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Dipstick Deliberations


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It's something we all do, some frequently, others when the mood strikes. A simple act of owner maintenance. Right?

Or is there more to it than that? Bear with me on this one. There are some subtleties I'd like to explore, and I'm asking for the opinions of a select group of automotive enthusiasts with a wide range of knowledge and experience (yes, that would be you, dear reader and fellow forum member).

First the basic question of just when to check the oil level. Some say perform the check on a warmed up engine, after waiting several minutes for the now warm oil to more readily drain into the sump (this is in fact what the Lotus owner's manual specifies). Others say that the most accurate check would be after the car has sat overnight, giving extra time for a complete "drain." To be sure, the difference ought to be minimal, but noticeable (we're looking for precision here). I have seen this recommendation in print more than once. It begs the question as to whether or not the manufacturer set the dipstick marks to reflect this level.

Obviously all dipsticks display a range for the oil level, a minimum and a maximum line (or in some cases a "dot"). This implies that anything within the range is acceptable. However, different vehicle manufacturers give differing advice on how to treat this range. Lotus says to favor the higher mark. Whether this is because better lubrication is achieved by means of this greater quantity, or that it simply gives a greater "margin" of possible consumption (via burnoff or slight seal leakage) loss before reaching the low mark is one of the questions being asked. A greater quantity would also give a greater heat absorbtion volume, but might also be seen to generate a greater load on the oil coolers to bring this temperature down.

All manuals warn against "overfilling." Lotus says this is to avoid "aerating" the oil (I assume this is caused by excess "splashing" by the crankshaft within the sump, but am unsureJ), thereby reducing its lubrication ability. Some say it's to avoid "blowing" the oil seals.

At least one car I own states in its manual that the addition of fresh oil (to replenish the loss caused by consumption) should be delayed until the level has reached the low mark. No explanation is given as to why, but my guess is that this permits the greatest "ratio" of fresh to old oil to be maintained. The question again arises, is there any detrimental effect from operating the engine with the oil at the low mark. And delaying the topoff runs the risk of waiting too long, and letting the oil level drop below the minimum. Also, the engine is being operated for a greater length of time, on average, with "old" oil, prior to the "fresh" infusion.

And last, but not least, there is the question of "comsumption" itself. I have owned cars that never (at least for the first several years) used oil. I have owned others that required topping off at regular intervals even from new (although the interval was never so frequent as to cause undue concern). There is at least one school of thought that maintains that high performance engines burn oil as a matter of course. If you don't have some (slight) smoke emanating from your exhaust, than something is wrong. Very counterintuitive to me. I imagine this to be a result of the particular tolerances selected for the piston oil control rings, but leave this open to discussion.

On a final but related note, I would like to hear your thoughts on the "warm up period" from a cold start. I think we can all agree that the majority of engine wear occurs between the time the motor is first fired up and when it reaches its designed "operating temperature," i.e., the point at which the moving part "tolerances" are most closely met, due to heat expansion. My question is how best to reach this temperature without excess wear. Simply sitting in the driveway at idle before departing is said to cause greater wear (due to the extra time at reduced temperature). On the other hand one has avoided higher revolutions (hence more wear motion) when cold. Driving straight away will obviously warm the engine up more quickly, but unavoidably requires a higher average RPM. There has to be a "best practice" compromise. Ideally driving uphill at reduced revs but greater load would be one answer, but impractical for most. We don't all live in a crater.

So, my anorak brethren, let's hear your input! <_<

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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I think that the Lotus favored higher levels of oil in the crankhousibg is due to the fact that a dry sump is missing on our cars. We all know that once a fair amount of high-G cornering is done our engines run the risk of loosing the oil replenishment at the pump! So the more oil available the better!

The burn-off at the turbos surely is the other main concerne, especially once modded turbos are in use. My car has surely raised its appetite for the black-gold :-)

Keep it oiled!

Olaf S400 project www.esprits4.de

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There are some basic rules regarding oil and the maintenance of your vehicle.

For our American cousins, more especially those from Texas, it is important to note that we all on this forum own, drive or at least have interest in in a certain make and model of car, A Lotus Esprit, related to cars that has won the world constructors championship and the Indianapolis 500 THIS IS NOT A CADILLAC. it ain't for crusin'

If your spouse is not threatening divorce or at least withdrawal of privileges you are clearly not driving fast enough, you should not allow cigarettes, drinks or food in your car, since if driven correctly it will be impossible for your passenger to hang onto these items, in fact if anyone over the age of 12 willingly gets in your car a second time you are clearly not driving fast enough, if you get caught for speeding you are clearly not driving fast enough, if you keep your oil level on the lower mark and do not encounter oil serge, and thereby fluctuating pressure you are clearly not driving fast enough.

You should be changing your oil every 5,000 miles or 6 months which ever comes sooner, don't be tight replace the filter always, use the best quality oil recommended, it's cheap when compared to an engine rebuild. This is BRITISH engineering it does not consume oil <_< (actually mine doesn't) check the level on a flat surface, wait 10 minutes after shut down, done at the "Gas" station do not expect to see the level at the top mark.

Warm up period is over once the oil pressure starts to drop at idle, it's hot enough. This will be after the temperature gauge has got to 80.

And if you over fill it, it will pi$$ the overflow on your driveway.

:D

Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it. (Tom Leahrer)

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".....done at the "gas" station do not expect the level to be at the top mark."

Ha! I almost brought that up, Roger, but didn't know how many of us still remember the "full service" days when filling station shysters would present you (still seated in the cabin) with your dipstick showing it at or below the low mark, despite the fact that you had topped it off only hours before. <_<

And judging from your OZ standards, I must be driving way too slow. Will have to work on that. :D

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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This is BRITISH engineering it does not consume oil

<_<:D

I remember years back at Santa Pod a guy was lining up with a twin engined Norton drag bike.

A marshall turned to the competitor behind him and observed sagely, "Thats the ultimate in British engineering you know, not one oil leak but two."

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One is inclined to think of mountains and molehills....I'd personally go for the "high" mark on the dipstick, mainly because of surge...in fact, one car I owned, that was how I judged when to top up!! If the oil prassure went down during hard cornering, time to put some in!! It was a wreck of a Mini, with valve guides so worn that pouring oil in the top could mean filling up a cylinder with oil, as it just ran down into the engine....starting involved removing the affected plug, operating the starter, and watching the nice new oil spurt forth over whatever happened to be in front of the car!! Once it was my mother.....(!)...come out with the issue cup of tea at an inopportune moment.

As far as warming up is concerned, one could always fit an oil temperature gauge and be certain...but I should think that after 10 minutes worth of driving it should be pretty much OK. Thinking about it, I've usually done at least 10 miles below 3000 rpm before using any real performance; maybe distance driven could be a better guide than time, as that should warm up the gearbox oil as well. I'm rambling again.. must be senility...

Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been." - Albert Einstein

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About warming up periods.

I don't know if it is just the old fashioned way I was brought up, but it I always have mechanical symphathy in mind with all things automotive. So, from my old 3.2 Carrera I used to own, to even my new Fiat Panda Cross (1.3 turbo-diesel), a little warming up for a minute or so I think is always good for the oil to warm up and circulate. Especially here in Switzerland. I also hear Jay Leno's voice in my head too about warming up the engine a little.

For the Esprit, I allow even as much 5 minutes to idle. It kinda also reminds me of pilots heating up their engines before taking off. (Yes, 100% anorak.)

By the way, not to hijack the thread - what do you guys feel about oil additives?

Best,

Etienne Botes

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Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!!!! :w00t: Full marks, you've really got them going - and you knew you would. Woodwork cracks and out come the anoraks!

I presume your thread was for a bit of a joke, just to see who would take the bait and treat it seriously.

I could have waited to see how many more serious replies you got on such a ridiculous question / topic but i'm too impatient.

There is no exact level, which is why there is no definate line. Instead there is a zone to be within. (I think this may be a clue).

Its not the same as setting timing or torquing a bolt - which are supposed to be pricise.

Anyone who feels that oil should be measured to the last millelitre - dont let me change your mind, but I wont ask you to service my car as I wouldn't be able to afford the number of hours you'd need !!!!!!

Just make sure it is fully synthetic for max protection and get it fully warmed before going mad.

P.S NEVER SERIOUSLY OVERFILL THE OIL BECAUSE IF IT REACHES ABOVE THE LOWER LEVEL OF THE CRANK SHALT OIL SEAL (REGECTOR) IT COULD SEEP OUT INTO THE BELLHOUSING AND CONTAMINATE THE CLUTCH. The only cure will be a new one - Very costly.

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Regarding the warming up process, when we were working on the RS500 and Sierra Cosworth 4x4 we had to run standard Ford durability tests. One of these was called the "Butch" test where a freshly-built engine was put on a dyno. After running for up to a minute to set the idle, the engine was taken up to 6,000 rpm, full-throttle and held there until the water got up to 100 C. When it did, the engine was flushed through with cold water until the outlet temperature reached 20 C. This was done 5 times and then repeated 5 more times with the engine running at 6,500 rpm, full throttle. After this, the engine was stripped and, if the pistons had not scuffed, it had passed the test. (This thermocycle test has since been superceded by the deep-thermocycle test where the engine is flushed with chilled water to bring the outlet temp to 0 C, I think.)

When he first heard of this test, Mike Costin said it was stupid and questioned who would be such an animal to drive their car like that. Come lunchtime or the evening, he would jump in his car and disappear down St. James Mill Road flat out!

An interesting thought about that test is that the pistons get up to temperature while the block is still cold so the pistons are bigger than the bores, i.e. they are being squeezed by the block. You could hear the engine note change when the cold water went in.

S4 Elan, Elan +2S, Federal-spec, World Championship Edition S2 Esprit #42, S1 Elise, Excel SE

 

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Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!!!! :P Full marks, you've really got them going - and you knew you would. Woodwork cracks and out come the anoraks!

I presume your thread was for a bit of a joke, just to see who would take the bait and treat it seriously.

I could have waited to see how many more serious replies you got on such a ridiculous question / topic but i'm too impatient.

Hmmmm......lemmee see......9 months on the forum, 3 posts......clikity clack, buzzzz, whirrrrrr (does heavy math, crunches the numbers)......equals 1 post every three months. Yup, took the bait allright. Mission accomplished! :w00t:

Guess that's one of the occupational hazzards of one too many tongue in cheek posts, Ricky. Many will assume all of them are not to be taken seriously. Serves me right I suppose.

Amazingly enough, this particular topic was put up to generate some knowledgeable feedback. A close read of my original post will show my agreement with the acceptability of any level within the range marks. You're right. You can't "torque" down the oil level to a precise foot pound amount. Still, there is room for technical "philosophies" to manifest, and I am genuinely curious as to the thoughts of others on the topic. Afterall, this magical substance's single molecular layer is all that stands between being a happy camper and finding a pile of molten metal in the engine bay. :(

Cheers,

John

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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Wasn't it serious? I thought it was serious, I took it seriously, as I take all your posts John. I mean we could attack the topic to it's full potential, follow the real doctrine on the topic. Thus:-

Rule 1 Drain oil following every usage of the vehicle, remove and discard the filter. Be sure to raise the nose of the vehicle higher than the sump to facilitate draining the oil coolers.

Rule 2 Prior to next usage take appropriate fully synthetic engine oil, I recommend Castrol Edge Sport 10/50, and heat to eighty degrees C before syphoning into vehicle, I suggest slightly less the the prescribed quantity in case you have not got all the oil out, this will prevent overfilling. Remove spark plugs and spin motor to circulate oil and gain pressure.

Replace spark plugs and fire engine, do apply throttle until oil gauge neddle goes to the right side of the gauge. Do not go over 2000 rpm until engine has achived operating temperature, for this reason an oil temprature gauge is a must. Now check the level on the dipstick and add acordingly.

Now technically and correctly speaking this proceedure should be gone through each and every time the vehicle is required to perform a cold start.

The problem is .................. I keep hearing those imortal words of John Macenroe, "You cannot be serious"!

Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it. (Tom Leahrer)

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Roger, you are absolutely positively psychic! How did you know? Why, this is in fact the very procedure I have been following since acquiring the vehicle! Except that I have only been able to find Castrol 5W40. I take the additional precaution of using laser leveler instruments to assure the car's longitudinal axis to be at a perfect alignment of 90 degrees to a plumb bob pointed directly toward the center of the earth to ensure the most anorakicly (is that a word or not?) precise check of the oil level. I even factor in the oil to dipstick contact angle of the meniscus using the Young-Laplace equation. :o

Alex, in an effort to better understand "how to use your own dipstick at your age" I have elected to take my research studies to Thailand, as I have heard that there is quite a dipstick industry to be found there. :)

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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missread your post I thought you said Young-Lapdance equation, the mind boggles as you move on to Thailand...

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Friedrich Nietzsche

find me on Tripadvisor

http://www.tripadvis...mbers/espritguy

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Oh, and I almost forgot to add that, having grown tired of having to remove the engine cover each time to gain access to the stick, I have modified the entire setup by snaking a significantly longer dipstick and tubing internally to the top of the wing via the right support strut. Don't even have to lean over.

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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I now have this mental picture of a radio controlled Rothmans Le Mans Porsche I bought my then 5 year old daughter. When the batteries went flat she would pull it around by the airel, which protruded from the wing! So, any chance a respray to the Rothmans colours?

Just as an after thought I wondered if you had fully appreciated the diversity of this forum and particularly this thread, we have gone from oil changes to lap dancing, other imponderables from Thailand and not to mention the unmentionable cigarettes.

Great work, with such focus I can see a future for us in politics. :)

Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it. (Tom Leahrer)

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Maybe it's just an American cultural thing, Roger, but when my son's radio controlled F-40's batteries went flat I purchased some new ones for him. :)

Yes indeedee, this thread has gotten way off track, raising the question does one need to feel any social remorse for threadjacking one's own thread, or is that assumed to be a priviledge of authorship? Incidentally, as you live considerably closer to Thailand than I do, have you any recommendations (street addresses, phone numbers, etc.) for establishments where I might further my research? :o:devil:

And I would agree that our ability to completely disrupt the flow of thought and rational commerce more than qualifies us for political office, and I am looking forward to your election as the next Prime Minister of Australia, as that would then make OZ the world's largest Banana Republic. Never forget your roots (so to speak)! :devil::devil::devil:

Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.

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