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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Los Angeles
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dipstick or gauge?

Hey gang, got a question for you, hoping to get a little advise.

A little background: '79 911 Targa. The car is in great running condition, 179k original miles. I bought this car about 4 months ago, love it. I'm still learning about the car and this is my first oil change.

I brought the car to a reputable euro specialty shop in Los Angeles for what I *thought* was a routine oil change. I got the oil change and left. About 10 minutes later as the car was warm I noticed the oil needle was just about at the top of the oil gauge. This was a shock to me because the needle has been at the very bottom since I got it. From what I understand to get the oil level you warm it up, get the car to a level surface, take the cap off while the engine and after 30 seconds check the oil -- that's your level. I've heard don't pay too much attention to the gauge and just make sure the oil level is about the middle of the stick (not above, not below). So I've kept the oil around the middle of the stick and the gauge (which I don't pay attention to) ends up on the very low side.

So I called the shop about 15 minutes after bringing it to them and asked them about it, saying the gauge was much higher than I've ever seen it and asked if they used the gauge or the stick to get the level. They said they use the gauge and not to worry about it, it's right and that's that. I figured these guys must know what's up because they're the authorities right??

Well now I've driven it a few times. Today I smelled a little burning oil so I decided to check the stick (yes I know I should have done this, I just trusted they know this stuff), but the stick is like 2 fingers ABOVE the top line. I shut down the car and called the shop, here's how it went:

Me: Did you guys know the oil stick is about two fingers over the max?

Guy: Listen man, it's right. Get your car to a level surface and look at the gauge. It should be middle to high. Don't worry about the stick.

Me: Don't worry about the stick?

Guy: Yeah, look at your gauge. I don't know what's up with your stick, it could be broken. Where do you get your information from anyway??

Me: Pelican Parts Forum mostly.

Guy: (chuckles and some mumbling) Listen man, it's right. I know it's right because we did it.



Final note: I got out of my car tonight and someone came up to me after I parked it. Usually I hear something like, "Beautiful car man", but tonight it was "Hey, do you realize there's smoke coming out of your engine compartment?"

WTF!

"And by the way, beautiful car."

Anyway, just let me know what you guys think I should do at this point.

THANKS PELICAN!
Old 08-07-2012, 08:07 PM
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ROW '78 911 Targa
 
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Remove at least one quart of oil before it gets all over everything. Just siphon it out of the tank.
Old 08-07-2012, 08:14 PM
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I don't suppose you'd consider it a public service to name the "reputable euro specialty shop" in question, would you? Or PM me if you prefer?
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:20 PM
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Sounds like the bigger dipsticks are the guys at that shop....
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:30 PM
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NEVER rely on the gauge. Guy who told you that is an idiot.

Dipstick always, with the engine warmed up and level.
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:30 PM
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Trust the oil hot, level ground, dipstick method.
Old 08-07-2012, 08:31 PM
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+1... Name of the shop will tell a whole lot.
Old 08-07-2012, 08:32 PM
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I only use the gauge once I'm on level ground after a good long drive and with the engine fully up to temp. And even then I double check with the dip stick. The guys at the shop you took it too are idiots and bad business people. You don't tell the customer that his overfilled oil tank is right because you filled it. You tell the customer to bring the car back and correct the problem. Please do us all a favour and post the name of the shop so others can avoid their awesome services.

As for your oil level, when cold and on a level surface there should be little to no oil on the dipstick. The gauge should also be at minimum. With your gauge being as high as it is at startup I'm surprised your engine didn't spew oil all over. It's lucky for you. The easiest way to correct the issue is to use one of the cheap squeeze bulb fuel pumps you can get at the local auto parts or hardware store. Just feed the siphon into the oil tank and pump a liter or two of oil out. Warm the car up, check the level, and if necessary pump out more or top up.

J
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:43 PM
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Thanks, it's great to have some experts to turn to when something like this comes up. Targamaniac I'll use that method tomorrow, thanks.

"I know it's right because we did it" - who says that?? Euro Specialists say that.
Old 08-07-2012, 08:51 PM
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If the Valley isn't too far, I'd recommend TRE in Van Nuys for any future work.
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Old 08-07-2012, 09:08 PM
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Thanks Noah, that's only 16 miles from where I live, but with LA traffic it could be over an hour. If there are any shops closer to the Silverlake area that'd be ideal!
Old 08-07-2012, 09:16 PM
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In addition to the level ground, oil hot & the car running....wait 60 seconds+ and let the motor idle so that oil has time circulate and normalize in the tank.

A 'specialty' shop that does not know that you can bet doesn't know a lot of other things
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arne2 View Post
Sounds like the bigger dipsticks are the guys at that shop....
Haha,
Glad I read this, always wondered if the dash gauge read true (ish)
Old 08-07-2012, 10:43 PM
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my car sits on 4 level concrete pads in the garage

after a 60 mile hy run my gauge = stick level

My car needs 5 miles during the summer to warm up the oil. Tranny oil needs more

During cold winter my car oil needs 10 miles to stabilize

just starting a cold, winter or summer, engine and letting it idle or high idle does not warm my oil
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by combatic View Post
In addition to the level ground, oil hot & the car running....wait 60 seconds+ and let the motor idle so that oil has time circulate and normalize in the tank.

A 'specialty' shop that does not know that you can bet doesn't know a lot of other things
This above is the correct way to check your oil level. Then after you get to know the car you can use the gauge but ONLY after you know that the dipstick and gauge are accurate.

Also I see the same thing you mentioned, the oil gauge moving more right after an oil change than before. Still, the dipstick is the most accurate method, but only when its warm, engine idling and car level.
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:50 AM
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The wifes new soccermom/suv a '12 VW Touareg TDI doesn't even have a dip stick. In order to check the oil level you scroll thru a few screens on the central infotainment system. There is a plug where a dip stick could be installed I'll have to see if I can get one from the dealer.

Maybe the OP's service guys are too cool new school.?.
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Old 08-08-2012, 07:52 AM
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They probably couldn't find the dipstick, so they used the gauge.
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Old 08-08-2012, 08:19 AM
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This is Porsche 101. I hope you were talking to the "scheduler" and not the guys who work on it. Otherwise don't go back.
Old 08-08-2012, 08:28 AM
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Even though my guage reads true to the dipstick level, I always take the dipstick reading after a drive to confirm the oil level.
I too was told by local "import experts" that they had put the proper amount of oil in my car when I first bought it. With a turn of the key the oil guage pegged to max. They reassured me they had put the proper amount of oil in. A quick trip down a few blocks and I was smoking bad. After a few choice words with the experts and having them drain off 2 quarts of oil I left never to return. That's why I now try to do what I can myself.
Old 08-08-2012, 09:04 AM
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They are right, the Porsche dipstick is notoriously unreliable. All sorts of things happen to it. It heats up and expands around 4 inches, which throws your readings off. It contracts 2 inches in the winter, which throws your readings off. It is a very technologically primitive dipstick, for example it has no adjustability to compensate its length for altitude variations or whether you are running regular or synthetic oil. It has no electrolytes.
Old 08-08-2012, 09:11 AM
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Old 08-08-2012, 09:11 AM
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