7 Simple Steps On How To Read A Dipstick With Dots

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Knowing how to read a dipstick with dots is a must if you have a car. After choosing the best motor oil for your car, make sure it is always at the perfect level.

Although oil will clean, lubricate, and control engine temperatures, too much oil can turn frothy.

Regular frothing can damage the internal components of your engine.

Moreover, too little oil will be inadequate to lubricate your engine parts and can trigger friction.

As you might know, friction accelerates the wear and tear of engine parts. That is why you need a dipstick to measure the level of engine oil at any time or place.

Achieving an optimal level of engine oil is the goal you need to achieve.

Besides showing you the level of oil, the clever dipstick will reveal the level of cleanliness. Next, we will teach you more about how to use a dipstick correctly.

How To Read A Dipstick With Dots: 07 Easiest Steps

If you want to keep your engine oil level safe always, learn how to take a dipstick reading. It is easy to use an oil dipstick, as you will see in the following steps.

Step 1: Read the owner’s manual

Why do you need to check the manual? Vehicle manufacturers want you to meet some conditions before you can measure the level of engine oil.

For instance, they insist on ensuring the correct temperature for checking motor oil.

Step 2: Park the car properly

Each time you want to inspect and repair your car, park it on level ground. Do the same even when checking the level of engine oil.

Note that we have chosen a level ground because an inclined parking position will slant the oil level.

Hence, your dipstick with dots might produce an incorrect reading.

 Step 3: Open the car hood and locate the dipstick

Once you lift the car hood, hold it that way until you finish this exercise. In many vehicles, the dipstick is orange.

Since you have the owner’s manual, read it to know the color of your oil dipstick.

If it is not the signature color orange, the dipstick will have a red or yellow handle labeled Engine Oil. A pencil-like metal stick attaches to this handle.

 Step 3: Remove the dipstick and wipe it

Next, pull out the oil dipstick while making sure the oil does not drip onto the engine.

Get a towel and place it under the end of the dipstick to control dripping.

Then, wipe the entire dipstick with a clean rag from the cap to the tip. As it can be hot, make sure it won’t burn you.

 Step 4: Insert the oil dipstick again

Place the oil dipstick with dots back into the tube. Make sure it rests properly just the way you found it.

Step 5: Remove the dipstick again and read the oil level

An oil dipstick consists of two dots: Low and High. Thus, the correct oil level should be somewhere between the Low and High dots.

Note that your car’s dipstick might have holes rather than the two dots. If that is what you have, make sure the oil level is within the four holes. If unsure, read your manual to confirm.

Step 6: Translate the reading

If the oil level is between the two dots or marks, that is okay. If the oil level goes beyond the High, you have too much oil.

So, drain some of it until you have the correct level. If the oil level is near the first mark next to the tip, your oil level is severely low, and you need to increase it.

A dipstick will also indicate if your oil is clean based on the color.

If the level and color are good, do not change the oil. If you have the correct level but dirty oil, change the oil at once.

When the oil level goes beyond the two dots and too close to the tip, you have an insufficient level and dirty oil. The only option is to change the oil.

Step 7: Re-insert the engine oil dipstick and close the hood

Restore the dipstick in its port when you finish reading. Before you do, use a clean towel to wipe it from the orange handle to the tip.

If you need to add new oil or drain some, do it before closing the car hood.

As you can see, it is easy to use a dipstick to inspect the amount of engine oil.

Oil Dipstick: What & How Does It Work

Even if you lack the time, expertise, or desire to change your engine oil, you should know how it works.

Before you do a DIY oil change, always check the level with a dipstick. A dipstick is a long metal rod with a plastic circular handle.

A dipstick’s primary role is to show the amount of oil you have in the engine.

Besides the oil level, a dipstick indicates the current condition of the oil. Is it dirty, or is it clean? Trust a dipstick to give you the correct answer.

But how do you use it?

Before you learn how to use a dipstick, locate it in your car. So, park the auto on level ground, turn it off, pull the handbrake, and look for the dipstick.

As earlier hinted, it will have an orange, a yellow, or a red handle. Some autos have a white dipstick, though.

Pull it out of its port and hold the tip with a rag to prevent dripping. Next, wipe the dipstick with a clean cloth.

Insert it in the hole and take it out to read the level of the oil. You can dip your dipstick again before taking the reading.

Dipstick Engine Oil Color Chart

As a car owner, you know that the engine oil color shows its level of cleanliness and efficacy.

As you use a dipstick, understand perfectly how the engine oil color chart works.

And because it is easy to use a dipstick, do not wait too long to check the engine oil. See the colors below.

Dipstick engine oil color Meaning
Clear, golden, or amber These colors indicate that you have the best engine oil. Therefore, you do not need to change oil or worry about engine problems.
Dark, almost black, and/or frothy If you notice dark or black engine oil, that’s a bad sign. The dark color indicates that your oil has contaminants and dirt. So, do an immediate oil change. As well, inspect your engine to see if it has issues.
Milky, gray, or foamy If you see that your engine oil has a gray or milky color, and has a foamy consistency, there is a gasket leak. If you also notice white exhaust smoke, change the gasket. Due to gasket leaks, the oil is mixing with the coolant.
Reddish A reddish color means that the automatic transmission fluid has mixed up with the engine oil.

How To Read A Dipstick With Holes: The Complete Procedures

Step 1: Drive your car to level ground and park

Proper parking of your car when checking the engine is vital. So, park it on a level surface, pull out the handbrake, and let it cool down.

Step 2: Open the hood and pull out the dipstick

After opening the car hood, find the oil dipstick with holes. Consult your owner’s booklet if you are not sure.

Once you find it, pull out the dipstick and touch its tip with a clean cloth.

Doing so will prevent oil drops from messing with the engine. Wipe the entire dipstick as you grab it by the handle.

Step 3: Insert the dipstick with holes in the port and pull it out

Dipping it twice can ensure a more accurate reading. Once you pull it out, read the measurement based on the oil level along the length of the dipstick.

The most common dipstick with holes has four hollows. First, there is a hole at the top, near the handle. The hole indicates Full when the oil is hot.

Right below, you will see another hole representing the maximum oil point when oil is cold.

The lowest hole, which is closest to the tip of the dipstick, indicates the lowest point of the oil when it is hot.

Above the lowest hole, you will see a second hole representing the maximum level when the oil is cold.

So far, you know how to read a dipstick with holes based on this explanation.

Step 4: Restore the dipstick

Any reading above the maximum or below minimum levels indicates the need to act. To finish, wipe your dipstick and restore it. Close the hood.

How To Read A Dipstick With Dots & Holes

Most Crucial FAQs About How To Read A Dipstick With Dots

What is wrong with letting the engine oil overfill?

A crankshaft does not need to be full of oil. If you overfill the engine with oil, the oil will turn into foam due to excess air.

If oil is foamy, it will not do its job well. Just like the engine sludge, it can block the oil flow and reduce oil pressure.

As a result, more engine parts will not receive adequate oil to ensure lubrication.

Also, minimal circulation of oil leaves the engine unprotected from heat. Hence, it may overheat and trigger other issues.

Can you tell when the oil level is too low?

Yes, if you know how to read a dipstick with dots, holes, lines, or other marks. If the oil level is critically low, it will be below the dot nearest to the tip of the dipstick.

After such a reading, you should top up the oil.

What dipstick color indicates clean oil?

If you have been oiling your engine when you should, the dipstick color will show amber or golden color. There will be no need to have a DIY oil change.

When is it safe to add oil to the engine?

An imperative rule to recall is to check the engine oil level when the car is cold.

That is why we emphasized letting the engine cool down. Whether you add new motor oil when the engine is hot or cold does not matter.

Besides the dark color, what else indicates that the oil is bad?

Before checking the oil with a dipstick, check the tell-tale signs that the oil is dirty.

If the Oil Change or the Check Engine light comes on, the oil might be thick and dark.

If you smell the aroma of motor oil in the car, use your dipstick. In addition, more fuel consumption or exhaust smoke can indicate dirty engine oil.

Which is better between adding new oil and having an oil change?

After your dipstick shows a low level of engine oil, the most sensible thing to do is to top it up.

By doing it, you can prevent severe engine problems from happening before the next oil change.

When you observe a regular oil change schedule, you can prevent engine sludge and related issues.

What if I have lines on my dipstick? What do they mean?

There is no difference between lines, dots, holes, or letters. What matters is to know which line indicates High and which one indicates Low.

These lines show the amount of oil in the engine. If you do not understand, check what your owner’s manual says.

Does H refer to Maximum on my dipstick?

Yes, the letter H on your dipstick shows the maximum oil level. Any oil beyond H or MAX is excess and could cause problems.

On the other hand, L refers to Low or minimum (MIN). If your oil level stands at L or below it, you have to add new motor oil.


Keeping your motor oil on the correct level can ensure proper engine performance. When checking the oil level, you must use the dipstick.

All vehicles have one, and it has an orange, yellow, or red ring-like handle.

We have explained how to read a dipstick with dots, which can also have holes, lines, or letters.

These indicate the minimum and maximum levels of engine oil. After parking your car on level ground, let the car cool down.

Then, open the hood and remove the dipstick. Follow the rest of the steps we explained above.

After reading the dipstick, you will know if you need to increase oil, reduce oil, or leave the oil alone.

Should you find it hard to use a dipstick.

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