Novice: How to read a dipstick

I didn’t think i’d ever have to write this, but here we go:

This is what a clean dipstick looks like, the two raised lines going across it are high and low level. This is what they look like after you’ve wiped it clean or when your engine has no oil in it (not uncommon) and it comes on a trailer to see me.

  1. Leave the car on level ground for about 12 hrs. This is to ensure the oil is cold and also it isn’t running down the tube which the dipstick goes through which will smear it all over the place.

2. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean and reinsert.

3. Pull it out again and holding it level, horizontally read off the level quickly before the oil runs all over the place.

4. If you can’t read it book an appointment at Specsavers.

If you mess it up do it again until you get it right. Every attempt is free, it’s ok, it isn’t costing you. Points 1 & 3 are very important and why so many people get it wrong. It will help you understand when you know the small hole in the cylinder head where the stick passes through also has oil running down it , so if the engine hasn’t been stood for X amount of time you’ll be pulling it back through that.

The dipstick hole is there somewhere…
Just there.

Now here’s a thing; if you treat yourself to the late model Mazda Special needs dipstick it will do exactly the same so really, you’ll be no better off.

Notes and pictures:

A dipstick is not a precision instrument, the oil level in an engine is not a precise thing. When it’s been stood a while the level will be higher than it is after it’s just shut down. Accelerate, decelerate or corner hard and it gets slopped about and thrown all over the place. As long as the level is somewhere around the max when stood level it’ll be happy, like this:

As you can see this engine has a little bit too much oil in it, this was not a problem, it was running just fine.
Sorry this is a little blurred, but you can clearly see the oil is at the correct level. As i’ve been holding it to take the pic some has begun to run past the line, this is why you should be quick and have good eyesight. If you can’t see a dipstick, what are you doing driving?
Here we have reversed the dipstick to double check it on the rear to be sure. You can file your own lines across it to help with reading and to reduce the chances of oil running past.