how to read oil dipstick

Image Credit: Car Oil Dipstick”, by Dvortygirl licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


How To Read Oil Dipstick

Understanding how to read a dipstick is a must for everyone that drives a car. This is because the engine oil in the car should always be in the right quantity at any point in time, especially if the car is used regularly. You wouldn’t want a situation where the engine of the car you brought with some big bucks dies due to your failure to know how reading a dipstick works.

If the oil in an engine is not at the optimal level, the car engine gets damaged due to increased friction. This same phenomenon applies to every other auto equipment that uses engine oil to aid its operation.

Meanwhile, if the engine oil is in excess, it can lead to the wear and tear of internal components of the engine. 

Therefore, there must be a way to assess the amount of engine oil in your car and the best method thus far is to use a dipstick. For those who are not well versed in the process of how to read an oil dipstick, This article will enhance your understanding.

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The Process Of Car Oil Dipstick Reading

The steps underlined below will help you in reading your car’s oil dipstick. 

car oil dipstick reading

                                     Image Credit: Car Oil Dipstick”, by Ivan Radic licensed under CC BY 2.0


1. Visit your owner’s manual

The user manual of your car should come in handy in this situation as carmakers are known to have different requirements that must be met before the engine oil in a car can be gauged.

Therefore, leverage the information in your car’s user manual to arrive at this and to also know the best time to check the car’s oil.

1. Park Your Car on a Level Surface

Ensure that your car is parked on a level surface before you check the oil level in the engine. 

Note that parking your car on a surface that is not level or slanted will affect the position of the oil in the engine, affect the amount of oil that can be accessed by the dipstick, and eventually affect its reading.

1. Lift The Hood of the Car

Your car should have a latch that allows you to easily lift the hood that covers the engine. This varies from car to car though as it could be situated anywhere in the car. Regardless, you may need to pull or push it to release the latch that secures the car’s hood.

After this step, locate the other latch under the had and apply the same process to open the hood and get access to the car engine. 

Do well to note that this process varies from car to car and that some cars have a spring that keeps the hood up without support while others might need a prop before their hoods can be kept upright.

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1. Locate the Dipstick

The car dipstick resembles a long pencil-thin piece of metal that is attached to something circular that you can hold to take the dipstick out. 

Oil dipsticks in a car usually have a cap that is colored orange, red, or yellow with a sign of an oil can on them but this is dependent on the car. You should find it around the engine block. 

Meanwhile, the location of the dipstick is dependent on the car as some cars come with dipsticks that protrude from the cover of the valve. However, most car dipsticks will be found near the front of the engine bay.

1. Take Out the Dipstick

After locating the dipstick, pull it out gently with the aid of a paper towel or clean rag around the port where you will pul it out from. 

The best procedure is to not force the oil dipstick. All you have to do is properly hold the loop on the top of the cap and pull gently.

1. Clean the Dipstick

Remember we recommended the use of a paper towel to aid in the removal of the dipstick. Well, after pulling it out, wipe it clean and immerse it into the port for a second time. 

Getting an accurate gauge on the dipstick reading after pulling it out for the first time can be tricky. This is where cleaning it after pulling it out, comes in. As you wipe the dipstick, begin from the top to the tip. 

1. Take Your Oil Reading

Immerse the dipstick after wiping it clean and take a careful look at it after pulling it out for a second time. The dipstick is normally designed to have holes, letters, or lines that show the level of the oil in the engine. 

These indicators on the dipstick vary amongst vehicles. They could be F{full), L(Low), or sometimes small holes, or a series of lines. 

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One norm is that the lowest marking on the dipstick is the closest to the tip of the dipstick while the highest can be found closer to the cap of the dipstick. Therefore, the question of where should oil be on the dipstick arises.

If the oil is closer to the top, the oil in the engine is at an optimal level.

If the oil is close or below the markings at the end of the tip of the dipstick, the next line of action should be to add some engine oil.

Meanwhile, if the oil is above the upper mark, you’re expected to drain it out to ensure that a normal oil level is maintained.

1. Wipe The Dipstick And Return It

After all these procedures have been carried out with regards to reading the oil dipstick of your car, wipe off the oil from the dipstick before returning it to the designated port.


Summary: How To Read An Oil Dipstick

Folks with questions on dipstick measurement, how to read an oil dipstick, and what should oil look like on a dipstick shouldn’t have any major cause for concerns anymore.

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The contents of this article will teach how to go about reading the oil dipstick of your car effectively. It will also guide you in ascertaining if the engine oil level of your car is at the optimal level or is at a low level and requires an oil top-up.

As we pointed out in the article, the process of car oil dipstick reading could vary amongst cars and you may need t to refer to the manufacturer’s manual of your car for additional information.

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