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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Wrenchin' Wednesdays: Modified dip sticks that are quicker and easier to read | Hagerty Media

The almighty dipstick is vital for keeping your project car alive, especially anything that leaks or burns a little extra between oil changes. While you'll find that there's at least one or two dipsticks under the hood of every car, not every one is made equally.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/wrenchin-wednesdays-modified-dip-sticks-that-are-...
22 REPLIES 22
JimR
Instructor

👌 Simple and easy. Both traits I tend to do well with. And I have a candidate car. 
Now...how about some tips on how to find that damn tube with the dip-stick in the dark well of an engine bay with just room light. 🤔

Spencer30
Pit Crew

Try the reflective high heat muffler tape wrapped around the outside near the top of the tube (but not close enough to the top that it won’t seat properly in the tube), there should be enough ambient light or a hood light that it should help.
JHaydon
Intermediate Driver

+1, Spencer30!

I have a very old book from my Dad's basement library about getting into racing (back when "all" race cars were MG-Ts). One tip was aimed at making the dipstick easier to see, so your mechanic spends less time searching in the dark engine bay: Paint the dipstick handle (which back them was probably bare metal) a bright color., like day-glo yellow.

Small coincidence that many cars beginning around 1980 have a yellow plastic handle on the dipstick!
RJ
Intermediate Driver

I've added a Dollar Store broom clip to the strut tower, which holds a 2/$3.00 Harbor Freight flashlight aimed at the engine and transmission dipstick tubes. Being a big spender I keep a second flashlight in the glove box, just in case.
relton
Detailer

BMWs haven't had dipsticks for years.

Lots of car haven't had transmission dipsticks for decades.

Still, good tips for older cars.
Srmert
Intermediate Driver

Real cars have three pedals and never had dip sticks on the trans 😎.
RJ
Intermediate Driver

My big Healeys all had trans dipsticks! But yes, all cars should have three pedals.
Mogowner
Intermediate Driver

My 3 pedal Morgan with a Moss gearbox has a dipstick that demands patience to access and read, and even more patience and accuracy is required to top up the 90 weight oil. My 3 pedal MGB also has a gearbox dipstick which is equally fiddly to use. My BMW wagon has no engine dipstick, and neither oil-pressure, nor water temp gauges--you have to put trust in technology to warn you of impending catastrophe (often too late).
Numberscruncher
Detailer

Good suggestions.
ed
Detailer

Don't make the holes so large that there is risk the end of the stick breaks off. That would not be a good day.
MadMac
Pit Crew

We have a tractor with a screw in dipstick and it is also hard to read.
We took an old screwdriver and transferred the full and add marks to it.
Then filed notches to hold the oil, which is clear hydraulic fluid, so we could see it.
Stixx
Intermediate Driver

`Interesting ideas. Even new cars could do with a little something to help see new oil.

That said, I would use caution drilling holes in dipsticks like the last one on the photo here. Get the hole slightly too large and the thing could bend and break off maybe even fall down in the engine. It wouldn't be the first time enthusiasm got the worst of us. LOL
Tinkerah
Technician

It's more likely to be bent by someone like me fumbling for the stick tube with it than be damaged inside the crankcase but I agree: those holes seem much larger than they need to be.
hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

At this point in time, I just want an actual dipstick. I added a fun car to my ownership, a MINI Cooper S-series. I thought things were bad enough when manufacturer's deleted transmission dipsticks, but the MINI doesn't have any dipsticks. To check motor oil is a bother, warm up the engine, park on a level surface, push a few buttons and wait for about a coupe of minutes to get a read out on the center screen. That's a bother. Especially if I don't have time to warm up the engine. But the worst part is that I can't see how clean the oil is on a dipstick. Like most of us I basically change my oil at mileage intervals. But in addition to that, I've always relied on the dipstick to give me a further idea of how dirty the oil is. Without a dipstick the only way I can get close to doing that is to blot some onto a paper towel through the oil fill.
Has anybody figured out a better way to accomplish seeing your actual oil for a cleanliness check?
mollusk
New Driver

The inside of the oil fill cap is usually good enough for gummint work - depending on the engine you might even be able to see inside the valve cover from there.
Tinkerah
Technician

I'd be happy to know my oil level without getting out of the driver's seat; pushing a few buttons doesn't seem like that much of a bother to me. That said, I would still want the tell-tale reliability of a stick that doesn't rely on any electronic wizardry. Also, discoloration of the oil is an unreliable indication of cleanliness. Some motors just run "smoky" and the oil will turn dark quickly well before being contaminated.
TonyT
Instructor

My grandfather would use some 600 grit sandpaper followed by a short session with some steel wool to polish the end of the dipstick. Made an amazing difference. And it seemed like he only had to do it once.
Tinkerah
Technician

I worked for a field service company for a few years and was tasked with oil changes on their Chevy Express vans. The sticks had to be five feet long with a knurled gauge on the end but capillary action drew the oil over the entire length of the gauge. It made the level absolutely impossible to read.
EEL
New Driver

I owned and rebuilt Mercedes diesels. It seemed that after an oil and filter change, just running the engine long enuf to fill the filter, then check the oil and there was no trouble seeing it on the stick. It was already black. Even a clean rebuilt engine, after warming it up to operating temp. the oil was already dirty. Never had to worry about seeing it on the stick. Now to qloat a bit. It would be much easier to drill those holes in your Bridgeport instead of a vice and hand drill. But I was at that stage of tool ownership decades ago. 84 and still wrenchin'.
Srmert
Intermediate Driver

I always painted my engine blocks flat black for heat dispersion (flat will still show liquid leaks too) and my dip stick tubes gloss white for visibility under the hood. Not concurs, but I was always a stretch from stock.
Metman
New Driver

Like others have said, I can't recommend drilling holes in a dipstick. As Tom and Ray Magliozzi of 'Car Talk' used to jokingly warn about "the end of your dipstick will fall off!", it actually happened many years ago to the 360 engine in our 1972 AMC Javelin/ AMX ! My father ended up taking it to a friend's shop where they finally managed to get the broken piece out with a magnetic retrieval tool through the drain plug hole.
Jeff_C
Pit Crew

Love the idea. I applied this to my 1979 Jaguar yesterday and it works great!