The death of the dipstick

October 25, 2023
The death of the dipstick
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If you have switched to a newer car in recent years, then you may well have gone through a rather strange process. At some point you think I must check the oil and then spend twenty minutes looking around the engine bay for the dipstick. Car manufacturers do like to hide them in strange places, but after thirty minutes you are actually so confused you check the owner’s manual and discover that there is actually no dipstick. 


Getting rid of manual dipsticks in favour of sensor monitoring and a digital display warning has been a growing trend with new vehicles for many years. Most believe it started off with BMW and was then followed by Audi and Porsche. The trend has since spread not only to the rest of Europe, but also globally with many Asian and American origin cars dispensing with the dipstick. 

The reason given by most car makers for the demise of the dipstick is that research shows most drivers do not use them. Manufacturers argue that drivers prefer the convenience of an in cabin dashboard warning when oil is required and as such the dipstick is not needed.

The more sceptical may believe that car makers are trying to move drivers further away from any kind of DIY maintenance, so that they need to go back to the dealer even for an oil top-up. Whether this is true or not, getting rid of dipstick does seem to be something that adds complication for aftermarket garages. 

Sometimes it has to be said manufacturers seem to like to use technology for technology sake. The dipstick has been performing perfectly well for hundreds of years and is a simple and practical device. Replacing it with sensors and ECUs is perhaps over complicating something that was never broken.  

Should we be concerned about the death of the dipstick? It is probably inevitable that the dipstick will die off in years to come. It also signals a direction of travel in vehicle design that often seems about locking a car into the dealer for aftercare. From this point of view getting rid of the dipstick seems like a shame. 

Also spare a thought for the huge group of people who are enthusiastic about their cars without having too much mechanical knowledge. Pulling out the dipstick to check the oil was a monthly, or perhaps even weekly, ritual that gave drivers a feeling of satisfaction and control and made them feel closer to their cars. Unfortunately it looks like a ritual that may soon be confined to the history books. 
 
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