How to read oil stick while using synthetic

mph

Messages
356
Location
Johnstown, PA
quote:
Originally posted by tadaima: there are some residual readings riding up the dipstick
Maybe I'm not understanding, but... when you check the dipstick, you should pull it out, wipe the oil off with a clean cloth (or disposable shop towel), put it back in, pull it back out, and then examine it. That way you're seeing the current level of oil in the sump, not the effects of splashing. You do need to let it drain down after you turn off the car, but you said that you wait 30 minutes, which should be pretty good.
 
The "slosh" you're seeing along the side of the dipstick is due to oil being picked up from the dipstick tube as you pull the stick out. I'd trust the reading you get after 1/2 hour of cooldown. Overnight, you probably are losing all oil from the filter - it's draining back into the pan; that is the only thing that could add up to 1/2 quart variation. You might consider using an oil filter with a better anti-drainback valve.
 
Messages
323
Location
California
Williar, The slosh still happens at 1/2 hr, it when I wait a couple hours or overnight. Yea I agree the slosh is probably the pickup when pulling the stick up again. I am currently using a Geniune Toyota filter, though even with a Pure One filter, it still does that.
 
Messages
3,695
Location
Chattanooga, TN
Although many people disagree I go by the dipstick the first thing in the AM before starting the engine. At least it is consistent that way and not dependent on how hot the oil is, how far you have driven, or how long you wait for it to drip down. Consistency is the key to a reading for me.
 
Messages
352
Location
Ontario, Canada.
Do you know for certain that it is down 1/2 qt? A small area on the stick ie: 1/4" may only translate into a cup full or less. There may be an increased level showing on the stick in the morning due to the small amount of moisture that condenses back into the oil, but this shouldn't account for a large amount. As suggested it may be that your oil filter is allowing some drain back, assuming that the filter mounts upside down, but not likely to show up with two different manufacturers. It would likely take longer than overnight if it was the anti-drainback valve. My 98 Tacoma sits at 1/2 way between add and full after adding the recommended 5.5L, and that is where I leave it. It's very likely that your reading in the AM is the most accurate one. !!
 

Patman

Staff member
Messages
21,990
Location
Oakville, Ontario
Spector is right, consistency is key, but for me I found a problem when reading the stick cold in my 95 Firebird in the winter. It would show too low, so I'd be thinking I needed to add 1/4 qt of oil when I really did not. So I have since started checking the oil about 15-20min after a hot shutdown.
 
Messages
323
Location
California
Spector, Yeah true, I find the morning check more consistant. The inch in the stick between the L and F, is probably a quart, because I added 1/4 qt to the engine and the next morning the level went up about .25inch. On this camry the filter does flow back down, but I'm just having this problem with synthetics, with regular dino oil, the oil check in the morning versus driving it hot is pretty much the same, plus the reading on the stick is much solid. My running trips are about 35mi on the freeway, more than enough to get the oil hot. Well from what you all are saying sounds right to assume the oil level is through the morning reading. I guess some cars are a bit different than others in terms of oil readings. With this camry the Oil capacity is so small that even a slight deviation in volume makes a difference in the stick reading. Nothing like my dad's 90's mercedes SEL that uses like 10qts, it wont be picky if you're 1/2qt low or so. German cars never seem to go cheap on oil capacity. Sooner or later these Japanese cars will be running on a cup of oil =P
 
Messages
8,756
Location
RI
Read your owners manual. I would make an assumption that automakers' engineers are competent enough to state "when and how" the oil should be checked. I'll even guess that they will take into account oil that is slowing draining back to the engine and the oil's volume at a given temperature(ATF). Most cars that I've owned required hot oil level check. I'll usually wait about 5 minutes to get an accurate consistent reading while on a level surface. Waiting overnight will cause a dispstick reading to be too high which in turn leads to low oil level. One owners manual that I have says to "wait at least 10 minutes". Another says "wait a few minutes". Another says "to check immediately after shutting off engine". 3 different engines from 2 different automakers all requiring a different method. I don't have(yet) any owner's manuals that say to wait overnight. Most vehicles' oil dipsticks have a 1 quart range. Most vehicles' ATF dipsticks have a 1 pint range.
 
Messages
3,695
Location
Chattanooga, TN
With synthetics the overall flow is better then dino and it could be the filter is letting it flow back into the pan whereas with dino the filter was holding it in. You stated that the filter was at an angle so some drain back is possible. Any unique brand of filter here, have you changed filter brands. Above comment "Waiting overnight will cause a dispstick reading to be too high which in turn leads to low oil level." I disagree. This has never happened to me and further, oil (like all liquids) expands to some degree when heated up so that could produce the opposite reading. It sounds like whatever method of checking the oil floats your boat and you are most comfortable with is the correct one. [ April 14, 2003, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: Spector ]
 
Messages
6,388
Location
Washington St.
In any case, it's not a big deal. 1/4 inch high or 1/4 inch low makes no difference in any engine I've owned. I'm not going to bother adding a cup of oil to an engine or worry about a cup too much. Ken
 
Messages
3,023
Location
USA-Michigan
Yes it common for synthetic oil to hangup in the engine longer becuase it clings to the metal, as you have found out. Thats a good thing. I always check it in the AM before I would top off. Been doing it that way since 1977. [ April 14, 2003, 07:41 PM: Message edited by: Mike ]
 

Ron

Messages
113
Location
Santa Fe,N.M.
The day I drove my new Ford E150 home a couple blocks from the dealer the dip-stick read a 1/2 qt.low! An oil change with filter is about 6 1/2 qts.That puts it at the half-way mark.7 qts. would top it,but I presume to run it like the factory fill. Overall,I'm more concerned with overfill using syn oil and seal damage. Still it seems strange the book calls for 6 with filter?Oh,I check cold in the morning,since '65? Ron [I dont know] [ April 14, 2003, 09:18 PM: Message edited by: Ron ]
 
Messages
3,202
Location
Far North East Texas
I have to agree with Spector on this- it's how I was taught to check oil *many* years ago. Park car on level ground, let sit overnight, in the morning pull & read the dipstick. Definitely the most consistent way. Also, my present car is bad about pulling oil up into the tube when DS is pulled, screwing up any readings after that.
 
Messages
11,006
Location
Canberra ACT Australia
Can I add to that? I remove the dipstick at night in my Sube 2.5 Outback letting the Redline easier egress from the tube. Check in the morning. The Subes have the worst dipsticks to read from any vehicle I've owned by the way.
 
Messages
323
Location
California
2000 Camry LE 4cyl 3 3/5quarts capacity I noticed when switching to AMSOIL/MOBIL synthetic oil, it is a lot harder to read the oil dipstick. When I check the oil in the morning, the stick shows that it is near FULL capacity, but when I go around town and come back (wait about 30min) and check the stick, it shows about 1/2 quart low, though there are some residual readings riding up the dipstick, but I don't know whether I should count that. Then I wait for it to cool for several hours or check the next morning and it's back to the near full level. Could this be because synthetic sticks better to metal, and it just takes a long time for the oil to drain from the engine back tot he pan? Maybe its just my low capacity of oil of 3 3/5quts that causes such a big difference when the engine is hot and cold. With Dino oil, there's a clear dip in the oil where the oil sits, but with synthetic I just get odd readings and some slosh around like this below: http://www.autoxreview.com/image/dipstick.gif How should I read this? I've redipped over and over and get the same thing, also made sure to read both sides.
 

Patman

Staff member
Messages
21,990
Location
Oakville, Ontario
quote:
Originally posted by sprintman: Can I add to that? I remove the dipstick at night in my Sube 2.5 Outback letting the Redline easier egress from the tube. Check in the morning. The Subes have the worst dipsticks to read from any vehicle I've owned by the way.
My second 5.0 Mustang had the worst dipstick of any car I owned. I simply could not read the level at all, when I pulled the stick out it would show oil all the way up the stick. That car had a Paxton supercharger on it and probably burned a quart of oil every 2000 miles towards the end of the time I owned it, but then again I changed the oil much sooner than that in the last few years I had it since I wasn't driving it much more than 500-2000 miles per year.
 
Messages
597
Location
Salisbury, MD
Most cars that I've owned required hot oil level check. My Mazda's require checking the oil 5 minutes after shutdown. This a great piece of engineering as you can easily check your oil on a long trip on a "gas and go". If I let them sit overnight they show around 1/4 qt. high. My Maxima, on the other hand, needs to sit a long time because one head drains through the dipstick tube so readings are inaccurate. Actually, for the Max, to speed things up, you remove the dip stick for 5 minutes to get the oil to drain faster through the tube. Bottom line, read the owners manual for your vehicle.
 
Messages
3,346
Location
Clarksville, Tennessee
The most accurate way to check the oil is on a level surface with a cold engine. Case in point. After about 10 -15 min. on a hot engine, my BMW bike would read high by about 2-3 oz. But if I waited about 1hr it would be settled down to the exact spot and not change. Depending on the size of the engine, you should wait at least 5 minutes for the oil to drain into the pan to get a semi accurate reading. I never add oil unless it is down around the add mark which is almost a quart. Usually my oil level is between 1/2 and 3/4 full.
 

Patman

Staff member
Messages
21,990
Location
Oakville, Ontario
quote:
Originally posted by msparks: Depending on the size of the engine, you should wait at least 5 minutes for the oil to drain into the pan to get a semi accurate reading. I never add oil unless it is down around the add mark which is almost a quart. Usually my oil level is between 1/2 and 3/4 full.
Why wait until it's down a full quart? That means if you've got a 5 qt sump, you're running your engine with 20% less oil than it's capacity, and putting a lot more stress on the oil that's remaining. With my dipstick on my Firebird, it's got holes in it to help show the level better, and as soon as the top hole is empty, I add 100ml of oil to bring it back to the top again. I just can't bear the thought of waiting until my level was down a full quart, or even a half a quart, before topping it up.
 
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