Causes of no oil on the dipstick

There are quite rare cases that when you remember to check the oil level in the engine to actually find that the dipstick does not have any oil on it.

Usually, then you panic and start checking the oil level again and find that it happens exactly the same, the dipstick has no oil on it. After that, you start to wonder how it is possible for this to happen and the first thing that comes to mind to do it is to look under the car to see if there are oil leaks.

What are the reasons why you don’t see oil on the dipstick?

Very low engine oil level

This is a common cause of why you don’t see oil on the dipstick when you check its level. Somewhere there is a problem and you have serious oil leaks or losses.

In general, many dipsticks do not always reach the bottom, the engine still has some oil left in the pan, but the dipstick does not pick it up. The majority of dipsticks will only pick up the top two quarts, and they will be dry if the oil level is below that.

This means that on most engines, there is only a quart, or maybe a quart and a half of oil remaining in the engines. Bigger engines, however, have a lot more oil than that quantity.

Oil leaks can be seen, when you see a puddle under the car, you already think that somewhere there is a problem, every time you park your car somewhere.

Oil losses however are slightly hard to see because they usually don’t leave any visual traces. These can happen because the engine is so worn-out that the oil is being consumed in the cylinders, leaking due to worn piston rings, or being drawn in through worn intake valve guides and seals.

Another important role here is played by low oil level warning light which does not work properly. This causes the driver not to realize that the engine oil is at a critical level, and this will inevitably lead to serious engine problems that can no longer be repaired.

In extremely rare cases it can happen that after you went to a workshop to do the basic tasks of changing the engine oil and the filters, the mechanic simply forgot to finish this simple task. Although this is a big mistake, I have encountered workers that they were very careless and distracted to fill the engine with oil or added just a very small amount.

You just changed the engine oil

I consider this a rookie mistake. If you just changed the oil and filters and after that you will rush to check the oil level there are high chances that you will not see oil on the dipstick. I know it sounds a crazy, but it can happen. Just let the oil settle for 5-10 minutes and perform the check again.

Wrong dipstick

Another rare case of why you don’t see any oil on the dipstick represents the dipstick itself which does not correspond to that engine. Every engine has its own dipstick, if you change it with another one from the other engine, then you will have big surprises regarding the correct readings of the oil level. Even if you have the impression that, apparently, that dipstick fits the engine, you may be surprised to find that it is not.

In addition to not reading the engine oil level correctly or not reading it at all, there is a risk that the engine oil, at higher pressure, will come out through the place where the dipstick is, because being wrong, it will not seal properly that spot, resulting in important losses of oil and a dirty engine.

What to do when there is no oil on the dipstick?

It is always a best practice to check the oil level frequently and if you do see that the oil level is low enough that it not present on the dipstick, just add the same oil in the engine and perform multiple checks until the level reaches the recommended amount.

If you don’t know what type of oil the engine has, it is best to change the entire oil and filters at an authorized workshop with a type of oil that your manufacturer suggests and also check and repair the potential problems of oil leaks and losses.

Also check to see if your engine has the right dipstick. 🙂


A low quantity of oil will do a lot of damage to the engine. If you are unaware of this issue, you should know that oil insure the engine lubrication, and if the lubrication is poor or not at all, endless problems will occur that will damage the engine entirely.

Modern engines, however, have additional safety features, most of them will simply stall if there is a low amount of fuel in the engine.

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Photo by: Dvortygirl, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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