This is a bit embarrassing. Since I got the car I've found it hard to read the oil level. The dipstick takes a turn as it enters the engine, and no matter how gently I pull the thing up, it seems that enough oil smears on the stick to make the reading unclear. Note that with other cars I have had no trouble reading the oil level.

With this car I stare at the stick, and have no idea what the level is. Once a garage overfilled it, that was easy to detect. Now I suspect it's low. Even if I clean the stick with a towel, and cycle it, oil ends up above the true level.

So: for a VW, with a dipstick that curves into the engine, what's the best technique to accurately read the oil level?

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1 Answer 1


As with all vehicles, ensure the vehicle is shut off and on level ground when doing your reading. Next, with rag in hand, pull the dipstick and clean the tip of the dipstick with the rag. Next, re-stick your dipstick and pull it out again. Check the level of the oil.

For your dipstick, you are looking for oil between the two ends where you see the crosshatching in the center. The dipstick is made to catch oil in this area so you can detect the level. Specifically, you are looking to see if there is oil in the bottom groove (where the crosshatched area meets the tip). It is designed to easily trap oil in this area. Next, look up the crosshatch area to see that the level is somewhere between the bottom groove and the top groove, and not beyond. The crosshatch pattern will capture oil so you can more easily detect its position. I have personally found it easiest to rotate the dipstick back and forth until you can see the reflective sheen of the oil.

In your case it appears the oil is just touching the lower tip of the dip stick and is not even up to the "safe" zone. You need to add oil, a little at a time, until the oil is seen in the area between the two grooves. What I mean by "a little" is less than 1/4 of a quart (or litre if in a metric country). Most bottles of oil have a sight window to see how much is left in the bottle. If you don't get it up to the safe zone on the first try, put another 1/4 of the quart in. When you are checking the oil between pours, be sure to clean the dipstick off, re-stick it, then pull it out for the read. You don't know if the oil drains down the dipstick on its way to the pan, so this is a good idea to ensure a good reading. Also, be sure you are following your vehicle manufacturer's recommendation for weight of oil. If you know what brand and weight of oil was used at the last oil change, it's a good idea to use that brand as well. If your VW has a turbo engine, it is very important to keep your oil up to level, as a lack of oil will cause premature bearing failure in vital turbo parts. If this doesn't get you the info you need, please let me know.

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