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Old 09-07-2010, 15:33   #1
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Oil Level on Dipstick Varies Each Time I Check it

I have a 1984 Perkins 4-108 with 2689 hours. It's been running fine. No excessive smoke. Leaks some oil. I check the oil level before every startup. My issue is that sometimes the level is readable (high, middle, low.. whatever) but many, many times I can't get a reading. The dipstick is covered above the marks. I clean it and check again, and again, and again, and can't get a reading. Then, the next time I will get a reading. Then the next three times, I can't get a reading. Etc. Etc. I read on this and other forums about Perkins owners who had fuel leaking into their oil via the injection pump seals. If this is the problem with my Perkins, then why isn't it consistently over the mark when I take a reading? Thanks in advance for your advice.
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Old 09-07-2010, 17:55   #2
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I have a 1984 Perkins 4-108 with 2689 hours. It's been running fine. No excessive smoke. Leaks some oil. I check the oil level before every startup. My issue is that sometimes the level is readable (high, middle, low.. whatever) but many, many times I can't get a reading. The dipstick is covered above the marks. I clean it and check again, and again, and again, and can't get a reading. Then, the next time I will get a reading. Then the next three times, I can't get a reading. Etc. Etc. I read on this and other forums about Perkins owners who had fuel leaking into their oil via the injection pump seals. If this is the problem with my Perkins, then why isn't it consistently over the mark when I take a reading? Thanks in advance for your advice.
There is probably Absolutely nothing wrong with your engine !
Standard practice :-
step #1. remove dipstick, clean off the oil with rag or tissue.
step #2. Replace dipstick, wait a couple of seconds.
step #3. remove dipstick.
step #4. Read the amount of oil.
step #5. Replace the dipstick.
-----
If step #4 reveals low level, add say 1/4 pint (150ml) , leave it to settle in the sump before taking a reading again.
-----
Oil by capillary action will creep up the stick, that's why step #1 important.
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Old 09-07-2010, 18:19   #3
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Many times as you push it in and out...the oil adheres to the sides of the tube.

After prolonged setting......take the first reading when you pull the stick out.

Sometimes the ferrule on the end of the stick will hand up and not allow the stick to go all the way in.....then you add oil......the same thing happens.....then you add oil and it is now overfull.

I have seen a lot of anal-retentive types overfill their Yanmar engines this way as well as "The manual says x quarts and I always put one more in for the filter."

Jiminy Christmas......when the manual says x they mean x....not x+1
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Old 09-07-2010, 20:17   #4
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There is probably Absolutely nothing wrong with your engine !
Standard practice :-
step #1. remove dipstick, clean off the oil with rag or tissue.
step #2. Replace dipstick, wait a couple of seconds.
step #3. remove dipstick.
step #4. Read the amount of oil.
step #5. Replace the dipstick.
-----
If step #4 reveals low level, add say 1/4 pint (150ml) , leave it to settle in the sump before taking a reading again.
-----
Oil by capillary action will creep up the stick, that's why step #1 important.
---
Thanks for implying that I'm an idiot. I know how to check a dipstick. I've been doing this routine for over 40 years. I have not added any oil. One day, it reads between the "min" and "max" lines. The next day it's over the top. Repeated cleanings and dippings show the same thing. Then, maybe a week later, it will be back between the marks. Just thought I'd ask on the forum in the off chance that someone else had experienced the same thing.
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Old 09-07-2010, 20:56   #5
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I've had this happen on a Perkins 4-236. Scared the h out of me. I took the dipstick out and no oil!!!! Added oil and checked and it was over the top!!!

Next time, no oil!!

Jeez. I couldn't figure it out. Engine kept running just fine and then noticed a pool of oil under the engine. Somehow it was leaking enough to pump it out after about 12 hours of running time. Check for leaks and every other means of oil disappearance. If it doesn't smoke then leaking is a possibility.

Hope you can find the problem it is perplexing.

Please, no one is implying you are an idiot. Those who respond have no idea your experience with engines on boats and sometimes assume there is zero knowledge. We have to start somewhere to find out more about you.

kind regards,
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Old 09-07-2010, 21:41   #6
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Many times as you push it in and out...the oil adheres to the sides of the tube.

After prolonged setting......take the first reading when you pull the stick out.
This is a wise answer. If the engine has been sitting for a few hours note the level the first time the stick comes out.

Mine too is a mess of oil all the way up after re-inserting...
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Old 09-07-2010, 23:38   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KenK View Post
---
Thanks for implying that I'm an idiot.
Apologies!!
Absolutely NO intent to imply anything. Had no idea of your experience or knowledge of dipstick readings on that model of engine.
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:36   #8
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Please, no one is implying you are an idiot. Those who respond have no idea your experience with engines on boats and sometimes assume there is zero knowledge. We have to start somewhere to find out more about you.
What he said. No reason to be rude when someone tries to help you.



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Old 10-07-2010, 10:43   #9
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Here's something I heard about this...not too sure if its accurate or not but may be worth a look at... some engines send oil to the oil cooler when the engine reaches a certain temperature and some oil filters have a stop system to keep oil in the filter when the engine stops...maybe a quart or so ( this may depend on the way your engine feeds oil to the filter and the size of the filter ) from the filter and the pipes to and from....this is to ensure oil pressure immediately at start up, but I believe they need a certain oil temperature to work....if you start your engine, run it briefly then turn it off the oil in the filter / oil cooling system may drain into the sump...resulting in higher oil quantity....if the engine has not reached operating temp then the oil will not reach the cooler and may not be held in the filter and show higher operating oil levels. This was what I was told by someone who was pretty clever....at least compared to my low level of oil level measuring intelligence......But whether this is right or wrong, i imagine the varying oil level could be due to the oil being either diverted to the oil cooler when the engine is hot and staying there as the engine is shut down resulting in low readings, or oil either draining out of the oil cooler / filter system sometimes when the engine is cooler depending on operating temperatures off the engine before the check.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:08   #10
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Mexican Mystery Oil

I had this problem with a Volvo - the oil level would rise and fall independent of leaks, burning it, coolers. Turned out to be a leak between the water pump">raw water pump and the crankshaft - there are two seals there and they both failed, so water and oil were interchanging. Hopefully this is not the case here, but check to see if the oil seems emulsified...

Michael
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Old 11-07-2010, 20:20   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KenK View Post
,snip>

Leaks some oil. <snip>

<snip>
The dipstick is covered above the marks. I clean it and check again, and again, and again, and can't get a reading.<snip>

<snip>
I read on this and other forums about Perkins owners who had fuel leaking into their oil via the injection pump seals. If this is the problem with my Perkins, then why isn't it consistently over the mark when I take a reading? Thanks in advance for your advice.

Check the bilge oil very carefully. Does it smell like diesel?

No one here is gonna be able to tell you what is going on with this engine. My wild ass guess would be that the engine is intermittently getting fuel in the oil. When the oil level reaches the shaft seal it blows past the aft seal into the bilge.

If the oil level is high enough you could also get lots of foaming due to the crankshaft getting submerged.

Wanna know what's in your oil? Send out a sample.

This is certainly a tough one.
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Old 11-07-2010, 22:05   #12
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not sure if it stand the same way with marine diesels but with normal ones i was told to put it to the "on" position and wait about 5-10 seconds. then check the oil.
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Old 12-07-2010, 02:55   #13
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If worried about lube oil fuel dilution perform a viscousity flow test this will help find if a fuel / lube oil dilution condition exsists.
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Old 12-07-2010, 13:44   #14
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I don't think any of the answers so far answer the question. I can believe that if you pull the stick out, wipe it off, put it back in and then recheck, that you could get a high reading because there is oil maybe running down the tube that the stick is picking up. But if you do this and then don't get a reading on the stick AND don't any oil AND later there now is a reading then where it go and then come back from?

Is it possible that oil isn't getting into the area of the stick pick up and that you are emptying it when checking it? Then if the engine sits long enough the pickup stick area refills slowly? I have no knowledge of such a thing, just asking.
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Old 12-07-2010, 14:03   #15
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On my Universal M-18, the dipstick will always show no oil level at all unless I pull the dipstick and replace it after about 15 seconds. Other Universal owners told me this is common to many Universals and that a slight backpressure prevents the oil from moving up the dipstcik tube until the dipstick is removed and replaced. Seeing no oil on the dipstick invites near-heart failure everytime, but it has done this for the 11 years I have owned the boat. No leaks, no smoke, never moves off full between changes. Maybe your dipstick is not getting the same seal around the dipstick every time you replace it. Long shot, I know, since you have been doing this for 40 years.
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