Can a broken dipstick cause a car to lose 2 quarts of oil over a couple of months?
March 4, 2011 7:47 AM Subscribe
Can a broken dipstick cause a car to lose two quarts of oil over a couple of months? Should I just replace the dipstick, or should I have a mechanic investigate other potential problems?
posted by nequalsone to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
In the middle of December the brakes were fixed on our car, and the primary driver asked the mechanic to change the oil too. Soon after, the primary driver noticed a strange smell from the car vents.
This part may be a tangent: In January the car broke down and was in the shop for two weeks, same one that did the brakes and oil. It had been sputtering and stalling infrequently over the previous few years, but this time it wouldn't start up again. The mechanic couldn't find the problem. We did some research online and decided the problem was probably the fuel pump, asked him to replace it, and now the car drives much smoother. It is probably too soon to conclusively say the stalling problem is gone because, even though the frequency had been increasing, it was still infrequent.
Back to the main story: The car wasn't driven much in the second half of December due to the holidays and was in the shop for two weeks in January with the seemingly unrelated problem described above. About a week ago the primary driver tells me about the weird smell, but I don't think much of it because the car has some other weird smells (musty smell from the vents). A couple of days ago the primary driver says "I think the smell is oil." I say, "Maybe the car is burning oil because it is getting old, but I guess there could be something wrong with the gasket or the engine or something. Better check the oil." (The car is a 2001 Ford Contour, and, if it is not obvious yet, I don't know much about cars.) So last night we check the oil. The dipstick is broken, just the stick is in the tube, protruding about half an inch; no little cap, no handle. I'm not positive I am getting the dipstick all the way down (I don't want to lose it!) but barely any oil gets on the dipstick--maybe a quarter inch. I open the oil cap and peek in. There are signs of oil inside, little puddles, but not much actual oil. We put in two quarts of oil and get a "full" reading on the dipstick. There is not a lot of obvious oil on the outside of the engine, but we pull the car back and there are a few oil spots on the driveway--I think they are new. The oil light never came on.
For better or worse, no one has opened the hood of the car since the oil was changed in December except the mechanic. So either he broke the dipstick and didn't replace it or he didn't bother to tell us that the dipstick was broken by a previous mechanic.
1a) Buy a new dipstick and forget about it
1b) Insist the mechanic gives us a new dipstick and forget about it
2) Get the mechanic to investigate whether something else went wrong at the time of the oil change
3) Suspect that something else is wrong unrelated to the oil change and get this or another mechanic to investigate