Wrong oil dipstick tube leads to incorrect level and oil starvation - 1999 Ford F250 5.4L Super Duty

I recently purchased a 1999 Ford F250 Super Duty, took it to a shop and had several thousand dollars worth of minor problems fixed, one of them being a broken dipstick tube. The first thing that occured when I was driving home was a code P1151, a Ford O2 sensor code. One of the possibilities was an overfilled crankcase. Since this was the simplest cause, I checked the oil level, only to find it was several inches above the full mark. I drained the oil out in 3 stages and stopped once it was reading just about 1/8 inch above the full mark on the stick.

The truck sat a week or more before I drove it again but the oil pressure light came on at that point a few miles into the trip. I stopped, got under the truck to check for leaks and then checked the level on the stick. It was slightly above the full mark as before. I figured it was either a bad sender or the engine was toast.

I called the shop at this time and told them I had removed some oil the said it was a bad sender more than likely and to bring the truck in. I was charged for a new sender and one coil on plug since it was misfiring as well. They said there was no more oil light issue but that the engine had a rod knock now and its days were numbered.

Well, I left and it came right back on. Obviously the reason for the light wasn’t a bad sender. They told me to put thicker oil in the engine as the bearings were toast. It wasn’t doing this before and something just didn’t feel right. I figured the previous guy knowingly sold me a lemon but am not 100% on that now.

I bought the cheapest 20W50 to put in the crankcase. I didn’t even bother to get a new filter or anything but was going to drain the old oil and refill. Much to my surprise, there was maybe a quart of oil in the pan for an engine that is supposed to hold around 7 quarts! I dumped in one large jug of oil and checked the level. It was showing way above full (like 4 inches on the stick) even though the oil was not at the specified capacity. I thought it was the dipstick but bought a Ford on according to my VIN and compared. That part was correct.

I then began looking at pictures and videos of people working on their 1999 Ford Super Duty 5.4’s and could see that my dipstick is WAY LOWER in the engine bay compared to what I was seeing in the videos and such. The top of my disptick is down below the air intake tubing and you have to practically reach around that to get to the dipstick. It appeared to be at the same level and next to the air intake tubing in all the videos. So the dipstick is going way too far into the pan and showing higher oil than in reality.

I am kinda frustrated because I paid good money to have this shop do a fair amount of work. I didn’t pick a cheapo shop either, figuring you get what you pay for and have had good work done here in the past. I paid for a new disptick and tube as well as on oil change. Apparently they just add the amount specified with a machine and don’t check the dipstick??? Had I done this work, I would have realized things weren’t adding up and the problem would have been avoided.

Since the engine was used, I don’t expect a brand new motor for free or anything but feel I should get something out of this mess as the shop had like 3 opportunities to catch this problem but didn’t. The truck was brought in for an oil pressure light and although the damage was already done at that point, they didn’t catch on that the oil was low either. I assume they looked at the stick and it was at the full mark as I had been doing. What seems fair?

I was thinking either I pay for a new reman engine and they do the labor or they pay to install a used engine in full. I found a place offering a 90 day unlimited mileage guarantee for parts and labor to install a used unit.

How should I approach the shop once I confirm the dipstick tube they installed was several inches too short and led to an incorrect oil level and severe engine damage?

I think you will be fighting a very steep uphill battle to get a cost-share for this repair.

The way I see this is you drained the oil to the dipstick mark without a complete drain and re-fill. If I was the shop, my response would be; Why didn’t you drain ALL the oil, refill the oil with the specified 7 quarts and immediately recognize the incorrect dipstick reading?

The dipstick IS correct, as you point out. It is the tube that is the issue. It took you quite a bit of research to determine the actual problem but you missed the opportunity to recognize it. I doubt even a good mechanic would have caught this.

Sorry, but this falls into the “Live and Learn” bucket… for you and ALL of us that buy used vehicles.


I tend to agree that you may be fighting an uphill battle. The one thing I might ask is whether or not your copy of the repair order shows a dipstick tube being replaced. If so, you might have a fighting chance in court if the shop balks and it comes to a court case.
With your research on the tube it could be enough to tip things your way.

Without going into the entire story, I’ve related in the past how a guy here who was working in CO had his Subaru manual trans repaired in Denver and trailered the car back to OK with everything else. Once back and in use the trans locked up. All signs were oil starvation even though the level was FULL.

It took me several days of thinking to discover that they had installed an auto trans final drive stick into a manual trans. The auto stick was 3/4" longer than the manual and gave a false FULL reading. Other than length both sticks were dead on in appearance.

I somewhat agree . . . an incorrect tube isn’t the first thing to pop in my head when investigating a low engine oil pressure light

But I wonder if the shop ever hooked up an engine oil pressure gauge . . . it sounds like they never did


The shop did an oil change. They put 7 quarts in. On paper they did nothing wrong. They should have checked the oil afterwards because that’s just the right thing to do. But they put the right amount in. When ]out brought it back they probably checked the oil level and it read good. Again not negligent. If they would have checked the oil the first time they would have caught it, but I don’t think you have a winning battle. It wouldn’t hurt to ask though, they might be gracious and help you in some sort.

Well, you may be right or not. I did call the shop and they basically say their machine knows how much oil goes into the engine and there is no need to double check the oil level and that I was in the wrong for draining the oil. I have seen differences in filters impact the difference in oil level so always check again myself. I usually leave it a tad short, run the engine, then top off the last 1/2 quart or so to make sure I am right at the full mark.

Yes, the repair order mentioned removal and replacement of the dipstick tube and dipstick so I have that on paper. They say they ordered the part from Ford using my VIN number. I called Ford and this is correct. I was thinking maybe they ordered the wrong part because I have had my 1997 4.6L in that shop as well and wondered if it was ordered for that truck. It was ordered for the 1999 5.4L. It appears that the dipstick is 100% correct but that the dipstick tube is the one for the 4.6L so it was a parts mixup in the warehouse or shipping. A 4.6L disptick tube was sent with a 5.4L dipstick.

They tell me that I should have changed the oil completely instead of draining it out to the full mark. The oil had 10 miles on it so why should I trash all that oil and the filter? Yes, it would have been obvious during filling that something was up. They also told me I should have brought it back to them. Again, if you have an extra 6 inches of oil above the full mark and feel the truck is overfilled, that is A LOT overfilled and more damage could be done.

But a truck was brought in with complaints of low oil pressure indicators. I am sure the damage or most of it was done by this point but they never got to the bottom of the fact that there was no oil in the engine and apparently just replaced the sender and didn’t check the pressure or levels from what I can tell. OR they checked with the dipstick and it showed full.

They did know there was a rod knock at that time and went ahead and replaced parts on a junk motor. Is that normal? I got a new coil on plug to correct a misfire as well as a pressure sender. I still have the misfire and the engine is smoked.

The engine runs but smokes like mad. It isn’t something you could drive down the road. The only driving will be to the repair shop, to sell it, or junk it. I am not sure what I am going to do but am not in a huge hurry at this point.

One of the other mechanics I talked to says that I might be able to get a quality rebuild of the engine in the truck if I am in no hurry for an affordable price. The other truck this was meant to replace (1997) is still around and its rash of troubles repaired so I told him I could wait weeks or longer. He said there are 3 or so quality machine shops in the area and that he would look into pricing of this option. I told him I would be more than happy to pay him to put it all back together and back in the truck after the machining was done if that is a viable option.

This fellow also told me there are some legal precedents he is aware of that should put me in the clear and he plans to look them up. We will see. Basically he says that any mechanic worth hiring will check the oil after a change no matter what the “computer” or “machine” says and that due diligence wasn’t taken on that part. You don’t skip that step even if it seems simple and trivial. He also says that the installing shop is responsible for installing the correct part and verifying that it is correct, no matter what they ordered. He said the responsibility falls on the installer and not the parts supplier. We will see if he can reference these cases. If so, I will proceed and forward these to my attorney. Otherwise I don’t want to rack up a bunch of legal fees at close to $200/hr for a dead end case.

That is just wrong on so many levels

Just because “the book” says 7 quarts capacity, doesn’t mean you’ll drain exactly 7 quarts. Could be a little less or more

What if the engine is a sludge monster . . . you’re probably not going to drain 7 quarts

that was my earlier speculation

I think this is what happened. As stated earlier, a shop won’t have “incorrect dipstick tube for this application” high on their list of possibilities

Yes, the dipstick always trumps whatever “the book” says

But again, you don’t typically expect the dipstick to be correct, but the tube to be wrong

You’re getting into legal territory here . . .

I’d be hopeful, but not too optimistic.

I misinterpreted. I didn’t realize that the shop put the wrong tube in. I would be pretty upset too. But you still may have trouble getting restitution. But hope you try.

In the other thread, it is revealed that this engine was knocking and suffering from low/no oil pressure BEFORE the shop did any work to it. Also, the shop’s first recommendation was to install a Motorcraft remanufactured engine, which the OP did not wish to pay for.

Any work done was an effort to squeeze a little more life from an already ruined engine. This was not a situation where a shop made a mistake which ruined a perfectly good engine. So I am really struggling to see how the shop owes you anything, except maybe an apology, and perhaps an offer to apply the money spent on these repairs toward the engine replacement which they initially recommended.


Well, I didn’t fully understand the situation when I posted the other thread and figured I got scammed by a private party seller. I didn’t start to understand this until I went to put a thicker oil in the engine and was planning to remove 4 quarts and basically nothing came out. I then figured it was the wrong dipstick but it ended up being the wrong dipstick tube.

I basically thought the shop had changed the oil and exposed a bad engine. That being said, even if it were the case, I did ask the shop to evaluate the engine and the said it was fine and worth investing money into fixing the other issues. When I posted the other thread I thought the engine was FILLED WITH 7 QUARTS OF OIL! I didn’t realize it was basically out of oil and that is why all these other issues started with the massive smoking and knocking. I had taken it to the shop another time by the time I posted that thread and they didn’t realize it was basically out of oil because it was reading full on the stick. They did replace the oil pressure sender which was just throwing parts at a problem without finding the root cause if you ask me. Yes, the engine was already damaged at this time so it may be irrelevant but they did not find the dipstick issue or the fact the engine actually had no oil pressure.

The shop was telling me my engine was knocking because the previous owner likely put crap in the crankcase to mask it, then it started once the proper oil was installed. They obviously didn’t find the knocking when the truck was first brought into the shop either. One of the many issues was a broken dipstick tube which was replaced.

Yes, I am going to try. They have no intention of trying to take care of me in any way.

My thinking was that an engine run without oil is probably not worth rebuilding, considering the cost of used and reman engines with a guarantee. The thing runs now that I have oil in it but smokes like you can’t imagine. I probably would need several quarts of oil just to get it to the shop! It will remain parked until I decide what to do as I guess the miles left on the thing are numbered.

It seems the level should have been checked after the oil change at the shop. Being several inches above the full mark would have been a dead giveaway something was up as an extra quart wouldn’t have led to that. They are trying to blame me for draining the oil out based on the dipstick and tube they installed.

A couple other local mechanics are giving me hints on how to handle this. Apparently this shop is not well-liked and similar things are common with them among other customers. I would like to use all of them but know I will have to pick one in the end. They all seem to have something good to offer. I will see what legal precedents they have to offer about botched repairs like this.

In addition, they didn’t even clear the check engine light I had going on related to the misfire. I then noticed the IAT sensor wasn’t plugged in when I was looking at the dipstick. Yep, I had a P0113 when I read the codes again which makes perfect sense.

I don;t think C Watkin is wrong here, and If the shop had ordered the wrong dipstick tube the case against the shop would stand a good chance.

Now that it is revealed that Ford sent the wrong part, it becomes a lot more complicated. There is blame for the shop for not checking the oil level which should have revealed the wrong tube, and missing the diagnosis when the truck was returned to them,

Blame for Ford for sending the wrong tube when the right tube was ordered.

Blame for C Watkin for draining most of the oil and not all. The water is further muddied by saying the dheck engine light was triggered by incorrect oil level when the oil level was apparently correct, The dipstick tube cannot trigger a code.

Add to that, the fact that Ford will not defend this in small claims court but will get it kicked up to a higher court raising the cost of pursuing it.

The best you can probably do is to try po get the shop to give you some accommodation or sue them alone in small claims court.


I got a check engine light for P1151 upon returning home from the shop the first time. This is a code for an oxygen sensor and specific to Ford. It had a whole listing of potential causes, one of which was an overfilled crankcase. Of course checking the oil level is simple (or so I thought) and figured that when the level was several inches too high, I had found the issue.

The shop is not going to willingly provide any help on this issue. It would have been one thing to have me pay for a new engine and do some or all the labor for free since I already had tons of work done there. I could have even left the truck for a month and they could work on it in their slow times. It is ALL my fault in their eyes since I drained the oil out.

Even before, they acted like I had bought a lemon and I believed them, hence the other thread I posted. Keep in mind that we were all under the impression that the engine was full of oil when they are telling me it simply needs a new oil pressure sender which they gladly installed without seeing what the root cause was. I have never really gotten a botched repair that I know of and it seems most mechanics are decent hard working people. Of course I am getting an ear full about these guys now from the other places I have talked with. The big thing they see is that no mechanic should change the oil and not check the level afterwards. This seems to make sense to me and most others but is a “waste of time” that the customer would be billed for at this shop.

My attorney indicates that small claims is the way to go, otherwise the cost simply isn’t worth it. I realize I will rack up costs quite quickly so am putting this on hold until I get a legit reference to the legal precedents mentioned by one of the mechanics.

Basically, if the guy knows what he is talking about, he says that it is the legal responsibility of the shop to ensure that the correct part was installed, no matter if the parts supplier gives the wrong part. It seems some type of red flag would have been found had they simply CHECKED THE OIL after doing work including an oil change to my truck.

They say I should have done a complete oil change, not just drain out some of the oil. Again, if it is a FRESH OIL CHANGE, why throw away oil and a filter with 10 miles on it?

I am going to wait and see what I find in terms of the legal situation before proceeding in any way. The guy looking into the legal stuff is also the one who might look into the rebuild options for my existing motor. I would be worried that the core is damaged badly enough to where this might not be the best option. I am not worried about the block as much but the heads, cam journals, etc.

This guy argues that I will get a better motor for a better price if I can live without the truck for a while with the rebuild option. Maybe it can be rebuilt but with new heads and such.

What people think is the process of litigation really isn’t. What taking a case to court does is raise the stakes in the poker game of finding a solution to a problem. You and the shop have reached a deadlock because they seem to be refusing to negotiate at all. Now its up to you to call their bluff and see if you can get the betting going again. There are two routes I can think of.

One is to do some homework and find out if your state has a “dealers and repairers” licensing system and a way for consumers to file complaints about licensed garages. Find out how it works and get your complaint all organized, copies or records, invoices, paid bills, your story in clear terms so someone can read it and understand what happened, and only the fact that they are refusing to discuss a solution with you. Don’t put words in the mouth of the shop - let them do their own talking. Put it all in a nice clean presentation with your name, address, phone number and email address and mail it in, return receipt requested, to the agency and a copy to the shop. Keep your copy with the mailing info and the return receipts when they come back. Wait a week or two. If you hear nothing call the state agency and see what happens next.

The other way is to go to the litigation option. Depending on your state small claims might be enough if the amount you can request is high enough to cover your costs. Google should help you figure that out as well as help you put the whole case together. Otherwise you’ll have to seek out a lawyer, which is a complex task.

Most cases end when a solution comes out that both sides don’t like, about equally. Mutual dissatisfaction is the goal.

Since I paid almost $200 to an attorney already for a quick consult, I don’t plan to pursue the legal option unless there is a legal precedent as stated by another mechanic. The costs of a new engine could be eaten up really quickly in legal fees!

Small claims is pretty much the only way to go. This would get me a decent solution to the problem and pay for most of a new engine. As much as I would like to put the screws to them somehow, there is no point of dumping a lot of money and time into this problem. I can make more money working than dealing with this crap!

If there is a legal precedent, I may have my atty right a letter to the shop with the legal precedents referenced and all, then proceed to small claims if that bluff doesn’t work.

Otherwise I think it is best to figure out a reasonable repair option to get this truck back on the road. I have plenty of time to deal with this so machining/rebuilding is a possibility but I would also consider a good used engine for the truck.

I figure it is best not to drive the thing much so don’t even care about “snake oil” products to stop the thing from smoking as much as it does.

I almost want to have a forensic teardown of the engine to see if anything else was botched by this shop but know that would cost lots of money.

This reminds me of a forensic engineering case I was involved with several years back. There was a pumped storage reservoir (basically a giant hydroelectric “battery”) where water is pumped uphill at night with cheap off-peak power. The turbines are then turned back on during peak demand periods and that stored power sells for a lot more than it cost to pump it uphill. Basically, many factors led to the thing overflowing and breaching the upper dam. The level indicators did not have the correct baseline because that part was coming loose from the bottom of the reservoir so were reading too low. The pumps ran longer than they should have, overtopping the dam and leading to its failure. It blasted a popular state park and would have been a real disaster if the place had been filled with campers at a busy time. Luckily it happened in the dead of winter. Basically it happened at the best possible time of year and day. The operators knew there was a problem in this case and continued to recalibrate the water levels in an attempt to account for this but it didn’t work. Then they didn’t have a real person there to verify it wasn’t overflowing and just relied on the computer/instrumentation. This is basically the opposite of what happened with my oil level. It was too full but reading low. A simple check by a real person could have prevented this instead of relying on the computer alone.

I think any responsibility of the shop hinges on the following.

  1. It is simply “due diligence” to at least check the oil level to confirm after an oil change that it is correct. They would have easily caught this if this step had been taken. Is this becoming something of the past with newer cars coming with oil level sensors and such? Some don’t even have a dipstick. Again, this truck doesn’t have that system so the level should be checked the old way.

  2. Responsibility to ensure the correct part was installed by the installer. If that is the case, then it doesn’t matter if Ford sent the right part or not. It is up to the installer to realize the part is wrong. Again, I am sure this isn’t the first 2V 5.4L that has come through the shop.

I can’t imagine replacing a dipstick or a dipstick tube without confirming that the result was an accurate dipstick reading. But maybe it was upbringing as a shade tree technician often using salvage parts that has instilled in me the need to verify such details. Regardless of sources I have for decades checked oil levels after installing the correct amount and notched the dipstick at the known correct level for any future checking. Ford dipsticks are notorious for being confusing with the cross hatch FULL area being long enough to cover 2+ quarts of oil and never actually corresponding to the proper oil level.

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I caught a double gasket situation back in the day by double checking the level after an oil change. This could have resulted in a catastrophic failure but I did the simple step of checking the oil after the change and caught something was wrong. I wasn’t sure but noticed a leak from the filter area and then realized there was no gasket on the old filter. The situation was quickly resolved. I now take the time to make sure there is a gasket on the old filter as well, another good double-check.

I check the oil level with the dipstick after changing oil/running the engine, some habits are hard to break but most of my co-workers do not. I find that most dipsticks are stuck in the tube and require some effort to be pulled free because they have not been removed in years.

We have been using oil dispensers with electronic meters for twenty years, they are accurate. This is why people today have dropped checking the oil level.

Your shop did not check the oil level with the dipstick, that was a big mistake but you did check the dipstick and found the level to be off by a significant amount.

Some vehicle owners would have returned to the shop to have this looked into, others may have had the vehicle towed but you chose to drain 6 quarts of oil from the engine and then drive it with the oil pressure warning light on.

This is one of those cases mentioned in the past where shops must choose their customers to avoid problems.

I can see however a small claims judge deciding in your favor, things are so mixed up, the dipstick didn’t work and the vehicle broke down. I wouldn’t expect a small claims court judge to understand what really occurred.


I don’t think anyone here–including the OP–understands what really occurred. It sounds like the truck was originally brought to the shop because of engine noise and low/no oil pressure, which means the engine was already worn out. Perhaps the low/no oil pressure was a false reading due to a defective oil pressure sending unit, but because of the fact that this was noted on the original work order, a reasonable judge is going to assume that the engine was already ruined before the shop touched it.

Also, I agree that a reasonable person, if concerned about the dipstick reading after an oil change, would have checked the oil level before driving the vehicle home, which I used to always do when having oil changes done in the past (now I do them myself at home). The time to notice if there is too little oil, or way too much, or evidence of a leak is before you drive the vehicle home, and risk serious engine damage.

At this point, even if we accept the fact that the engine was in good condition prior to the owner draining out most of the oil due to this incorrect dipstick tube, I am not sure what percentage of liability can reasonably be assigned to the shop.

This is, of course, a legal question, not a technical question, but I can’t imagine that a reasonable judge would buy the argument that since the owner felt the engine was already ruined that made it ok to drive the vehicle with low/no oil pressure and knocking noises based on a faulty dipstick reading, and therefore this is 100% the shop’s fault. A reasonable judge might apportion liability, and hold the shop to be 10% responsible or maybe even 25% responsible, but either way, you’re not getting a huge financial recovery, or another engine installed for free. A lawsuit, even if it results in a judgment against the shop, is unlikely to yield much more than emotional satisfaction.


The truck was NOT brought in originally due to engine noise and low oil pressure. That is where I finally realized there was an issue.

It was brought in to make an older truck what I consider to be “ship shape” by fixing oil leaks, giving it a tune-up, and replacing a few sensors, etc. This is when the dipstick tube was replaced. I was told it needed quite a few things done and asked if the truck was worth the work being scoped out? Then once that work was done, the oil looked to be “overfull” due to the wrong dipstick tube being installed. I called the shop when I saw an extra 6 inches of oil or so on the stick and told them it looked to be way overfilled. I should have insisted they TOW the thing back to the shop to have this looked at as being that overfilled is a reason for concern. You would almost think they filled the engine TWICE with that level. Like they set the machine to fill, then forgot, and filled it again.

They didn’t seem too concerned when I said, I could just drain some out until it is at the proper level.

I agree that it came to them as an engine with some miles on it needing some work. It didn’t come to them as an engine that was making noise and smoking. Had they told me the truck wasn’t worth it, I would have gladly cut my losses, sold the thing for what I could get, and walked away. I was told it was a solid truck and would be good if the work was performed.

Obviously this is a complicated situation but I did send my repair order to another mechanic. He says there are several items listed on the receipt where I was charge a full $75 for an hour job when that job maybe took them 5 minutes once they were already in the truck that deep. I understand having a minimum service charge and do that in my service business but do not charge an extra hour for a 5 minute task that is included on top of my original 1 hour minimum. I charge for an hour and 5 minutes, not 2 hours. Like with cars, there are many things where labor can be combined in my line of work, much like doing a water pump at the same time as a timing belt.

I trusted that this was a good shop and didn’t question the charges or the work. I had never had an issue with them and hate it when people question every little thing I do in my service business so didn’t want to be “one of those people.” Anyway, I am busy and just wanted this taken care of. I think they knew that and figured they could milk me.

I was charged $75 for an hour of labor to change that dipstick tube by the way… Another mechanic told me to open the hood and look at the part. It is held on by 1 bolt.

I did stop, check the oil, check for leaks, and CALLED the shop from where I pulled over with the first indication of low oil pressure. I was told it had to be the sender and just just bring it in to have it replaced whenever it was convenient. Even better, they threw another part at the problem without verifying that was the actual problem and sent me back down the road with the same low oil pressure problem. I understand that the labor to do an oil pressure check is the same as removing the sender so wouldn’t have had an issue paying for that BUT to be sent back down the road with the same problem it came in for is not OK. I don’t think they even drove the thing besides to pull it out of the shop.

The place that will charge me like $2500 to install a used engine (parts, labor, fluids) and give me a 90 day guarantee on that says they do like a 1 hour road test as well where it is taken around at highway speeds as well as put in 4WD so make sure nothing was messed up during the work.

Even better, one of the guys at the shop told me the best option would be to get full coverage and light the sucker on fire. I guess this sets the tone for the type people I am dealing with here.