Car people, need your advice

I went to check my oil the other day and the dipstick did not slide out easily as it normally does. I tugged, jiggled, and twisted (big mistake) it, only to have the plastic ring snap off in my hand. Didn’t these used to be all metal?

My efforts to remove the ring-less dipstick have failed. I first tried needle nose pliers, but there was nothing of substance to grab onto.

Next, I drilled a small hole in the center of the stuck plastic part and screwed in a drywall screw, thinking it would be a breeze to pull it out with pliers. Of course, it wasn’t. More yanking, tugging, etc. until I actually pulled the head off the screw.

Which is appropriate, cuz I now feel like I’m screwed.

Would a mechanic have a way of extracting the dipstick. Any clue on how he or she would get it out?



Well, the good news is that the grab-ring isn’t responsible for keeping the dipstick from sliding down into your engine’s moving parts. It is usually bent and twisted against the tube it slides into in such a way that it won’t gravity-feed into the destruction zone.

Next: is the dipstick tube a separate physical device that sits next to your engine block and, if so, can it be unbolted from it? It’s been awhile since my mechanic days (especially the paid days, that was a long time ago… there was lead in the gasoline and people had carburetors and contact points and stuff like that) but I seem to recall a lot of variation between makes and models, but my own car, at least, sported a physically distinct tube that the dipstick slid down into, and the whole tube would unbolt. Not that it would have been easy to slide out of the way with all the other paraphernalia bolted onto the block, but that wasn’t where I was going with this… the tube’s upper end isn’t filled with oil under pressure or anything, it’s just a hollow soft-metal cylinder, or at least mine was. It should be okay to drill carefully into the side of it close to the top and see if you can access the dipstick with needlenose from the side and then inch (or more accurately, “millimeter”) it a twitch at a time upwards until you can reach it from the top.

Oh… I’m assuming the dipstick itself isn’t plastic even if the ring was?

I’m sure a professional mechanic can remove the dipstick. How cheaply/easily it can be done is another matter. With all the variations in dipstick tube design found in modern cars, I doubt it’s possible for anyone to give an accurate assessment without actually looking at it.

Have you tried a heat gun or hairdryer?

Since any advice on this issue is going to be specific to the particular engine you are dealing with, it might be helpful if you would mention the manufacturer, year model, and engine size (or, at least, the number of cylinders).

My guess is that your dipstick is just broken and a mechanic should be able to get the old one out and replace it. If the car is less than about 5 years old, I’d take it to a dealer. Over 6 years or so, I’d seek an independent mechanic who said he could fix it once you described the issue for him.

Correct. Metal dipstick, plastic ring. Did not think to look to see if the tube is a separate, bolted-on design, good idea.

Had not thought of that, either. But at this point, there is nothing to latch onto even if it frees up a bit.

2010 Dodge Journey, 4 cylinder.

The plastic part is likely only a half-inch or so down, and it is this part that would be wedged in, causing the problem. I’ve considered cutting a half-inch off the top of the tube, but that would render future dipsticks inaccurate.

Thanks to all.


If you look at this picture, a single bolt (14) holds the dipstick tube (13) to the front of the engine block. Take that bolt out and wiggle the o-rings (15) free and you can remove the whole tube and dipstick assembly together.

It would, but you could inscribe your own line after filling the crankcase. Or make a sort of collar for the top of the sawed-off tube, which would probably be a better idea overall (I’d use a tomato-paste can, slice down the side with tin snips or equivalent, attach it with a hose clamp)


Thanks to @AHunter3:

I first drilled a very small hole into the side of the tube. Next, I drilled a slightly larger hole - as this was occurring, the plastic hub popped up like a prairie dog. I was able to remove it with my fingers at that point.

And now I have an access window for the next time it happens.

Thanks, AHunter3 (and everyone else)!



I think you may have problems. It looks to me that the hole extends below where the o-ring on that plastic part seals against the tube. That means you won’t get a good seal and air will leak past into the crankcase. If you are lucky, it won’t be enough to cause the Check Engine Light to come on, but it might. In addition, that hole may catch on the o-ring, cutting it and cause it to fail.

I hope I am wrong, but if your engine light lights up in the next few days, or if you notice driveability issues, that would be my first place to look.

Just wrap some tape around it. Or if you’re lucky, you might find some rubber tubing that will slip over it snuggly.

I know you can’t tell from the photo, but the plastic nub fits very snugly and extends well below the drilled hole.

I’m not sure where the O-ring rests, I’ll take a look and maybe wrap some electrical tape around the tube as @Elmer_J.Fudd suggested.

I’d worry about this too. It would let unmetered air into the engine and cause it to run lean. That means potentially generating a lot more oxides of nitrogen, hurting the catalytic converter, and in the worst case, running combustion temperatures that are so hot you melt the pistons. .If you get a check engine light soon, I would go to a junkyard for a new dipstick tube. Call ahead to make sure they have one in stock.

Nonsense. It would let air into the crankcase, not into the induction system. It will have zero effect on rich/lean and all the consequences thereunto. You’re right that unmetered air into the induction system would cause the concerns you mention. But that’s not this situation.

A few thoughts.

  1. Be sure to deburr your hole in the dipstick tube before you slide a new dipstick down there & tear the shiny new o-rings on that nasty burr at 3 o’clock in your pic. Also clean the crap outta the outside of that dipstick tube.

  2. When you drilled that hole, some metal shavings went down the dipstick tube. If you’d already removed the tube from the engine, good for you. If not, those shavings are now in the bottom of your oil pan waiting to be circulated through your oil filter and into the engine. Might be appropriate to change the oil and filter pronto. Ideally best to drop the oil pan and clean it thoroughly to get any shavings sitting in the sludge that will dislodge and circulate once the engine is hot at high RPM & vibration.

  3. Assuming the dipstick was still installed on the engine while you drilled …The fact the dipstick was stuck until you drilled the hole then it popped up make me suspect you had a vacuum in the crankcase. Which implies the PVC valve is frozen closed. Easy to fix and will bring you a bunch of good results.

The O-ring you are worried about is there precisely for the purpose of maintaining engine vacuum.

What Are Some Common Causes of Code P0174?

A vacuum leak is very common. It could be a torn PCV hose, a torn Intake Air Boot, or even a broken seal on the dipstick (the dipstick is a part of the PCV system and if it does not seal, too much unmetered air will enter the engine). Don’t rule out a sticking/leaking EGR Valve or leaking EGR or Intake Manifold Gasket. If it is a V6 or V8 engine and the code is only on one side/bank, it could be a defective Intake Manifold Gasket or cracked/leaking manifold.

Here is an experiment you can do yourself to test for yourself.

Or, just leave the dipstick out for a while and see if you get a check engine light.

“Nonsense. It would let air into the crankcase, not into the induction system. It will have zero effect on rich/lean and all the consequences thereunto.”

Sorry, but this is incorrect. The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system connects crankcase vapors to the induction system. On many cars, removing the oil filler cap or even the dipstick results in a noticeable change in idle due to the additional unmetered air.

Thank you for the correction.