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How Do I Check My Engine Oil without a Dipstick?

By Jack Bulko, AutoAid

Where is the dipstick in my new car?

That’s what my client, Jane, wanted to know. She had purchased an Audi and brought it in for service. She said when her dashboard light alerted her to an issue with low oil level, she stopped and opened her hood to check the engine oil fluid level. She couldn’t find it. After looking for it for 20 minutes she consulted her car’s owner’s manual (yes, it came with a physical booklet), she realized that the manufacturer had intentionally left it out of the car.

Changes in design, amenities and functionality have been standard in the automobile industry at least as long as I’ve been a part of it. Manufacturers look for innovative ways to bring the customer back for service, making it more difficult to perform tasks such as checking one’s oil or for that matter doing any traditional repairs. It also puts a kink in fixing your car in the driveway or teaching your kid to do simple service functions such as oil changes and tune-ups.

Over the years, modifications have included the loss of a full-size spare tire, and often the donut meant to replace it, and the accompanying tools; car manuals (which can now be found online in many cases); and hand brake levers, which have been replaced with switches and buttons in some cars. And now American manufacturers are following the trend set by European carmakers who have all but removed the dipsticks in the engine compartment. Where are the dipsticks for engine and transmission oils? And why are they gone?

What Led to the Demise of the Dipstick?

Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and some Ford, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Mazda models, plus others, have eliminated the dipsticks from their vehicles and other manufacturers are going in the same direction with the oil dipstick. Instead, electronic sensors in the engine compartment communicate with the driver through the Message Center on the dash.

Manufacturers prefer that consumers’ factory recommended maintenance including all fluid levels, be checked by a service professional. They claim it is a safety issue as individual owners may add the wrong fluid, add too much or too little, insert the dipstick incorrectly, etc. However, manufacturers are also aware that there is a good chance that car owners will trade in or sell their car sooner if they cannot do simple fixes such as adding oil or transmission fluid. Fewer home repairs then translate into more car service sales and fewer older models on the road.

What Happens to the Car Repair Do-It-Yourselfer?

How does the do-it-yourself home mechanic check transmission or oil levels without a dipstick? Well, the thing is they don’t, or at least not very easily on certain cars. Many manufacturers expect the original transmission fluid to last the life of the vehicle. If there is ever an issue, car makers have included an extra plug leading to a channel to which the proper liquids can be checked and added. Although this can be very hard to access even for mechanics.

Whether you have a dipstick or not, AutoAid’s award-winning mechanics can easily check your oil or transmissions fluids. It’s all part of our Car and Truck Courtesy Check, which includes 38 separate vehicle points. We’ll also check and change the fluids during regular car maintenance or a scheduled tune-up. And, because we’ve gone digital, you can access your car service inspection online or as a text. If preferred, diagnostic reports or photos can be sent digitally.

If for some reason the car’s electronic sensors fail or misread the fluid levels, and you become stranded on the side of the road, please call us to be towed to our Van Nuys facility, so that we can assess the situation.

Ask us about our nationwide warranties and how you can get extended coverage for all the mechanical repairs we do on your vehicle. Whichever plan you choose, know that AutoAid is at the ready to repair your vehicle so that it is safe to go back on the road. We also offer payment plans for those unplanned, more expensive repairs.

Call us today at (818) 305-6632 or make an appointment online. Before you stop by, check out our monthly specials to save money on your diagnostics and repairs.

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