and then waving the stick around a bit to help it cool, first. I check it when I can touch the stick and it’s cool to the touch (doesn’t take very long). The hot (synthetic) oil adheres better to a cool stick than a hot one.
I too, have a low oil level indicator/alert in my Bonneville, in addition to the oil pressure warning. I’ve never seen it in action. Next time I drain oil, I think I’ll turn the key to “on” and see if it alerts and see what it does.
This should be standard equipment on all cars, but I suppose some drivers would ignore that, too. Heck, even my standby generator has a low oil level light and automatic shut-down.
Re sanding the dipstick, it seems from that procedure from Subaru Engineering argues against that, and I quote: “Check the oil levels on both sides of the dipstick. The engine oil level must be judged by the lowest of the two levels.” That is, that the problem is not oil not sticking to the dipstick, but rather oil in the tube getting picked up by the dipstick when inserted. Sanding would make the level read (falsely) higher.
Otherwise, they would state “take the highest level” instead of “the lowest level.”
So, bottom line, sanding would make the problem worse, not better.
Heres the thing, when you pull the dipstick up out of the tube, you can, and often do, pull some oil up the tube with the stick. This oil can get on the stick as you push it back in giving a false reading. The dipstick tubes are normally angled so the oil pulled up will go mostly to the lower side, so when the stick is reinserted, this is the side most likely to be high.
If you pull the dipstick up from a cold engine and read it before wiping it, it should be the same on both sides. Its when you pull it up, wipe it and reinsert it before reading that you are more likely to get a different reading on both sides. With a cold engine, the oil will have contracted some so you may read a 1/4 quart low, but that is OK.
Try this sometime. With the engine warmed up, shut it down and immediately remove the dipstick and wipe it clean, then leave it on top of the engine for 5 minutes, then insert it and remove and see if the oil level matches on both sides of the stick.
Edit: just for the heck of it, I went out and looked at the dipstick and tube on my 2014 Legacy 2.5. It should be the same on your Forrester. The dipstick tube makes a sharp bend of over 45 degrees just before where it enters the block. It does not go in at an almost vertical like most dipsticks do, its more horizontal than vertical. As a result, it could easily wipe oil off part of the stick as the stick is removed, but because the stick is flat and the tube round, it can’t wipe it clean.
Because the tube is at such an angle, I would not be surprised if the tube held some oil long after shutdown.
keith, that was my thought also, oil from the tube. That is the only way I can see that it would read high, as the Subaru engineering procedure suggests. But if removal wipes some oil off, then that is incorrect and it would always read low.
My daughter has a Toyota and that thing drives me nuts after changing the oil. With fresh oil, it’s smeared all up the dip stick even if it sit all night. I can’t get a correct reading until she’s driven it a few days.
@EK Hammer "My daughter has a Toyota and that thing drives me nuts after changing the oil. With fresh oil, it’s smeared all up the dip stick even if it sit all night. I can’t get a correct reading until she’s driven it a few days."
All of my cars do that. When I change oil and filter, I drain it and then refill with the amount specified in the Owners’ Manuals for the specific engines. If I refill with the specified amount and have not created a leak then I’m good to go in peace. I check for leaks a couple of times until I can get a good reading. I’ve not had a problem.
I’ve got so many cars to maintain that I have a separate mobile oil change tool box and in there I keep a card that specifies oil filter part number, oil quantity, oil specs, drain plug wrench size, and which type/size oil filter wrench. I get everything ready to go before I begin a change. I keep a stock of oil and filters in the garage and buy on sale.
I went out to check the oil in my Legacy this morning and it was an eye opener. The Subaru dip stick tube has curve in it that has about a 2" radius or less and bends 45 degrees or more. Even the first check of the day as I have done in all my other vehicles does not work on this car. In fact, no matter what you do, there will always be excessive oil on the dipstick above the full line on one side.
The dipstick goes into the engine at a shallow angle so it is hitting something on one side that is covered in oil.
Here is what I found. Near the full line on both sides, there is a distinct oil level line, it matches on both sides of the stick. Then on one side, there is a small dry section, then another wet oil section about an inch above the full line. There does not seem to be a way of avoiding this, you just have to get used to it and be aware of it.
I did a search at the Subaru forum I linked to earlier and there were a few mentions of this problem but no discussions dedicated to it. Just one of the things that owners would like Subaru to redesign.