By Lloyd L. Beverly, ASE Master Technician – Certified L1 & A9
What do pay phones, dynamite saxophone solos in rock ‘n’ roll songs, and dipsticks have in common? They are all becoming extinct.
As our lives get busier and vehicle technology advances, the idea of popping the hood and checking fluid levels with a dipstick is becoming a thing of the past. And vehicle manufacturers have realized this paradigm shift and are not including dipsticks on many new vehicles.
Onboard computers and sensors are now responsible for monitoring fluid levels and can alert you if there is a problem. But what happens if there is a faulty sensor or some other electronic glitch? Without a dipstick you have no idea what the actual levels are. And in some cases you can’t even add fluid without crawling on the ground or having to take your vehicle to a repair shop.
I am not sure why dipsticks are being phased out, but my hunch is that manufacturers don’t want drivers doing anything to their vehicles other than driving them…and one day that will be phased out too! Modern-day vehicles are being designed and built in such a way that the do-it-yourselfers can’t do much. This means that any and all service and repair work will need to be performed by a car repair expert.
Currently, if you need to top off your nitrogen-filled tires, check the transmission fluid in your Ford, replace the battery in your BMW, or change the air filter in your Mercedes, you may have to bring your car to a knowledgeable repair shop, since all these items usually require some sort of special tool or process.
It is important for consumers to be as educated as possible about their vehicles. Yes, advancements in vehicle technology are making things better, but it also comes with a price tag. Not having dipsticks, for example, means increased costs to check and top off the fluid levels because you will need a computer and/or vehicle lift.
Some vehicle manufacturers still utilize dipsticks, but with a twist. For example, if you own a late model Mercedes-Benz or Chrysler vehicle with a Mercedes transmission and want to check the level of the transmission fluid, you will find a fill tube with a plug at the end. In order to check the transmission fluid level, you have to purchase the actual dipstick, which is considered a special tool and not included on the assembly line. But don’t leave the dipstick in the fill tube, as it is designed to extend out from the fill tube and would be damaged if you closed the hood.
If you are an avid automotive enthusiast the words “dipsticks not included” could be “fightin’ words.” To the 21st-century modern tech savvy generation, it could be just another “out with the old in with the new” scenario – a sign of the changing times. The lesson here is to be fully aware of the technological changes in the automotive industry. Remember, an educated consumer is a happy consumer.
Do you know where your dipstick is?