Engine and transmission oil dipsticks for oil level check: differences & how to read

The dipsticks of engine oil and transmission oil looks similar, have upper and lower marks but the meaning of those marks and how they wre read differ.

Oil dipsticks as tiny as they are have very important function in a car. They are used for checking the oil levels. In a car, there are engine oil and transmission oil dipsticks.

Not all cars (especially modern cars) have dipsticks. They have oil level sensors or have different procedure for checking oil level without the use of dipsticks.

 

Similarities between engine and transmission oil dipsticks

Both of them are used for checking the level of oil. For both, a level below the lower mark of the dipstick indicates an underfill while a level above the upper mark indicates an overfill. A level just before or at the maximum mark is good.

 

How to read an engine oil dipstick

These are the procedures for checking the engine oil level with the use of an engine oil dipstick:

1. When engine oil has settled in the sump after the vehicle has been parked for some time (preferably in the morning, before starting the car), remove the engine oil dipstick and wipe it clean of the engine oil on it.

2. Dip the stick into the dipstick pipe again then pull it out. Keep holding it in that same vertical position.

3. Take the reading.

If the reading is at or below the minimum mark of the dipstick, you need to top up the oil. If the level is above the maximum mark, it is overfilled and excess quantity of engine oil needs to be drained out. 

 

How to read a transmission oil dipstick

Here are the procedures for checking transmission oil level for most cars and those equipped with transmission oil level check dipstick:

1. Before you start the engine and when the engine is cold, remove the transmission oil dipstick and wipe it clean. Start the engine, dip it again and take reading. It should be at the cold mark which is the lower mark of the dipstick.

2. Start the engine and keep it running until it attains it's optimal operating temperature. While the engine is running, dip the stick that has been wiped clean, pull it out and take reading. It should be at the hot mark which is the upper mark of the dipstick.

When you dip when engine is cold, a level below cold mark can indicate an underfill and a level above the cold mark can indicate an overfill.

When checked after the engine has attained optimal temperature, a level below the hot mark indicates an underfill while a level above the hot mark indicates an overfill. It is necessary to check at both cold and hot temperatures.

This guide on checking the oil level of transmissions will give you a thorough step by step procedure of how transmission fluid level should be checked.

 

Differences between engine and transmission oil dipsticks

1. The lower mark (min) of engine oil dipstick indicates the minimum level the engine oil should be at while the lower mark (cold) of a transmission oil dipstick indicates the level the oil should be when checked at cold temperature and the engine is running.

2. The upper mark (max) of an engine oil dipstick indicates the maximum level the engine oil should be while the upper mark (hot) indicates the level that the transmission oil should be when the engine is running and at operating temperature.

 

Note: some cars like some hondas do not need to have their engines running to check transmission fluid level.

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