• Apr 22, 2010
The practice of opening the hood at every fuel stop used to be routine. With an oil-soaked rag in hand, the worker reached over and pulled out the hot metal dipstick, and after a quick cleaning swipe, the dipstick was plunged back into its tube and pushed down into the sump of scalding oil. Withdrawn again, a tell-tale black film in the middle of the scored lines marked the oil level very accurately.

Today, many late model vehicles are running sans oil dipstick. Electronic oil level senders have replaced the metal rod – to the bafflement and frustration of the few remaining hands-on enthusiasts everywhere.

In an effort to find out who exactly is responsible for the dipstick-abolishing movement, Autoblog contacted Audi, BMW and Porsche – three respected German automakers who have embraced the technology for several years. All three gave us the same answer. Contrary to Internet rumors, the elimination of an inexpensive metal rod is not a cost-cutting measure, nor is it an environmental issue (word on the web said each check of a dipstick introduced ounces of polluting dirty oil into the ecosystem).

Quite frankly, the automakers point out that we simply don't need dipsticks anymore. Why? Because owners don't use them. While they don't specifically say it, those who engineer and assemble our new cars (and guarantee new vehicle warranties) are much more comfortable knowing that a silicon chip is monitoring the oil level – not a consumer who hasn't checked tire pressures (or even opened the hood) since the last time the Vikings won the Super Bowl.

Today's comatose driver expects everything to be automated – and it is. Look no further than the myriad of digitized warning lights on the dashboard when the key is turned (um... make that the start button). Don't blame the automakers for the disappearance of the dipstick – blame the public at large.

Photo by Michael Harley / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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  • 94 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I still check my dipstick, but yeah, people are becoming really lazy checking there engines.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ok, I completely understand their point. My brother's Accord lost its top gear, and he drove it 3000 miles without checking the oil. When he went to have his mechanic change the oil, the mechanic informed him that he was 2 quarts low. Now a person with some semblance of an idea of how cars work would check the oil if they were driving at 4000 rpm at normal highway speeds, but I suspect that most people are like my brother. If a blinky light showed up on his dashboard, he'd probably pay attention to it.

      But this is a man who didn't know how to check if a car was a "V4 or V6" (his words, not mine), so it's probably a losing battle.

      That said, if you replace the oil level monitor, shouldn't you also have remote monitoring of the coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, etc...?
      • 4 Years Ago
      No but some cars don't have very reliable fuel senders or instrument gauges *cough*audi*cough* and read half a tank or full or whatever when really you're riding around on fumes.
      85ZingoGTR
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's a croc of ****. I don't believe that for one second. It's to get more people into the service department. Not "ounces of polluting oil into the ecosystem."
      • 4 Years Ago
      Um, sorry but I'd much rather look at a screen every time I get in the car for it to tell me the oil level is fine than have to pull out a dipstick. How does that make me less of an enthusiast? It's a gauge like any other gauge in the car. I didn't see anyone getting all misty-eyed when tire pressure monitors came out
      • 4 Years Ago
      well your first problem is that you were driving a 3 series... ;)
      • 4 Years Ago
      To extend their ridiculous premise, them gear indicators are unnecessary on full autos? Why would such a simple device be omitted? You can tell I haven't even ventured into a BMW dealership since they got "bangled", and the price of a base 3 became equal with retail on my STS. Yes, hooners will howl that I've sold my soul and am driving with the wrong wheels, but as I slowly slip into that dark night, being coddled at 125 mph across the prairies became too enticing to resist.
      NeonDon
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone who thinks dipsticks are all gone, should my neighbor!!!! Talk about a dipstick!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a 98 Pontiac GP. My book says to use 10W-30, so I do. I use high mileage Castrol, because it's maybe a dollar more where I get it, and even if it's pure marketing, that extra dollar is worth the peace-of-mind.

      My book says change every 3000 miles, especially in hot climates. I'm in a hot climate, so I do. I change my filter every other change, so 6000 miles, again, with a high mileage Fram. Never had a problem.

      I intend to keep my car until it's just too expensive to fix.
      • 4 Years Ago
      BS! This is so you have to go the dealer to get your oil changed on some models.
        • 4 Years Ago
        BS! That's completely untrue.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't see why there should not be both.All this new feature's about is an upgraded idiot light,and you know why they call them that.Electronics fail, look at toyota in the news lately.I don't like any of this crap,throttle by wire,steer by wire,or the government being the biggest shareholder of GM,its all CRAP!
      Sue
      • 4 Years Ago
      I know nothing about the mechanics of a car so I take it to my Honda dealer every time the service light goes on. I've had it for 5 years, got 55,000 miles on the car and no problems yet. I bought a Honda Civic Hatchback when they first came out in the 70's, took it in every 5,000 miles and I put over 100,000 miles on it. I never felt they talked me into something I didn't need, although for the first 3 years of my new Honda I ran it by my mechanically-knowledgeable husband. But now that I don't have a husband, I'll continue to trust my service rep, who has helped me for the last 5 years on every service visit. I have, however, checked the oil myself a few times. Just wanted you to know I know how to use a dispstick.....I'm not one.
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