Unable to see the oil level on the dipstick - is this an indicator of a problem?

I am unable to get a reading from my oil dipstick and I am wondering if this is an indicator of an upcoming problem.
I tested my car the day after I got it serviced at the dealer - It was a major service where all oil levels and tune up had been performed. The car is parked on a street that can be qualified as horizontal surface and the engine hasn’t turned yet. I pull the dipstick and it’s full of oil. I clean it and retest and I get the same results where the stick is fully covered with oil. I tried all the tricks I heard of - got a new dipstick, changed the oil a second time and put the recommended volume of oil only to get the same results.
I am betting that someone can offer an advice here on how I can get an accurate reading - or maybe this may be an indicator of the engine going out or something.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts / experience.


Did it just start showing up like this? Are you sure the dealer didn’t overfill the oil? The dipstick is about as simple a device as there is. The only ways it can be reading high are: 1) the oil is overfull. 2) You have the wrong dipstick for your car. 3) somehow oil is collecting in the tube it fits into and giving an inaccurate reading. My vote is for #1. I’d take the car back and have them check/repeat the oil change. And I wouldn’t drive it at highway speeds or on long trips until you’ve verified that the oil is at the correct level. Too much oil can hurt too–it can cause higher than normal pressures that can damage seals, or it can be whipped into a foam by the spinning crankshaft and cause a loss of lubrication.

If this is a front wheel drive car, sometimes you can drain the transmission fluid (thinking it is motor oil) and you overfill the motor with oil when you add the motor oil. The transmission drain plug is in the middle and the oil drain plug is off to the side of most FWD motor/transmission setups.

Since the OP did a second oil change, he really doesn’t know what is going on here. The safest action would be to have the car towed to a service facility. Drain the transmission fluid, and drain all the motor oil. And get a fresh start.

so you drained it. how much came out? 5 qts or 7 qts? can you tell?

I agree emphatically with Uncle T. Until the problem is resolved, attempts to start the engine should be considered highly risky, and if someone DID drain the wrong fluid, potentially very expensive.

Is the dipstick really dry, or is the oil so clear it’s hard to see?

Thank you all for your response and I agree with all of your recomedations.

The car in question is a 2002 Audi A6 3.0 V6 engine all wheel drive and about 140K miles on it.
This issue isn’t new, had been there for years - I would fill the car with the exact recommendation only to see that the oil level is inaccurate.

To solve the issue I had a major service at the dealer where the dealer tuned and replaced the fluids and I asked the dealer to install a new dip stick thinking that maybe the old one wasn’t the right one.

Today the car runs ok but the new dipstick still shows the oil level is over capacity. I am calling the dealer again to get an answer to my simple inquiry. Why is the oil level over capacity?
Will update this thread with the information I receive.

So u have had dozens of oil changes. So do u tell the tech to show u dipstick level after changes and see his reaction to odd level? Bet he would really get tweaked if u told him to “fix” it.

This response is going to sound really shallow, but please read my explanation before totally discarding it.

How’s your vision? Have you had it checked recently?
I just had cataract surgery in both eyes, and I’ve now realized I was going blind. After the first surgery, I realized I’d been looking through pools of a mucas-like yellow substance. Things that were actually light blue I actually thought were green. The oil level on the dipstick was hard to see. Things that I thought were yellow were actually white. And the cloudiness of the images wasn’t apparent to me until it was gone.

If you haven’t had your eyes checked in too many years, and, like me, you remember the Vietnam years, you may want to seriously consider an eye check.

Sorry I read the title, which implies there’s no oil on the stick, but now I see the level reads too high.
Sometimes I “skim” too fast.

". . . but the new dipstick still shows the oil level is over capacity.“
How much over capacity does the dipstick indicate”. My vehicles show a little over the top line of the dipstick after the oil is changed. I have no idea why this is, but it doesn’t seem to hurt anything.


Bear with me. Here’s what I believe you are doing.

Draining the oil
Replacing the filter
Putting in the full quantity of oil called for in the owner’s manual, ALL AT ONCE, WITHOUT CHECKING THE LEVEL UNTIL YOU’VE PUT IN EVERYTHING

If that is what you’re doing, you’re making a mistake. If the book says your car takes 8 quarts, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll drain all 8 quarts when you remove that drain plug. There’ll be some oil left in passages and galleys.

You need to stop and check the dipstick periodically while refilling the crankcase.

The dipstick trumps whatever the book says. If the book says 8 quarts, but the stick reads full after 6 quarts, don’t put in any more. Start the engine and run it for a few minutes. Stop the engine. Let the oil settle. Check and correct the oil level one final time.

I assume your are following the normal dipstick checking protocol, i.e. pull it out, clean it completely off with a rag, putting it back in all the way, then carefully pulling it out again and checking both sides, comparing to the high and low marks, with good lighting, while holding a white cloth or piece of paper behind it for better visual contrast. Some makes and models of cars are more difficult than others. But a dealer shop should be happy to show you how to read the dipstick accurately on these particular cars.

Another thing to be aware of when checking the dipstick, is to let the car sit for 15 minutes at least before checking, after driving it. That gives the oil which get in the dipstick tube time to drain down. Otherwise may look by the dipstick reading to be overfilled.

Also, the oil level might show overfilled on the dipstick immediately after an oil change because all the oil put into the car in now in the crankcase, which is the place the dipstick measures. This is not the usual situation, as after you drive the oil will get distributed throughout the engine and some will stay out of the crankcase, for example some will remain in the oil filter. After driving a mile or so, or just idling the car for 5 minutes say, does the dipstick level go down to the normal region?

Have you asked a dealership shop to show you how to read the dipstick on your car?

I have an 89 Mustang GT 111k and have been doing all of my oil changes every 3k miles and have the same problem…The pan hold 5 quarts and I usually buy the 5 quart container 10-w 30…I do fill the oil filter first during the change…After starting the car and letting it run for 5 minutes to check for leaks and then shut it down. 10 minutes later I check the oil and on the stick and it always shows about a quart over the full mark. Even waited until the next morning and the same reading.

Been doing this since 1989

@Howie32703 why not put in 3-1/2 quarts or 4 quarts, then run the engine, shut it off, wait, check again, and then do the final adjustment

Dipstick reading trumps stated capacity in book

Could oil be getting forced up the dipstick tube, making it impossible to get an accurate reading at any time other than removing the stick and leaving the engine off :30 or so, dipping the stick and removing it to observe the level. The configuration of the tube and the stick could make checking the oil as difficult as checking most automatic transmissions.

My cars say 4 qts with filter. But after running engine and a few minutes for the oil drain down to the pan, the dip will show oil above the top mark. Normally I use 3.5 qts per change so that the the oil will show in the middle of the dip marks. It appears that 3 qts is at the bottom of the lowest mark and 4 qts above the top mark. Do you have this problem?

George’s post reminds me of my grandfather. The man had over three million miles of driving in his lifetime, but he never checked his oil. Back then, gas stations always checked it for you and he always had a mechanic that did all the maintenance for him.

Anyway, at the age ripe old age of 70 something, he decided to check the oil level in his 65 Pontiac. After checking the stick and seeing that it was low, he added a quart. It still showed low so he added another quart. Still showing low, he added a third quart, this time the dipstick showed way too much oil.

What he didn’t know was that the way the dipstick tube in his engine was designed, it wiped the oil off of one side of the dipstick as it was removed, it turned out to be the side he was checking. At 168k miles, that Pontiac had never burned a drop of oil, which was pretty remarkable back then. But it didn’t make 169k because he blew out several seals from too much oil.

Make sure that the vehicle is on level ground. Could be that the driveway or place where you are checking the oil level could be at a slight angle and this will throw your reading off.

I can’t tell if the dipstick checks overfull or that you cannot read it. I have had cars before that the oil level was very hard to see on the stick. I think you are worrying about nothing!!