Engine Oil Dipstick Hard To Read! Here’s What You Need To Do

The engine oil dipstick is essential for checking a car’s oil level and quality. However, sometimes it can become difficult to read, causing frustration and challenges in determining when maintenance is needed.

This can happen for many reasons, but low oil levels and thick oil are among the most common reasons your engine oil dipstick is hard to read. 

So, If reading issues arise for your engine oil dipstick, we’re here to help. Keep reading to know more.

What Does a Normal Oil Dipstick Look Like?

Regularly checking the status of the oil will allow you to see if anything is wrong with it, and this is when you will need an engine oil dipstick.

A straight, thin stick made of metal or plastic with a flattened end is placed into the engine to gauge the oil level in the engine’s oil pan.

The flattened end usually has a small loop or tab for easy grip and is inserted into a narrow metal tube that leads to the oil reservoir. 

Marks or slots on the dipstick often show the range of optimal oil levels for the engine.

A normal dipstick will include distinct lines, holes, or letters to show the engine oil level when you remove it from the reservoir. This will provide a precise indicator of the oil’s state and level.

Furthermore, “Full” and “Add” marks are frequently used on the markings to allow drivers to determine whether the oil level is low easily. 

Read Also: How to Read Transmission Fluid Dipstick Hot Cold

What causes Engine Oil Dipstick to Be Hard to Read?

An engine oil dipstick can come in handy to check the level and condition of your oil, but sometimes it may be hard to read for many reasons. 

Thus, it is essential to know about these reasons so you can fix them to make the oil dipstick easily readable.

Low Oil Level

Low oil level is one of the most common reasons which can cause the engine oil dipstick to be hard to read. 

If the oil level in the engine is low, the dipstick may not be able to provide an accurate reading of the oil level. 

This happens because when you enter the dipstick, it cannot find enough oil, and there won’t be any oil in it. 

Reasons like oil leaks, reduction in fuel economy, and many more can cause low oil levels in your car. 

Thick or Contaminated Oil

Thick or contaminated oil can also cause difficulties in reading the engine oil dipstick. Often, dirty or thick oil may not adhere to the dipstick properly, making it challenging to obtain an accurate reading. 

Thus, It will be challenging to get an accurate reading when the oil is old or tainted because it becomes thick and sticky.

Additionally, the oil can get contaminated with particles like dirt, trash, or metal shavings, making it challenging to measure the oil level precisely. 

Old or contaminated oil can also harm engine components by increasing friction and causing excess wear and tear.

Also, keep in mind that contaminated oil also becomes quite dark, so it becomes difficult to notice the oil level on the dipstick if the oil is too dark.

Read Also: Dipstick Not Showing Oil but Engine Has Oil

Dirty or Damaged Dipstick

A dirty oil dipstick can also make it quite challenging to read the oil level on it. Moreover, over time, a dipstick’s wear or corrosion might make it difficult to determine the fluid levels. 

Thus, it becomes challenging to get a precise reading since the dipstick’s indicators can degrade or become worn out.

Additionally, the oil dipstick can also become bent out. This not only makes it difficult to fit the dipstick into the oil reservoir but also can cause a false reading of the oil level. As a result it can cause inadequate lubrication and lead to significant engine damage. 

Type of Engine

Before you insert your dipstick in your engine, you will need to make sure that the engine is suitable for engine oil dipstick insertion. It may be difficult to insert or remove the dipstick from some engines due to their small or twisted dipstick tubes. 

Getting accurate readings can become much more challenging as a result of this. Also, it could be difficult to acquire a precise measurement of the oil level on some engines since the dipsticks are placed in awkward places.

Color of the Dipstick

Most automobiles’ dipsticks don’t contrast with the color of the engine oil, making it difficult to read the markings. 

The majority of engine oil dipsticks on the market are constructed of silver metal, which gives them their silver color.

So, when you insert the dipstick in the oil, the color contrast between the clear engine oil and the dipstick is nearly similar. This makes it extremely difficult to read the dipstick properly. 

Read Also: Is It Normal to Have Bubbles on Oil Dipstick? [Disclosed]

What to Do If the Engine Oil Dipstick Is Hard to Read?

So, if you are stuck in a situation where your engine oil dipstick is hard to read, this can be pretty annoying. However, the solutions are quite easy, so keep on reading to know more.

1. Keep the Oil Level at the Required Level

The first thing you will need to ensure is that the oil level is not too low in your car’s engine. 

So, make sure to put enough oil in the reservoir and then check again with your oil dipstick, and you should get an accurate reading.

2. Replace with New Oil

If your engine oil level is to the perfect level and your engine oil dipstick is still hard to read, then the oil can be too thick or contaminated. 

You can avoid oil contamination and guarantee appropriate engine lubrication by using the kind and viscosity of oil that is suggested for your engine.

So, you will need to change the oil on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer. Furthermore, the best action to avoid potential engine damage if the oil is contaminated is to have the oil and filter replaced with a new one.

3. Clean or Buy a New Oil Dipstick

First, check the oil dipstick for any dirt or debris on it; if you find any, you will need to clean it. Take a paper towel and rub the oil dipstick completely to remove all the dirt and debris on it.

However, if you notice that the dipstick looks damaged or bent, then cleaning it won’t work. 

Hence, the only remaining option is to replace the engine oil dipstick. Do keep in mind to buy the dipstick which is compatible with your engine type.

4. Work According to Your Engine Type

If the dipstick tube is narrow or twisted, try wiggling the dipstick while inserting it into the tube to ensure that it goes all the way in. 

Additionally, you may need to remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert it, and remove it again to obtain an accurate reading.

Moreover, it is also necessary to follow the manufacturer’s instructions since specific engines might need the engine to be warm or cold before reading the oil level.

5. Paint the Dipstick

To enhance the oil shine and make it simpler for you to read, you should spray a fresh color onto the dipstick. 

Only use acrylic or spray paint to color the base of the engine oil dipstick between the two marks in bold colors like black, red, or blue. 

Therefore the bright color of the oil will contrast with this dark shade. Hence, as a result, you will be able to read the oil level more efficiently without any hassle. 

Read Also: Tip Of Oil Dipstick Broke Off

How to Tell If Oil Is Low On a Dipstick?

Checking the oil level regularly is an important part of maintaining your vehicle’s health. One way to check the oil level is by using the dipstick. 

So, knowing how to use the dipstick is important for any car user. Read the steps below to know how to do it properly.

Step 1: Find the dipstick

The first step is to find the location of the dipstick, it is typically located near the engine. 

It usually has a brightly colored handle for easy identification. Make sure the engine is turned off and cool before removing the dipstick.

Step 2: Clean the dipstick

After opening the dipstick, you should wipe it clean using a paper towel. Make sure to clean it properly to remove all the dust, debris, and residue from it. 

Step 3: Reinsert the dipstick

Make sure the dipstick is completely inserted before reinserting it into the tube. Pull it out again and check the dipstick’s oil level this time. 

If it isn’t fully inserted, the reading will be less than what it really is, and there is a chance that the engine oil will be overfilled.

Step 4: Check the oil level

Check the oil level by taking the dipstick out of the tube. Marks on the dipstick will show the minimum and maximum oil levels. 

If the oil level is below the minimum mark or not visible on the dipstick at all, then the oil level is low and needs to be topped up.

Read Also: Why Does Engine Oil Turn Black So Fast


Down below, we will discuss all the faqs related to engine oil dipstick. Reading this section will further clear out all your confusion, making it easier to understand the topic.

Can a damaged dipstick harm my engine?

A damaged or bent dipstick can prevent it from fitting properly into the oil reservoir, leading to a false reading. This can potentially cause the engine to run without enough lubrication, resulting in serious engine damage.

Can using the wrong type of oil affect the readability of the dipstick?

Generally speaking, the wrong type of oil doesn’t affect the reading on the dipstick. However, you should always use the type of oil recommended by the manufacturer, as using the wrong type of oil can affect the engine’s performance.

How often should I check my engine oil level?

You should check the engine oil in your car at least once each month. It’s critical to recognize and fix any problems as soon as possible if your engine leaks slowly or burns oil.

How often should I change my engine oil?

Oil changes are advised every 5,000 to 7,500 miles for engines using advanced lubricants. However, engines using pure synthetic oil may have larger intervals of up to 15000 miles. Moreover, use the dipstick to examine the oil’s color and viscosity.

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