Paper towel and tape in my engine

so i was trying to read the oil dipstick, and i couldnt really read it easily. so i had the really really really really really really stupid idea of taping (scotch tape) a small piece of paper towel about the width of the stick. it was about maybe 4-5 inches long. and i used a very thin piece of scotch tape to hold it to the stick. of course it didn’t hold and it is now stuck in the oil dipstick hole and i cant see it with a flashlight. is my engine f*cked???

not yet… but you go in a right direction

it’s likely still in the tube where dipstick goes and maybe you can even get it off with some kind of thin and rigid (opposite of soft) metal wire with an improvised mini-hook at the end

worst what will happen if it falls to the oil pan is: once you start the engine, this paper and plastic will stick to the metal mesh protecting the intake/pickup tube to the oil pump, most likely not causing the damage, but not improving your oil flow for sure

if it gets to the oil pan, the best would be not to start the engine, but to drain the oil (into the pan) right where car is parked now, as it will most likely make that paper/scotch to flow out, then fill with a new oil


Do NOT operate the engine

Remove the dipstick tube

Now figure out how to remove that paper towel and scotch tape . . . you might have to use an air nozzle with a fine tip to accomplish this


to the OP:
maybe a straightened (thinnest) wire clothes hanger with one end turned into smallest possible hook using needle nose pliers

The thing is, is that I just changed my oil and the reason I wanted to see the oil level is because I didn’t know If I put the right amount of oil in the engine. I don’t wanna have to drain the oil to see if the paper and tape drain out, which I doubt they would come out. The car was halfway in my garage, So I had no choice but to start it. I started it and nothing went wrong turn it off started it again, smelled a little bit of burning for 10 seconds (which made me turn off the car) but that could have been oil that came and dripped off the oil stick. I turned the car back on and there was no smell and I read that a few times because I saw that people have got paper towels in their engine before and people just say it burns up. I just really wanna know for sure if the tape and the paper towel would burn up in the engine so I can stop worrying about this. I don’t want to have to buy a $3000 hemi engine.

I would imagine wire cloth hanger is still too thick, with a good chance of either pushing paper down or getting hook stuck

Something like welding wire would do, but unlikely OP would have something like this.

@db4690 advise seems to be more sound

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it will not “burn up” as they are now securely caught on the pickup tube screen:

So what happenes now??? I cant get them out?? Im screwed?? Helpppp im freaking out

no easy way to clean it once you started the engine, now it’s 100% guaranteed to be on the screen filter.
if it is small, it will not cause much troubles… likely… but nobody would sign under it to be guaranteed

dropping the oil pan and cleaning is how you “fix” it

to do it or not to do is up to you to decide now

You take out the dipstick tube, as I already mentioned

If the dipstick tube is out and on a bench, you can use that air nozzle . . . or the coat hanger, as @thegreendrag0n already mentioned . . . to push the paper towel and tape back UP, at which point you’ll immediately throw it in the trash, before reinstalling that dipstick tube

Not if you don’t start the engine and follow my advice

And if you happen to follow my advice, and you discover the paper towel and tape is already in the engine, then you have to remove the pan, as @thegreendrag0n mentioned

Please pay very close attention to this next bit of advice . . .

After you’ve removed the dipstick tube and believe you’ve removed all of the paper towel and tape, shine a very bright light from one end of the dipstick tube. If all is well, you should see the light at the other end


Well its too late i already started the car… greendragon said i have to drop the oil pan

He already started the engine - he mentioned that in one of the middle posts.

But it’s still possible that the paper towel and scotch tape are jammed in the dipstick tube, if they were wedged in tightly enough to begin with.

So, OP, like others have said, if you remove the dipstick tube and don’t find the paper towel AND scotch tape in it, you’re going to want to drop your oil pan.

You do not have to drop your oil pan, but if you don’t you are risking oil starvation and then you will have no choice but to spend a lot of money.


ok well its not my only car so i wont be driving this car or starting it to prevent oil starvation. i will try to get it out if it’s still stuck and if not then i’ll drop the pan. if i kept driving it (i wont), is oil starvation the only thing that could happen or could a crap ton more bad thing happen to the engine? the paper wasnt big and the tape was really tiny.

The oil starvation will be from the paper or (more likely) the tape (because it’s really hard to dissolve scotch tape without something nasty like brake cleaner (don’t ask how I know this)) getting on the pickup screen and restricting oil flow.

They probably won’t get past that screen (though if the paper towel partially dissolves it might), so they shouldn’t do any direct damage to the engine.

But the oil starvation can destroy the engine - as in, it’s not worth it to fix it, just get a new engine time - so that’s probably bad enough to make you want to drop the pan. :wink:


After you remove the oil pan you will see that the oil pick-up screen is about 3 1/2 " in diameter and that there is no way a slice of paper towel 3/16" wide can plug that screen. Over time that paper will break down into small pieces, go though the oil pump and get caught in the filter.


i cant do anything about it now because i don’t have the tools for it. but thank you all for your advice i really appreciate it

Scotch tape is 3/4 inch wide, which is a little over 21% of the width of that pickup screen. And we’re not sure how long the tape is.

I wouldn’t want to risk it, myself.

Depending on the vehicle, the dip stick tube may be simple to remove so the debris can be removed.


Remove the dipstick tube. If the stuff is all in there, push it out. If some or all has entered the oil sump, drain the oil. Some or all of the stuff may come out. If not, pour a liquid into the oil sump - preferably something like mineral spirits, but water would probably do little harm. Once all the stuff has flowed out of the sump drain hole, plug it and refill with oil. It will not do harm to reuse the same fluid, over and over, waiting for the stuff to come out. You may have to poke a bicycle spoke or the like into the hole to pull stuff out. Take the car for a good long drive so it warms up and boils off the (if used) water.

Good luck and please let us know.

This would have been a great question for the call-in show

Tom: Ain’t nobody screening these calls??? :slight_smile:

I’ve seen (somewhere, don’t recall where though) small diameter wire-wound (flexible) cables that have a spring-loaded mini-grabber inside. You press on a button at the end of the cable and three grabber prongs come out the other end.

If that happened to me I’d just listen for any weird noises, and if nothing unusual heard drive gently for a few days, then not worry further about it.