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Your Oil dipstick worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Keeping an eye on the lubricant with the dipstick
The dipstick is a gauge for checking the oil level in the car. This very simple compontent usually lasts a vehicle's life time. In addition to checking the oil level, the oil dipstick can provide other information as well.
Correct use of the oil dipstick
The oil dipstick measures the oil level in the sump. This is only an indirect indication of the amount of oil circulating in the engine. The correct use of the dipstick is very important to obtain the right information. The ideal time to check the oil is in the morning before starting the car when the oil has fully flown back into the oil sump. Remaining oil on the dipstick has now dripped off as well. At this point, all you need to do is pull the dipstick out and read the oil level. When the engine is still warm, a procedure must be observed to obtain the desired information. In a car with a warm engine the amount of oil is checked in four steps. 1. Switch off the engine Checking the oil level with the engine running makes no sense. The oil pump is continuously pumping oil from the oil sump, pushing it through the entire engine. Only when the engine is switched off, the oil flows back into the sump. 2. Pull out the dipstick and wipe it When the car engine is running, a small amount of oil is pressed into the tube in which the oil dipstick is placed. This oil distorts the reading on the oil dipstick, suggesting that there is too much oil in the engine. This provokes inaccurate measurement and therefore the dipstick should be wiped clean with a paper tissue first. 3. Wait 3 – 4 minutes When the oil level is checked immediately after switching off the engine, there is little lubricant in the oil sump. The indicated level would be interpreted as "way too little" oil in the engine. Therefore wait a few minutes to allow sufficient oil to flow back into the oil sump. 4. Fully insert the dipstick and pull it out again The clean oil dipstick is now fully inserted in its tube and pulled out again. The level can now correctly be read. TIP: immediately after oil change, the oil is often very clear which makes it difficult to read the level correctly. In this case, press the pulled dipstick on a clean cloth or tissue. The oil level can be read as an imprint.
The correct level
The oil level is correct when the level is read between the minimum and maximum marks on the oil dipstick. Slightly above minimum is better than just under maximum. Too much oil is considerably more damaging for the engine than slightly too little. Therefore the oil amount should be constantly maintained at an ideal level.
Additional information on the oil dipstick
Colour and consistency of the oil adhering to the dipstick provide the driver with additional information:
- black oil: the oil is used up and should be changed as soon as possible
- clear-brown foam: the cylinder head gasket is defective
In the second case, a crosscheck can be conducted. If the coolant is dark brown or black, oil has penetrated the cooling circulation. Immediate replacement of the cylinder head gasket is required. Observing this information and acting accordingly will decisively extend the life span of the car.
Oil dipstick defects
Sometimes an oil dipstick breaks off. This can cause a complicated repair. If it is not possible to pull the remaining piece from its tube, the oil sump has to be removed which can make it necessary to remove the manifold and the drive shaft. To jack up the car safely, the right jack stands and securing kegs are necessary. In case of these repairs, the oil sump gasket is always replaced as well. This makes all the trouble worth while. Otherwise a broken oil dipstick is just an unnecessary nuisance.
Buying an oil dipstick
The price of a new dipstick starts at 5 EUR (± £4,50). To minimise any breaking risk, an original spare part should always be used. This ensures approved and checked quality, which should last a car's life span.