Fill to capacity or to stick?

CJH

Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
I have noticed that when I put in the volume of oil identified as capacity in the owner's manual of my 3 GM cars (97 Lumina, 98 Tahoe, 03 Cavalier), they are over the full mark on the stick by 1/4 to 1/3 quart (estimated). We picked up the 03 Cavalier with 4 miles on it, and it was over the full mark from the factory. In my 2000 Honda Civic, though, the capacity puts the level exactly at the full mark on the stick. So I am wondering why this is? Poor attention to detail? manufacturing tolerances? a trick to make new car buyers think they are using less oil than they actually are? Anyone else notice this? Do you guys fill to the stated capacity or to the full mark on the stick?
 
Messages
2,230
Location
SE MI
On ALL of my Ford V8s (302 V8, 4.6L SOHC V8, 5.4L SOHC V8) if you fill to the capacity (5 qt, 5 qt, 6 qt, respectively) w/ an oil filter change, your oil mark will not reach the MAX FILL mark - not even close. In order to get to the MAX FILL mark, you need 6 qt, 6 qt, and about 7 qt respectively.
 

Patman

Staff member
Messages
21,988
Location
Oakville, Ontario
I say to go to whatever the higher amount is. If the dipstick still shows too low with the amount listed in the manual, add more. Just check the dipstick right after you've driven the car and look for oil bubbling. If it's not doing that, you're not overfilled. I always like my cars to have the highest possible amount of oil in them without being overfull. In both cases I add more oil than is listed in the manuals.
 
Messages
352
Location
Ontario, Canada.
In both my daily drivers Toyota Tacoma V-6 and Corolla 1.8, filling to the factory recommended 5.5L and 3.7L respectively leaves the levels approx half way between add and the full mark. It's hard to say why the extra oil shows up on your stick. Does the Dealer have any input on this? I have heard of a too low a reading resulting from the use of an oversized oil filter, but never the other way. I would only fill to the full mark or even a little under rather than overfill. With most applications I think, you are only talking approx. 1 qt/litre capacity between add and full and you can run on the add mark under normal conditions without any damage. Do you do your own service? I heard locally about an individual who had GM change his oil and had overfilled it. Apparently this dealer refills from a bulk oil source as measured through a nozzel and had added too much. Maybe this is a common method of changing oil today I don't know......I've changed my own oil for about 25 years now. [ April 14, 2003, 10:56 AM: Message edited by: 7TFord ]
 

Patman

Staff member
Messages
21,988
Location
Oakville, Ontario
quote:
Originally posted by Greg: i just dump the whole 4L jug in there, ends up being 4-5 mm above full but no problems.
Yep, I do the same thing with my wife's 2000 Civic and my sister's 99 Civic. Both of them end up showing a tiny bit overfull on the stick, but no harm done. Their capacities are listed as only 3.8qts (and 4L works out to 4.2 qts so I go 0.4qts over the listing in the manual)
 

CJH

Thread starter
Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
I had gotten away from doing my own oil changes, but due to a self-inflicted problem with the engine in my 3.1 liter Lumina, I have been paying a lot more attention to oil related matters. After reading horror stories about problems caused by oil-change places (overfilling, loose plugs and filters, missing caps), I had been checking my cars very carefully. First time I noticed this was Wal*Mart changed the oil on the Lumina. Takes 4.5 quarts. They left an oil container in a plastic bag in the car that had the extra oil in it (almost a full quart...should have been 1/2 quart). I checked the stick and it was at the full mark...so I had to wonder...they returned about a third of a quart too much to me...why is this? I didn't ask them about it...figured maybe they just didnt drain it completely or something. Then I was on vacation in FL with my Tahoe (I live in PA). Went to a Pennzoil quick change place. Checked the oil when they gave it back to me and it was about 1/3 quart over the full mark. I challanged them on it. They said they put in exactly the 5.0 quarts of oil that was called for with a new filter and were 100% sure of it. I thought they had made a mistake... so after these two oil changes that didnt seem quite right (extra oil returned to me on one, overfilling on the other), I decided to go back to doing the oil changes myself. I changed the Lumina oil...put in exactly the 4.5 quarts that is called for with the correct AC filter and the stick read about 1/3 quart too high. NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY WALMART GAVE ME BACK ALMOST A FULL QUART OF OIL! Wal*Mart had obviously run into this before. I did ask the service manager at my dealer (friend of mine) about this and he said..."ya, the sticks on the 3.1s are known not to be too accurate." Next, the Cavalier. It doesn't get driven too much. At 3 months of short trip driving, it had only 1,800 miles on it (that is 1,800 miles on the car and the original factory oil). Checked the oil prior to changing and it was over the max by 1/4 to 1/3 of a quart. Drained it completely and refilled (new filter) with the 5.0 quarts that are called for. Reads exactly where it did on the factory fill! I have not changed the Tahoe myself yet, but I am thinking the Pennzoil place in FL was right. Next I changed the 2000 Honda Civic. Calls for 4.2 quarts. I put in exactly 4.2 quarts with an aftermarket filter and the level is exactly at the fill mark. So from a sample of 3 GM cars, I am concluding that they design the system so the initial fill is high relative to the stick. I have to wonder why??? Sounds like Fords are the opposite in that you find filling to capacity does not take you to the FULL mark.
quote:
Originally posted by 7TFord: In both my daily drivers Toyota Tacoma V-6 and Corolla 1.8, filling to the factory recommended 5.5L and 3.7L respectively leaves the levels approx half way between add and the full mark. It's hard to say why the extra oil shows up on your stick. Does the Dealer have any input on this? I have heard of a too low a reading resulting from the use of an oversized oil filter, but never the other way. I would only fill to the full mark or even a little under rather than overfill. With most applications I think, you are only talking approx. 1 qt/litre capacity between add and full and you can run on the add mark under normal conditions without any damage. Do you do your own service? I heard locally about an individual who had GM change his oil and had overfilled it. Apparently this dealer refills from a bulk oil source as measured through a nozzel and had added too much. Maybe this is a common method of changing oil today I don't know......I've changed my own oil for about 25 years now.
 
Messages
238
Location
Monterey Park, CA
On a side note, how do you determine how much oil your car burned during your oil change? You should factor in the overfill with the amount on the stick, and add the additional amount you have put in. If you don't you will be a half quart off. I say this because some say they burned very little or no oil in 3000 miles. Leo
 
Messages
3,542
Location
Colorado
Both of my GM cars were over filled from the factory. My 2002 Z28 Camaro and 2003 Silverado 5.3 were about 1/8 inch over the max fill line. I drained out about 1/4 to 1/3 qt and that brought it to the line! I hear that several Camaro owners over at LS1.com will run 7 qts with no problems (engine calls for 5.5 qts). I think they(manufatures) give you plenty of reserve for over filling...kind of like when your gas guage says empty but you still have a few gallons left.
 

CJH

Thread starter
Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
I agree completely. Being the suspicious type, I have to wonder if GM's motivation is to lead the car owner to believe he is using less oil than he actually is (assuming this is by design). Car owner checks his level just before oil change. Says...only down 1/3 quart. Haven't used much oil in 3,000 miles, whcn in fact he is down 2/3 quart. Just a theory. I have been very carefully tracking my usage with different oil types in the Lumina due to a problem. I set the baseline measurement when the oil reaches the full mark on the stick and take another rading when it hits the add mark. Difference in the usage. If it is at the add mark, 1 quart puts it at the full mark.
quote:
Originally posted by pedaltothemetal: On a side note, how do you determine how much oil your car burned during your oil change? You should factor in the overfill with the amount on the stick, and add the additional amount you have put in. If you don't you will be a half quart off. I say this because some say they burned very little or no oil in 3000 miles. Leo
 
Messages
168
Location
KY
quote:
Originally posted by CJH: I agree completely. Being the suspicious type, I have to wonder if GM's motivation is to lead the car owner to believe he is using less oil than he actually is (assuming this is by design). Car owner checks his level just before oil change. Says...only down 1/3 quart. Haven't used much oil in 3,000 miles, whcn in fact he is down 2/3 quart. Just a theory. I have been very carefully tracking my usage with different oil types in the Lumina due to a problem. I set the baseline measurement when the oil reaches the full mark on the stick and take another rading when it hits the add mark. Difference in the usage. If it is at the add mark, 1 quart puts it at the full mark.
quote:
Originally posted by pedaltothemetal: On a side note, how do you determine how much oil your car burned during your oil change? You should factor in the overfill with the amount on the stick, and add the additional amount you have put in. If you don't you will be a half quart off. I say this because some say they burned very little or no oil in 3000 miles. Leo

CJH, I used to drive around (it's back home right now) a '95 Lumina with the 3.1L V-6. It's been running Delo 400 15w-40 for awhile now. At first, it seemed to run a little slower, and when cold, you could definitely tell the increase of drag on the engine vs. a oil-change place 5w-30. Now though, it runs like it did before (with the 5w-30 Valvoline...yuk!), yet gives me much better protection while cleaning a little as well. Justin.
 

CJH

Thread starter
Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
Justin, I would be very interested in hearing some details of your experience with the Lumina. Was it using oil when you were running 5W30? How much? How much oil are you using with the 15W40? How cold of temperatures have you used the 15W40? I was using a quart every 850 miles with the 5W30. Now trying GTX 10W40 high milage. Not exactly sure yet, but it looks like I am in the area of 1 quart every 1,000 to 1,200 miles. I have noticed a very slight drag on colder mornings and gas milage is off about a small amount (maybe 1/2 mpg or so...I have not been monitoring gas usage closely).
quote:
Originally posted by Justin:
quote:
Originally posted by CJH: I agree completely. Being the suspicious type, I have to wonder if GM's motivation is to lead the car owner to believe he is using less oil than he actually is (assuming this is by design). Car owner checks his level just before oil change. Says...only down 1/3 quart. Haven't used much oil in 3,000 miles, whcn in fact he is down 2/3 quart. Just a theory. I have been very carefully tracking my usage with different oil types in the Lumina due to a problem. I set the baseline measurement when the oil reaches the full mark on the stick and take another rading when it hits the add mark. Difference in the usage. If it is at the add mark, 1 quart puts it at the full mark.
quote:
Originally posted by pedaltothemetal: On a side note, how do you determine how much oil your car burned during your oil change? You should factor in the overfill with the amount on the stick, and add the additional amount you have put in. If you don't you will be a half quart off. I say this because some say they burned very little or no oil in 3000 miles. Leo

CJH, I used to drive around (it's back home right now) a '95 Lumina with the 3.1L V-6. It's been running Delo 400 15w-40 for awhile now. At first, it seemed to run a little slower, and when cold, you could definitely tell the increase of drag on the engine vs. a oil-change place 5w-30. Now though, it runs like it did before (with the 5w-30 Valvoline...yuk!), yet gives me much better protection while cleaning a little as well. Justin.

 

CJH

Thread starter
Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
After thinking about this a while, I believe I have it figured out. I think GM overfills their oil by 1/4 to 1/3 quart because they want you to check the oil after a couple minutes, before it all drains down. I always check mine after the car sets level for a few hours and I know it has all drained down. I guess I should always plan on keeping the cars to 1/4 quart over the add mark as a minimum. Chris
quote:
Originally posted by Chris B.: Both of my GM cars were over filled from the factory. My 2002 Z28 Camaro and 2003 Silverado 5.3 were about 1/8 inch over the max fill line. I drained out about 1/4 to 1/3 qt and that brought it to the line! I hear that several Camaro owners over at LS1.com will run 7 qts with no problems (engine calls for 5.5 qts). I think they(manufatures) give you plenty of reserve for over filling...kind of like when your gas guage says empty but you still have a few gallons left.
 
Messages
567
Location
Daytona Beach
It gets better! My owners manual says to check the oil HOT! And the GM engineers tell me it means exactly that. My car is a 1999 Cadillac STS with the Northstar engine. The owners manual states the capacity to be 7.5 quarts of 10W-30 with a new filter. The Northstar engineer also tells me that the engine will run fine with 5 quarts of oil and the extra capacity is there to allow for oil movement away from the sump at up to 1G lateral acceleration! (The Germans arn't the only ones thinking!) SOOOooo, I change my oil, and put in EXACTLY 7 quarts with a new filter(it's not very big). I start the engine and run it for a short time to force the air out of the oil gallerys and filter. Shut the sucker down (it's not hot yet, or even warm), let the oil drain down for about 2-3 minutes, and check the stick. It's at the ADD mark! The other 1/2 quart would have brought it up one notch (hash mark) on the stick, which would be at least 4 marks down from "FULL"! SOOooo, if I filled it to the "FULL" mark, (cold) it would have about 8.6 quarts in it! Now this is all well and good. I promptly got out a file and made a new "Full" mark on the stick, since I always check it cold. But here's the real problem. If the engine is run at the factory full mark, even when checked hot, the PCV valve siphons off the excess oil very quickly, making the oil usage go up drastically! Especially when using the thinner synthetics. If I keep the oil level at the "ADD" mark, or just slightly higher, oil consumption is reduced noticeably! So you can't make generalizations about ALL GM engines. And you must follow your owners manual EXACTLY to get the correct oil fill level.
 

CJH

Thread starter
Messages
489
Location
Pennsylvania
Thanks Johnny Like you, I prefer to check the oil cold as the results are more consistent. I see your point though, that you have to use the factory measurement instructions as the baseline and adjust to cold from there.
quote:
Originally posted by JohnnyG: It gets better! My owners manual says to check the oil HOT! And the GM engineers tell me it means exactly that. My car is a 1999 Cadillac STS with the Northstar engine. The owners manual states the capacity to be 7.5 quarts of 10W-30 with a new filter. The Northstar engineer also tells me that the engine will run fine with 5 quarts of oil and the extra capacity is there to allow for oil movement away from the sump at up to 1G lateral acceleration! (The Germans arn't the only ones thinking!) SOOOooo, I change my oil, and put in EXACTLY 7 quarts with a new filter(it's not very big). I start the engine and run it for a short time to force the air out of the oil gallerys and filter. Shut the sucker down (it's not hot yet, or even warm), let the oil drain down for about 2-3 minutes, and check the stick. It's at the ADD mark! The other 1/2 quart would have brought it up one notch (hash mark) on the stick, which would be at least 4 marks down from "FULL"! SOOooo, if I filled it to the "FULL" mark, (cold) it would have about 8.6 quarts in it! Now this is all well and good. I promptly got out a file and made a new "Full" mark on the stick, since I always check it cold. But here's the real problem. If the engine is run at the factory full mark, even when checked hot, the PCV valve siphons off the excess oil very quickly, making the oil usage go up drastically! Especially when using the thinner synthetics. If I keep the oil level at the "ADD" mark, or just slightly higher, oil consumption is reduced noticeably! So you can't make generalizations about ALL GM engines. And you must follow your owners manual EXACTLY to get the correct oil fill level.
 
Messages
591
Location
Pittsburgh PA
I know my BMW may be slightly different but during "spirited driving" It is reccomended to add up to one quart more then the full mark to prevent a dry sump condition during cornering etc. I'm not saying everyone drives their cavelier or escort or F150 like I drive the BMW, just my 2 cents [Coffee]
 
Messages
661
Location
Ottawa, Ont CANADA
I generally keep and feel comfortable with the oil level on the stick a hair+ above the full mark on both my Acura And GM minivan. - oil is hot and approx 5 minutes after shut down- which ends up being about 100-200ml more than what the book says. Jean [ April 22, 2003, 11:04 PM: Message edited by: 2K2AcuraTL ]
 
Messages
4,107
Location
Savannah, GA
Wow, so far I am the only one who fills to capacity. My driveway and roads in front of my house are both angled, and I never get an accurate readong on the dipstick. I can only check oil at work, since the parking lot is level. -Joe
 
Messages
3,023
Location
USA-Michigan
Don't trust the dipstick. When changing oil always fill to the recommended capacity. A 1/2 qt over the fill mark is not going to cause any problems, not is 1 qt below the mark. Most of the dipsticks have a range and as long as the oil is in the range, you are safe. Being paranoid and topping of the oil 1/3 or 1/4 qt at a time is carrying things a little far. I was told by a Ford Service manager a while back that there was a factory misapplication installing dipsticks in Ford Trucks. The truck 5.0L engine requires 6 qt and the cars 5 qt. Somehow some trucks got the dipsticks meant for cars and showed full with 5 qts yet the engine was supposed to have 6. Our 1996 Ford truck was one of these. There marked the dipstick to reflect the proper level. They told us to not go by the dipstick when changing oil, add the proper amount. We had been doing our own changes for about 50,000 miles of so before the oil pan rusted away. I saw the added 6 qts on the invoice and inquired as to why. Thats when I found out the wrong dipsticks. If the owners manual says 5 qts, put in five and then observe the dipstick and check accordingly. btw-I heard a GM parts guys says that they never sold many dipsticks tell they opened a quick lube place down the road. Seems they often forget to install them when they are done. Along with stripped oil plugs and an occasional engine.
 
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