Proper oil level checking

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What is the right condition to check the motor oil level on the dipstick? Soon after stopping the engine or after it cooled down? Thanks.

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Well after it has cooled down. You need to be sure that the oil has returned from the galleries above into the sump. Also hot oil expands and will appear deeper than normal when cold. The cold depth is that which has to be measured.
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Keith W
Sunbury on Thames
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Thanks, that settles an argument in my favor.
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wrote:

No, you said the opposite !
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wrote:

Check the oil when it's cool.
Transmission when it hot. Go through the gears slowly, then check transmission fluid.
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How exactly would I go through the gears slowly and then immediately check the ATF level?
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On 9/7/09 2:14 PM, in article h83m1t$7oq$ snipped-for-privacy@news.eternal-september.org,

You would park in the driveway with the engine running (with your foot on the brake) and slowly move the shift lever from park to 1 and back pausing for a second in each gear, then get out and pull the dipstick.
Unless the procedure has been recently changed, on Hondas, you just pull out the ATF dipstick and read it the same way you check the oil. Most other car makes require the slowly through the gears protocol, but most Hondas don't.
Bottom line - get out your owner's manual and do what it says for your car.
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Actually, I hate to break the news, but I've read the Owner's Manual, so I knew that one measures the ATF when the engine is warm. That's why I didn't ask about it in my first post. Since you offered your advise on it anyway, and one that I did not recall from the manual. That's why I asked about it. I checked the manual again and could not find anything about the elaborate procedure you described. The 94 Accord manual only says this: "Check the fluid level with the engine at normal operating temerature. 1. Park the car on level ground. Shut off the engine. 2. Remove the dipstick (yellow loop) from the transmission and wipe it with a clean cloth. 3. Insert the dipstick into the transmission. 4. Remove the dipstick and check the fluid level. It should be between the upper and lower marks. etc."
So there is nothing there about going through the gears slowly, etc.
As to my inquiry about measuring the oil level, even that is described slightly more casually in the manual than some of you wrote. Instead of measuring it with the engine cold, the manual only instructs to "Check the engine oil a couple of minutes after shutting off the engine. This will allow the oil to drain down to the bottom of the engine."
Couple of minutes after engine shut-off hardly makes the engine or oil cold. So, I guess, Wade was closest to what the manual says. The difference may be simply in the target audience. The Owner's Manual speaks to the average lay motorist, while you are answering with a more knowledgeable techy background.
Thanks for the replies.
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On 9/8/09 9:56 PM, in article h875gk$hg0$ snipped-for-privacy@news.eternal-september.org,

I answered your specific question, which was how to go about doing that procedure, but if you look you will see that I also made the point in my posting that most Hondas do NOT require that slow move through the gears procedure. If your owners manual doesn't say you should do it, you shouldn't.
ATF expands significantly when it is hot, so it is important to note in your manual whether you should check it hot or cold.

With motor oil it doesn't make much if any difference whether its hot or cold. Usually you get the best reading on the motor oil by checking it in the morning before you start the engine the first time. That way its had all night to drain down.

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Certainly on our CRV, my wife drove it out of the garage not realising I wanted to check the oil. After 15 minutes I dipped it and the level was midway between max and min. The following morning I dipped it before it was started and the level was on max. I would therefore argue that "a couple of minutes" wait could well result in overfilling whatever the manufacturer says.
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Keith W
Sunbury on Thames
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Actually, this is close to what caused me to post my question in the first place. The independent shop where I usually take my car for service, does not carry Castrol oil, so I would take my own 4 Qts of 5W-30 Castrol for oil changes. Two changes ago a mechanic there mentioned that 4 qts was not enough and he needed to add about a half qt to get the oil level to the upper mark. Next time I took 5 qts for oil change of which he used 4 and a half. However, after I drove home and checked the level the next morning, I noticed that it was well above the upper dipstick mark. Well, I checked again the Owner's Manual and it sure specified only 4 qts for oil and filter change. So next time, when I made the appointment I mentioned this and that I would only take 4 qts again because that's what the manual says and last time he overfilled it with 4.5 qts.
When I went there to pick up my car, the mechanic just finished the oil change and for whatever reason, he also ran the engine for a few seconds and then to prove his point, showed me the dipstick that the 4 qts oil I gave him did not fill the engine to the upper mark. Well, because the oil was so clear at that point, it was hard to see for me how far the oil went on the dipstick, but I took his word for it. I told him not to worry because I can always refill any missing oil at home. Only later occured to me that the measuring discrepancy must have occured because he looked at the dipstick right after running the engine and thus some of the oil was still not drained down to the pan. Since the engine wasn't very warm at that time, the drain would have taken even longer than at normal operating temp. Needless to say that when I measured the oil level next morning in my garage, it was right at the upper mark.
As I've been generally satisfied with that independent shop specializing in Japanese cars, this incident however was quite a disappointment for me. How could a mechanic not know something so elementary?
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wrote:

Maybe not a mechanic, just a hired hand. Either way he should, as you say, have been aware of something so basic.
--
Keith



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september.org:

It's frightening that somebody so ignorant would be working on your car. I've had more experiences with such individuals than I care to remember.
He's obviously so ignorant, uninquisitive and incurious that he's never bothered to do any sort of experimentation for himself, or to make any other attempt at (dis)proving his own theories. That's scary. And distressingly common. And part of the reason auto mechanics have such a lousy reputation in general.
--
Tegger

The Unofficial Honda/Acura FAQ
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At least the guy would read forums such as this one ... I find it invaluable.
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What if the manufacturer designed the lines on the dipstick for readings with the engine warm and shut off for a few minutes? Given how the owner's manuals speak of checking the level at every fillup, it makes sense that the dipstick lines would be so designed.
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Elle wrote:

    The proper way to check fluid levels is to do so before the engine has been started. Failing to check first could result in severe damage to the engine, if there was a fault that allowed the oil (or any other fluid) to drain out since the vehicle was parked.
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Is the actual quantity of oil in the car that critical? Isn't there a bit of leeway?
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rd wrote:

    When I mentioned a leak, I was referring to a critical loss of oil. I had one of my employees parked his tractor and didn't do his Post -Trip Inspection. Thankfully he did his Pre-Trip Inspection and discovered no oil on the dipstick and discovered a hole in the pan. Anything can happen and it takes very little time to check any vehicle over before starting its engine.
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On Sep 10, 7:48am, Brian Smith

Do you check all your fluids before every engine start?
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Elle wrote:

    No, I don't. But once a week for sure and anytime that I have driven over any material on the road that has struck the underside of my vehicle. I check for any visible leaks and damage when I park the vehicle.
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