Don’t Let the Dipstick Go Dry

Let’s get down to the bare basics. Your engine has a lot of moving metal parts. When moving parts make contact with each other, there’s friction. Friction causes heat. Combustion causes heat, too, and combustion inside your car’s cylinders produces the power for your car to drive. The faster you drive, the faster the metal parts move because the cylinders progress through the combustion cycle more often. Lots of heat from friction and combustion mean the metal parts get really, really hot. Motor oil is used in your engine to cool the metal parts and reduce the friction. Your car, therefore, needs oil. Without oil, your engine will seize up and become a useless block of metal. If that happens, your engine is toast, and will need to be replaced.

That pretty much sums up the cause-and-effect workings of a car engine (a bit over-simplified). The moral of the story: Your car needs oil. Think of your oil dipstick as the “oil meter” for your car’s engine. It’s marked with a “full” line, and it’s marked with an “add” line. To check your engine oil, pull the dipstick wipe it clean, and re-insert it. Then pull it back out again and see where the oil level reads. If it’s between the “add” and “full” lines, you’re probably good-to-go. However, if the dipstick remains dry when you pull it out the second time, you have a problem.

What to do if the Dipstick is Dry

Assuming that your engine hasn’t seized up yet, you should add some oil before starting the car again. You want to see it on the dipstick. If the engine oil warning light hasn’t appeared on your dashboard, you might be lucky and have two- to two-and-a-half quarts left in the engine. Be sure to add the proper type of oil for your vehicle, which you can find in your car’s owner’s manual or in an engine oil guide. A complete oil change is needed at this point. Either have a mechanic do it, or do it yourself. Synthetic oil is better for your engine than conventional oil because it offers more protection, lasts longer, and retains its specifications at higher temperatures. If your dipstick is dry, your car has an emergency. To meet the emergency head-on, synthetic oil is the way to go.

Get Your Car to the Car Hospital

Once you’ve added the proper oil to your engine, assuming your car will start, take it to a mechanic to survey the damage. Have them do an oil change (if you haven’t done it yourself), and let them know the circumstances. They need to look at the oil drained from your engine to check for signs of metal fragments and sediment. If you’re lucky, you’ll have corrected the problem before major damage occurred. If you’re not-so-lucky, the repair bill will be steep for an overhaul, up to and possibly including the cost of a new engine.

Learn the Lesson BEFORE You Experience It

Changing your car’s oil and checking the level once a month (or so) is prudent preventive maintenance. It may be inconvenient, but it’s cheap insurance against a massive, unnecessary repair bill. So, use your “oil meter” (the dipstick), and keep your engine performing smoothly by using the best synthetic oil suitable for your vehicle.

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