Reasons for No Oil on Dipstick but Oil in Engine and Solution

Imagine a human body without blood! That’s what it means to drive a car without oil. Meanwhile, the dipstick is a tool designed to help you ensure that your car’s engine doesn’t run out of oil suddenly.

However, having no oil on dipstick but oil in engine can be pretty tricky. It can be due to dirty engine oil, dirty or blocked dipstick, or oil leakage. Some other malfunction may be responsible.

So, take a few minutes to read the article till the end, as virtually most of the reasons for experiencing this situation and the solution to the problem have been exposed.

no oil on dipstick but no leak

What Is Dipstick?

A dipstick is a long piece of metal, usually thin, with a plastic or rubber handle. It is inserted into a vehicle’s engine to enable you to ascertain the quantity of oil in the engine. 

As the name implies, “dipstick,” the component appears like a stick (nevertheless, it is not wooden), which helps you reach out to the deep (bottom) of the engine because that’s where engine oil usually settles.

So, you will have to identify the dipstick under the hood, remove it, clean the metal part with a piece of cloth, and reinsert it into the oil filler hole. After that, you will remove it again and inspect the tip of the long tiny piece of metal to ascertain the oil level in the car’s engine.

The availability of oil plays a vital role in lubricating your car’s engine moving parts to prevent the occurrence of friction and enable the smooth running of the vehicle. Therefore, understanding how to check the oil level using the dipstick is a skill that every car owner must learn.

Learning to use and read the dipstick can be extremely simple but important. If your car has no oil on dipstick, it is a serious signal you must not joke with at any time because that may be the slightest sign that your car’s engine is at risk.

Causes of No Oil on Dipstick but Oil in Engine

There’s no one specific cause of no oil on the dipstick, as there are several reasons why you may experience this situation. Typically, the first suspect to blame when you don’t find oil on your car’s dipstick is a low oil level.

However, if your dipstick is not showing oil, but engine has oil, you most likely have one or more of the following issues.

  • Shorter dipstick
  • Oil leakage
  • Cracked head or block
  • Worn piston rings or seals

Usually, the dipstick is designed with two distinct marks – “Low” and “Full.” It is best to have the oil level at the full mark close to it.

Meanwhile, if your vehicle’s dipstick is designed with a crosshatch style rather than these two marks, then it is recommended to have the oil level around the mid-point of the crosshatched area.

Otherwise, if you have low oil on dipstick below the minimum point or above the maximum, it indicates an abnormality that can be detrimental to your vehicle. If your dipstick is dry after adding oil, it could be you have a shorter dipstick in the engine. Most importantly, you must check the oil sump and the filter to see if you bolt them properly. It could be you have dumped the oil on the floor.

What Happens If Your Dipstick Is Dry?

You stand the risk of your vehicle’s engine moving parts wearing out quickly due to improper or lack of lubrication that triggers excessive heat. This is because a dry dipstick reveals that your engine is suffering from a low oil level, which is responsible for poor lubrication.

Improper lubrication of the engine’s metal parts is the quickest way to experience friction, leading to engine knocking as well as overheating. When this occurs, it can cause severe damage to the engine or a sudden engine seizure.

Such engine problems can get you stranded when you least expect them. Imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Engine problems are one of the most expensive repairs you can do. Sometimes, the cost may be similar to the price of a new engine. In other cases, you may be required to get a brand-new engine. No oil on dipstick engine damage can be costly to remedy.

That’s why you must cultivate the habit of constantly checking your engine oil level using the dipstick. It is the surest way to know whether your vehicle is healthy or not with respect to the available oil level, besides other feedback from your computer system (especially in modern cars).

What Should I Do If No Oil On Dipstick?

If you suddenly discover no oil on the dipstick in your car, it is important to add engine oil immediately because you most likely are running low on oil. However, the quantity of oil to be added depends on the amount of oil already in the engine and the crankcase oil capacity.

However, if you notice that the absence of oil on the dipstick is traceable to a shorter dipstick, oil leakage, etc., attend to the particular problem as soon as possible to avoid unexpected engine damage.

For instance, if your car’s oil is empty after oil change, you likely have oil leakages from the oil filter or the oil sump. So, ensure to check these areas and address the problem.

On the other hand, if you have no oil on dipstick but no leak and suspect oil shortage, it is high time you change the engine oil.

Meanwhile, if you find out that the oil dipstick is dry due to any reason, contact a professional auto technician to diagnose and fix the problems immediately to avoid severe engine damage.

How to Solve No Oil on Dipstick?

Encountering no oil on your vehicle’s dipstick can be a worrying sign, indicating a potential risk to your engine’s health. Fortunately, with the right approach, this issue can be resolved efficiently. Here are some solutions that can be implemented:

Top Up the Oil

The immediate step should be to replenish the oil to the recommended level. Always have a spare bottle of the specified engine oil for your vehicle in hand. Consult your vehicle’s manual for the recommended type and amount.

Correct Dipstick and Tube

If there’s a mismatch with the dipstick or tube, perhaps due to a recent repair or replacement, get the right part for your vehicle. An incorrect dipstick might not be able to measure the oil level correctly.

Repair Leaks

Check around the engine for any visible signs of oil leaks. If any leaks are identified, take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic to repair them. Addressing leaks promptly will prevent further oil loss and potential damage to the engine.

Address Oil Consumption Issues

If your vehicle is consuming oil excessively, it might be time to take it to a professional. They can check for worn parts or malfunctioning systems that might be causing the oil to burn off or leak.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your vehicle can help prevent this issue in the future. Have your vehicle serviced at regular intervals to ensure the oil pump and other components are working efficiently.

Seek Professional Advice

If the issue persists, consult with a professional mechanic. They can help identify the underlying causes of the problem and suggest the best course of action to resolve it.

How Long Does It Take For Oil To Show Up On Dipstick?

Oil should appear on the dipstick within 1 to 5 minutes of parking your car. In other words, stopping your vehicle and checking the oil level immediately after you put off the engine is not ideal.

The hot engine can burn you or the reading may not be accurate from the dipstick because the oil has yet to settle in the pan. So, it is advisable to wait at least 5 minutes before checking your car’s engine oil level with the dipstick.

That way, the oil would settle in the oil pan, where the dipstick would get an accurate reading of the oil level. Plus, ensure to park on level ground before checking the engine oil. Otherwise, a sloppy surface would result in an incorrect reading.


An experience of no oil on dipstick but oil in engine can be challenging since the primary cause of a dry dipstick is a low oil level. Nevertheless, virtually all the causes of having a dry dipstick while oil is present in your car’s engine have been exposed in this post.

Can’t see oil on dipstick? Your responsibility is to identify the unique reason why you’re facing this challenge by carefully diagnosing the issue.

Whatever the problem, ensure to contact an expert auto technician to fix it immediately, as delay can be dangerous, especially when it concerns an engine problem.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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