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Old 01-20-2018, 10:09 AM
Arkcon Arkcon is offline
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Engine oil dipstick lost in tube, how big of a problem?

The engine oil dipstick, in my Jeep, has become separated from the plastic holder. Its in the dip tube, and its gone. How much risk does my engine face?

That's a simple, to the point question, right? I turn to the SDMB, because I need an answer, and I need it to be clear and to the point. People here are quite knowledgeable, and answer questions completely, and to the point.

See, I tried Google. I tried Yahoo. And those answers are not complete and not to the point. People say stuff like: well, you're going to lose oil from the dip tube without the dipstick, you should just buy one.

And urm, no. That's not the question. The dip tube is still plugged, with the plastic handle. Its the dipstick metal, that's lost within the dip tube.

The answer I'm looking for is:

Don't worry, all engines have an obstruction, just to prevent a separated dip stick from getting drawn into the crankcase.

or

Jebus, Arkcon, no that's not a possible engine construction. You are seconds away from wrapping the dipstick around the crankshaft, grinding the engine to a halt on the highway and wrecking it worse than if you had no oil.

I have read both explanations, or possibly that the dipstick is of such soft metal it can be torn by the camshaft with minimal damage to the camshaft and piston rods. Of course, every time someone posts that, the next response is, "You're losing oil from the unplugged dip tube." Grrr.

Truly, go ahead and Google it. Add all the qualifiers you want. You'll end up on a random board, that talks about transmission dipstick separation before long. Just as I did.

Seriously people, do I drive it or no?
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Old 01-20-2018, 10:24 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Usually not an immediate problem, the answer will be specific to that engine. I assume you are having a problem removing it though. Dipsticks usually extend to the bottom of the oil pan under the crankcase so it won't be very far down the tube. Have you tried anything to get it out?
  #3  
Old 01-20-2018, 10:31 AM
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I would think that there is no way in hell the dipstick could exit the dip tube.
After all, when it is completely inserted, the end is almost touching the bottom of the pan - how is a foot or more of dipstick going to slide out of the tube?
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Old 01-20-2018, 10:32 AM
Arkcon Arkcon is offline
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The mechanics couldn't get it out with needle nose pliers. I can't see it. I'm given to believe there are magnetic retrievers for separated dip sticks, and I'm also given to believe that some dip sticks are non-magnetic.

I've found the suggestion to use something "gluey" to retrieve the dipstick, and I've also heard that sticking something glue laden into the dip-tube is the "dumbest idea evar111!!11"

I'm not going to give too much back and forth in this regard. Because I don't want the thread to devolve into all the others online that say, "You're losing volatile oil components from the open dip tube, buy one." But I am listening.

Eventually, I will have to ask someone to drop the pan. I just hope to do that later rather than sooner.

Last edited by Arkcon; 01-20-2018 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 01-20-2018, 10:38 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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If it were me, I'd try fishing it out with tweezers—but tie a string around them first so they don't fall in there too. But that wouldn't work if it's very far down in there, so maybe no better than the needle-nose pliers. If this were a common problem, you'd think somebody would've invented a gadget for getting it out.
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Old 01-20-2018, 10:49 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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If nothing else works you should be able to remove the oil pan and pull out the dipstick from the bottom. Unless Jeep engines are a lot different than other engines.

ETA: The mechanic didn't tell you this?

Last edited by TriPolar; 01-20-2018 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 01-20-2018, 10:56 AM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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What year and model of Jeep? You should be able to just remove the dip stick tube to get at the stick then put the tube back in.
  #8  
Old 01-20-2018, 10:58 AM
Ex_Bubblehead Ex_Bubblehead is offline
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Why not simply remove the dipstick tube (they ARE removable), watching out for dirt and other debris (don't want that in the engine), and then retrieve the dipstick? No need to resort to exotic methods.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:06 AM
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The advice from people who know about this stuff on this side of the pond is to push it down and it won't be any problem to have it lying at the bottom of the sump. If you really want to get it out, you will have to remove the sump.

Usual caveats apply
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dallas Jones View Post
What year and model of Jeep? You should be able to just remove the dip stick tube to get at the stick then put the tube back in.
Yes, most tubes come out fairly easy. This is a common problem in shops. Usually just one bolt in a support bracket.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:11 AM
Translucent Daydream Translucent Daydream is offline
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If the stick has iron in it and the block is aluminum, you could possibly get a rare earth donut magnet that is small enough and tie some strong fishing line to it and lower the magnet into the hole and fish it out. DO NOT LOSE THE MAGNET.

Taking the oil pan off isn’t that big of a deal, unless Chrysler got cute and put the exhaust tailpipe in the way. If it’s unobstructed, you can drain the oil and pop it off by taking off the bolts holding it on. There should be a gasket between the bottom of the pan and the engine block. The are cheap at the parts house.

When you put your pan back on, make sure the mating surfaces are nice and clean and dry. Hand tighten all the bolts first then torque them down in a star pattern slowly until you get them as tight as they should be. Don’t try to be a hero and put them on too tight- snapping one off here isn’t what you want to do.

I wouldn’t think you would have a huge problem right away because it should be right at the bottom of the pan. If you ripped the stick off around your crank, you sure as hell would know already.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:14 AM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by Ex_Bubblehead View Post
Why not simply remove the dipstick tube (they ARE removable), watching out for dirt and other debris (don't want that in the engine), and then retrieve the dipstick? No need to resort to exotic methods.
That's my thought too. I've had some of them start to unscrew a little bit. I assumed, based on that, they should just pop out or unscrew the rest of the way. After that, the dipstick should be right there, pull it out, put the tube back in and put the dipstick cap/handle back.
If the dipsitck is down more than an inch, I'd be surprised if you could pull it back out, it usually takes quite a bit of force to get them out to begin with.
Checking to see if you can yank the tube out will be a lot easier than the next step, dropping the oil pan.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:16 AM
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I figured the tube was removable but never encountered such a thing. It sounds easier than removing the oil pan, but even that is not a major effort, at least in the cars I've worked on. That's not very many cars, and no Jeeps.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:26 AM
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When asking for this type of assistance, it's most helpful if you provide as much information as possible. You could supply the year, make, and model of your Jeep, as well as engine configuration and displacement. just sayin'

As far as whether or not it's safe/wise to keep driving your Jeep, I assume you're not experiencing any unusual noises, leaking, or odors. The engine starts and runs. If this were my Jeep, I would remove the dipstick tube (if possible), or pull the pan and remove the dipstick. Removing the pan would require replacing the gasket. Problem solved and you don't have to worry about this issue anymore.

Good luck.

Last edited by doorhinge; 01-20-2018 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:39 AM
Morgenstern Morgenstern is offline
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Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
... You are seconds away from wrapping the dipstick around the crankshaft, ...
That could happen. Have the tube removed. the old part recovered and buy a new dipstick or live with that possibility of a catastrophic bottom end failure. If you don't, how are you ever going to check the oil again?
  #16  
Old 01-20-2018, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Morgenstern View Post
That could happen. Have the tube removed. the old part recovered and buy a new dipstick or live with that possibility of a catastrophic bottom end failure. If you don't, how are you ever going to check the oil again?
OK. But I really need to go for some long drives, and I really don't need to take my Jeep to a mechanic, have them plan to, think about to, drop the crankcase bottom, and take a week to do it, once they order the special super rare OEM only gasket. Which takes less than a day. Unless it doesn't. Which depends.

Clearly, I probably hardly ever check the oil, but you guessed that. Right?

Odds of failure? Highly probable? Somewhat a possibility? Rare but serious?

For the record, the Jeep's engine is a 4.0 L 6 cylinder, inside a 2001 Wrangler. But in general, do engines have something to "catch" an errant dip stick? Or they don't? One person in this thread says they do, one person says they don't. Anyone for a tie-breaker?

I don't see an easy way to get the tube off. It doesn't appear to screw. Some people hint it may just pull off. Some people here specify a bracket, I don't see it, but its cold outside, and I don't feel like dodging street traffic just right now.

Have I put my perspective clear enough for the d.i.y crowd? Or does someone what to ask me if I can see the bracket when I put it on the lift in my garage? Please realize I'm kidding, I realize I came here for gearhead help, and I am grateful, but please dumb it down for sub-highschooler skill level with regard to vehicle care.
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Old 01-20-2018, 06:17 PM
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A few minutes on the internet Googling jeep 4 liter oil dipstick tube yields oil dipstick tubes available for $20 and a series of posts on jeepforum.com about using a 13mm wrench as an installation tool to hammer the tube home in the block. It is held in by a bracket and a light press fit into the block. This doesn't sound like something beyond the average joe.
A while back at the machine shop, a guy brought in a Hewland racing transmission that needed sleeving. Had no way to easily access the bearing bores to measure for center to center distances, and they were worn oval to boot. Went online, and to my great amazement, found an online set of prints from Hewland themselves no less. Modern life.
  #18  
Old 01-20-2018, 06:29 PM
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First and foremost IANAM.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
You are seconds away from wrapping the dipstick around the crankshaft, ...
This is extremely, highly unlikely.

Quote:
...grinding the engine to a halt on the highway and wrecking it worse than if you had no oil.
Also extremely, highly unlikely. The crank a connecting rods are so mu stronger than the dipstick.

You could go forever and it not be any problem whatsoever. The pickup tube will not draw the dipstick up, and and shards would get stopped by the filter.

The biggest problem with this situation is not being able to check the oil level. If it were me I would buy a new dipstick, oil pan gasket, oil & filter (unless it’s new), and change the oil and drop the pan. Remove broken dipstick.

Easy, simple, inexpensive, relatively quick.
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Old 01-20-2018, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
Odds of failure? Highly probable? Somewhat a possibility? Rare but serious?
Extremely, highly unlikely to be a problem, any problem, at all. You almost certainly can drive forever like this without it becoming a problem. The chances of a problem developing from this are extremely small.

Again, IANAM.
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Old 01-20-2018, 06:37 PM
Arkcon Arkcon is offline
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Thank you. That's the answer I was hoping for. And I'll look into working on this problem later.
  #21  
Old 01-20-2018, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Arkcon View Post
I really don't need to take my Jeep to a mechanic, have them plan to, think about to, drop the crankcase bottom, and take a week to do it.
Any Meineke or Jiffy Lube or corner gas station mechanic should be able to do it, quick and easy. Stop in, talk to them first, and if you decide to have them do it then you can help them by finding and buying the oil pan gasket for them, and return with it when you’re having the work done.
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Old 01-20-2018, 06:50 PM
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I'll echo the comments saying the dipstick will not exit the tube into the oil pan and there is no magical way it can get to the crankshaft. The oil pan is designed to keep shards from getting sucked into the delicate parts of the engine. The needle nose was the correct method DIY, just the wrong implement. I'd invest in one of these. They won't fall in and should reach much further into the tube. It's been a few years and vehicles since I owned one but, IIRC from my Wrangler, the dipstick went into the tube easier if it was turned to follow the curve into the oil pan. The flat part should be in that orientation.
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Old 01-20-2018, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Bullitt View Post
Any Meineke or Jiffy Lube or corner gas station mechanic should be able to do it, quick and easy. Stop in, talk to them first, and if you decide to have them do it then you can help them by finding and buying the oil pan gasket for them, and return with it when you’re having the work done.
No local shop I deal with will let me buy and bring my own parts for them to install. Not anymore since about 7-10 years ago. Not if they stand behind their work.
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Old 01-21-2018, 12:12 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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The dipstick cannot fall out of the tube. It will stay there doing nothing.

It is quite unlikely that the stick can be pulled out. Anything thin enough to reach it won't be able to grip it.

It makes a lot - as in a LOT - more sense to remove the tube than the pan.
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Old 01-21-2018, 01:12 AM
BobBitchin' BobBitchin' is offline
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
I would think that there is no way in hell the dipstick could exit the dip tube.
After all, when it is completely inserted, the end is almost touching the bottom of the pan - how is a foot or more of dipstick going to slide out of the tube?
I'm not familiar with this engine, but in the V8 ford,Chevy, Chryslers I've had apart the above is true.

I've never been inside the oil pan when it's on the motor. I can't even say I've thought about where the dip stick sits in the pan...it's kinda not one of the big "glamour" parts people try to visualize it's position or movement, like cams and lifters etc.

That said,Beowulff has to be correct. A few quarts of oil in the pan can't be all that deep, and the dip stick usually goes a few inches into the oil.

So I guess the end of the dip stick has to be pretty close to the bottom of the pan...kinda like losing a drinking straw in a shot glass.

I say the stick bottoms out in the pan and hurts nothing.
If you must get it out I recommend hemostats. I get mine at the flea market.
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Old 01-21-2018, 01:25 AM
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If the tube is anything like the one on my car you could cut down it with tin snips; find and remove the dipstick if you were concerned about its presence in the tube .
  #27  
Old 01-21-2018, 07:20 AM
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No local shop I deal with will let me buy and bring my own parts for them to install. Not anymore since about 7-10 years ago. Not if they stand behind their work.
I’ve done it regularly for years. Maybe one key is to establish a rapport with the mechanic, and then also to bring the parts in their original packaging.

And then there was the time when I was young and poor and we were a 1 car, 1 motorcycle family (young wife, and 3 young kids), and my brother, the one I pitted 5 years ago, borrowed the car and returned it with the tranny all chewed up — it made all sorts of lovely noises. I talked to my local shop, and much as I expected it needed a new tranny. But I was darn near broke. We discussed and agreed I could go to the Pick-N-Pull yard and bring them a tranny, and they’d install it for me. A low-budget but solid solution.

I vividly remember strapping that transmission onto the back seat of my motorcycle (carefully!), a humble 1983 Yamaha 650 Special, and riding it the 50 miles home to San Francisco, including across the San Mateo bridge! (gMap) it was for a great car back then, a 1981 Toyota Starlet, a car that just ran and ran (unless it was driven by a certain brother of mine ).

It’s a flippin’ oil pan gasket, fer crykees sake! It should be a straightforward discussion. Or, have them order the part if they insist on not working with any parts you bring yourself.
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Old 01-21-2018, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
The dipstick cannot fall out of the tube. It will stay there doing nothing.

It is quite unlikely that the stick can be pulled out. Anything thin enough to reach it won't be able to grip it.

It makes a lot - as in a LOT - more sense to remove the tube than the pan.
Curious — why the tube over the pan?
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Old 01-21-2018, 07:56 AM
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A person may be able to "fish" the dipstick out with a piece of thin, stiff wire. https://www.harborfreight.com/0041-i...coil-8895.html
Take a piece a foot or two long and twist it into a helix, like a looong screw thread... Then twist that down into the dip tube, and rapidly jerk it back out. It may take several tries, the concept being that eventually the wire wraps itself around the dipstick and snags it when you pull backwards.
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Old 01-21-2018, 08:25 AM
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I can't understand why removing the pan is even being discussed when lifting out the tube is so much easier, less messy and requires no parts. The broken stick is in the tube.
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Old 01-21-2018, 08:27 AM
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... why the tube over the pan?
Typically much easier to access, one (or possibly 2) fasteners vs. many, job done in 5 minutes vs. many.
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Old 01-21-2018, 08:32 AM
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I can't understand why removing the pan is even being discussed when lifting out the tube is so much easier, less messy and requires no parts. The broken stick is in the tube.
I mentioned it initially as a last resort, to say there's definitely a way to get that stick out. If removing the tube is easier it's definitely the way to go. It's not like dropping an oil pan is open heart surgery, but it will need a new gasket or you'll be seeing oil stains on the driveway.
  #33  
Old 01-21-2018, 08:57 AM
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Typically much easier to access, one (or possibly 2) fasteners vs. many, job done in 5 minutes vs. many.
Thanks. I’ve never had to do that before. Another advantage is that it’s probably less messy than pulling the pan, but with the tube you have to be careful that dirt doesn’t fall in, as already mentioned.
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Old 01-21-2018, 09:38 AM
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Curious — why the tube over the pan?
I'm curious why anyone would suggest removing the oil, the oil pan, the gasket. Replacing the gasket, reinstalling the oil pan and replacing the oil when the other option is removing the tube.

Imagine you have a milkshake. If you drop something into the straw, you could pull the straw out and grab it and put the straw back in. So why would you cut the bottom of the cup off then go buy a new shake?

Removing the tube will cost no dollars and can be done in the driveway from above the car (if he wants to do it himself). I'm guessing anyone that's asking this question isn't going to drop an oil pan in their driveway.

OTOH, I see your last post, if you hadn't thought of it, you hadn't thought of it. The only reason I thought of it is because I've had those tubes move around on me from time to time so I knew they were removable. Otherwise my first thought also would have been to remove the pan.
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Old 01-21-2018, 09:55 AM
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Could one of these grabber tools get the dipstick? The grabber is thin and it might be able to slip down into the hole. It has claws at the front which you can use to grab the dipstick and pull it out. Most hardware stores will have them.
  #36  
Old 01-21-2018, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
The dipstick cannot fall out of the tube. It will stay there doing nothing.

It is quite unlikely that the stick can be pulled out. Anything thin enough to reach it won't be able to grip it.

It makes a lot - as in a LOT - more sense to remove the tube than the pan.
Surely an 8" hemostat ($6 on Amazon) is the proper surgical tool, and would get this thing out with little trouble?

I am so seriously *not* a mechanic, so wait for input from somebody who knows before following my advice!
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
I'm curious why anyone would suggest removing the oil, the oil pan, the gasket. Replacing the gasket, reinstalling the oil pan and replacing the oil when the other option is removing the tube.

Imagine you have a milkshake. If you drop something into the straw, you could pull the straw out and grab it and put the straw back in. So why would you cut the bottom of the cup off then go buy a new shake?

Removing the tube will cost no dollars and can be done in the driveway from above the car (if he wants to do it himself). I'm guessing anyone that's asking this question isn't going to drop an oil pan in their driveway.

OTOH, I see your last post, if you hadn't thought of it, you hadn't thought of it. The only reason I thought of it is because I've had those tubes move around on me from time to time so I knew they were removable. Otherwise my first thought also would have been to remove the pan.
It’s winter, and I haven’t thought of milkshakes in a while either. But yeah I suppose if I just looked at the tube and thought about it, of course it’d have to be removable from the engine block!


More: oh and oil changes are both frequent and easy enough, so dropping the pan is an easy extension to the job. My thoughts, anyway.

Last edited by Bullitt; 01-21-2018 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:09 PM
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Could one of these grabber tools get the dipstick? The grabber is thin and it might be able to slip down into the hole. It has claws at the front which you can use to grab the dipstick and pull it out. Most hardware stores will have them.
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Originally Posted by TruCelt View Post
Surely an 8" hemostat ($6 on Amazon) is the proper surgical tool, and would get this thing out with little trouble?
Engine oil dipstick tubes have small diameters. While there's an outside chance that either tool, when closed, could fit into one, there's essentially zero chance that the claws/jaws could spread far enough to grab anything.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:12 PM
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...dropping the pan is an easy extension to [an oil change].
On some cars, maybe. On most cars, no – either quite a bit more work or A LOT more work.
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:21 PM
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Some dip stick tubes are pretty hard to get out but I think the majority are relatively easy. I have no idea on a jeep product
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:28 PM
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This guy has a good solution that retrieved his dipstick.
https://youtu.be/HEByBM__Xq8
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:40 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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The dip stick tube is probably going to look something like this:

https://www.morris4x4center.com/medi...782_1_5748.jpg

Just remove the bolt/screw holding the bracket onto the block and pull out the tube. The dip stick will be right there.

Some tubes are tapped into the block and fit more snugly. You can use vice grips or some other tool to wiggle the tube out. Even if the tube gets bent or otherwise ruined you are looking at a maximum $20 part. Have a new tube on hand before removing the old one.

Dropping the oil pan is a much bigger job. Like burning your house down because you saw a spider.

I am surprised that the mechanics that Arkcon took the vehicle to originally did not do this.
  #43  
Old 01-21-2018, 03:40 PM
gogogophers gogogophers is offline
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
This guy has a good solution that retrieved his dipstick.
https://youtu.be/HEByBM__Xq8
Pretty slick! I imagine other forms of stick-um in the straw might work also.
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  #44  
Old 01-21-2018, 03:45 PM
filmore filmore is offline
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
This guy has a good solution that retrieved his dipstick.
https://youtu.be/HEByBM__Xq8

That looks like a good idea to use a straw, but I'd worry about dropping that in as well. Instead of a straw, you could probably get some tubing from the hardware store in a longer length.
  #45  
Old 01-21-2018, 03:50 PM
Projammer Projammer is offline
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Engine oil dipstick tubes have small diameters. While there's an outside chance that either tool, when closed, could fit into one, there's essentially zero chance that the claws/jaws could spread far enough to grab anything.
Exactly. The tool you're looking for is a laparoscopic forcep.

But I's till try removing the tube first.
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  #46  
Old 01-21-2018, 06:15 PM
jasg jasg is online now
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Originally Posted by Translucent Daydream View Post
If the stick has iron in it and the block is aluminum, you could possibly get a rare earth donut magnet that is small enough and tie some strong fishing line to it and lower the magnet into the hole and fish it out. DO NOT LOSE THE MAGNET.
One of my most used tools (I'm clumsy) is nut and bolt retriever - a powerful rare earth magnet on a telescoping shaft (think radio antenna).

Like this at Amazon.
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  #47  
Old 01-21-2018, 11:01 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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The problems with a magnet are:

1) It will be difficult, maybe impossible, to find one small enough to fit down the dipstick tube and at the same time be reliably retrievable;

2) If there is one small enough to fit it's unlikely to be powerful enough to pull the dipstick up against its friction inside the tube;

3) If it were powerful enough it's likely to be thwarted by the fact that tube is steel which will dissipate the magnetic attraction.

If someone can get that method to work, great! I will not be holding my breath, however.
  #48  
Old 01-21-2018, 11:18 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasg View Post
One of my most used tools (I'm clumsy) is nut and bolt retriever - a powerful rare earth magnet on a telescoping shaft (think radio antenna).

Like this at Amazon.
I have one of those, it's great. I was lucky enough to buy it a few days before I needed it. I dropped a screw somewhere really stupid. Like in between the cylinders on my motorcycle (not IN them, like down behind the carb or something). Somewhere that I probably could have gotten, or pushed it the rest of the way through, but it would have taken a while. With that it took about 2 seconds of blindly poking around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Projammer View Post
Exactly. The tool you're looking for is a laparoscopic forcep.

But I's till try removing the tube first.
Well, that's just great, now I gotta buy another tool that I'll carry around in my trunk for some day. It's not even that expensive. Someone here (Gary?) mentioned in another thread a little flashlight on a small flexible head. I think he mentioned it in a thread about looking inside a door panel. Naturally I grabbed one the next time I saw it at Harbor Freight. It's garbage because it's from Harbor Freight, but I don't even put it away, I must use it at least once a week. At some point I'll pick up another one.
FYI, in Harbor Freight's Defense I think I got a two pack for $10, one of them I already threw out.
  #49  
Old 01-22-2018, 01:40 PM
HoneyBadgerDC HoneyBadgerDC is online now
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I really liked that straw trick with 5 min epoxy instead of waiting all night.
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