Oil Capacity Ford 4.0 SOHC V6

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Dec 2, 2002
I just purchased a used 1997 XLT and I always do my own oil changes. Everything is fine except this: I put 5 quarts in and it is showing a quart low (manual says 5 qts but doesn't differentiate between V6's). I have owned two other explorers but both were the base 4.0 V6 motor. Does the SOHC require more oil? If not, why would my dipstick be off? For reference it does have the towing package so I don't know if they increased oil capacity as a part of that package (it never did on the base motor). I know that this is a general forum on oil but I am not getting any response on the ford site. If anyone knows the answer to this, I would be greatly appreciative. I don't want to be either a quart low or a quart too much. Thanks for your help.
I would go by the dipstick, but after driving the car, check the oil and see if it's bubbling, which would indicate it's overfull.

With my mom's 94 Probe GT her manual calls for 4.5qts, but I need to put in 5 to show full on the stick. With my 95 Firebird the manual says 4.5 qts but I need to add 5.5! Even my wife's Honda calls for 3.8qts, but I need to add around 4.1 to 4.2 to show full. Weird stuff. I prefer the higher amount of oil, as long as I know it's not going to cause a problem.
Patman, thanks for the quick response. What do you mean by "look for bubbles." Am I looking for air bubbles that attach themselves to the dipstick? I'm assuming they would be fairly small. Once again, thanks for the help. Paul
Paul, I also have an 00 Explorer. In looking through my Factory Service Manual, Haynes manual, and the Owners Manual, I find no difference in capacities. All engines are stated as having 5 qt capacities (SOHC, OHV, and the V-8).

Maybe the dipstick tube isn't fully seated in the block.....?
Usually most manufacturers suggest keeping the oil level between the full and add mark. Anywhere in that area is safe but certainly safer in the upper area. You don't want to overfill. This could result in the crankshaft hitting the oil and resulting in foaming, or the air bubbles already mentioned. When you say "shows a quart low" how far below full is that? If it is not on the add mark then you probably have enough in there. I don't think that it necessarily has to be on the full mark. My Toyota calls for 5.5L and pouring in that amount leaves it slightly above half way on the dipstick, and that is where I run it. Yes, having an overhead cam and valvetrain does require more oil I think, but Ford would have already factored that in for you presumably.
On the dip stick there are two holes for reference. The one on the bottom states right on the dip stick, "Add Quart". The one on the top states "Full". With 5 quarts in, it was just touching the bottom hole, "Add Quart". I added an additional quart a little at a time. To get to "Full", I had to add the whole quart to make a total of 6 quarts. I have since checked the dip stick, there are no "bubbles" or "foam" but I'm not sure what I'm looking at. Motor seems to be running fine and oil pressure gauge seems to be the same as before. I appreciate all of the feedback. Thanks.
If the level is at or near the full mark now after being run, then you are ok. One would have to assume that the vehicle needs 5.5 qts and that the manual is in error. Just a thought but if you happen to be using an extra capacity oil filter, that would explain this.
Just out of curiosity, did you allow plenty of time for the oil to drain down to the pan from the valve/rocker covers? These engines take a lot of oil up top and if it is at all restricted or sludged it can take along time to drain down.

I had a 4.6L F-150 with the exact same problem (dipstick always read 1 quart low after oil change). I contacted Ford and their response was "the dipstick is just a GUIDE to how much oil is in the engine" and to "put in exactly how much oil as your manual states". Go to www.f150online.com and do a search for more discussion on this topic. Apparently it's a common issue with some F-150's. I have no idea why the dipsticks are not calibrated to give you an accurate representation of how much oil is in the engine.


[ February 28, 2003, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: ryansride2017 ]
My 02 Explorer with the same engine calls for 5 quarts. The funny thing is that my dipstick does the same thing. Let us know what you find out in your quest for more knowledge on this topic, Joe
My Ford 4.2 V6 manual calls for 6 quarts. When I put in 6, the level on the dipstick is approximately 1/4 of the distance between the minimum mark and the full mark. I add just a tad more than 1/2 quart to raise the level to the full mark.

Note: when I bought the truck new, it had 6 miles on the odometer. I checked the oil on the dealer's lot before I even started it and the level was set at the full mark at the factory. So, I conclude that I am not overfilling it, and I've never seen any evidence of an overfill--foam, blow out, bubbling, etc.

Bottom line: manual and dipstick are not congruent. Maybe it's just a Ford thing. I also have a Nissan pickup that calls for 4 quarts. I put in 4, and the oil level is smack on the full line.
Lets see:

My '97 F150 with the 4.6l.. Manual 6.0 qts. Real life: 6.0 qts puts it on the full mark.

'99 F150 with the 4.6l. Manual 6.0 qts. Real life: 6.0 qts puts it medway between min and max. Good enough for me.

'88 Jeep Cherokee with the 4.0l. Manual states 6.0 qts. Real life: 5.5 qts puts it right on the full mark.

Who knows?
I think it depends on how well you drain the oil... When I'm at work and I do a lot of Jeep Cherokees... If I do a quick drain and fill it will take 6 quarts. Sometimes if I left it draining while I put on a set of tires, it will take 6.25 to 6.5 quarts. I have noticed the new Explorers usually take 5.5 quarts for me to get it to the full mark. The F-150s take a lot of oil, even the V6s... I usually have to put 6.75 quarts in there to get it right on the full mark. For my car, it calls for 5.5, but I can always get 6 in there if I drain it real well. So I guess if you are draining it to the point where it starts to drip, you have drained it better than the manufacturers "assumed" you would have drained it. That is my guess.
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