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Oil Dipstick tip broke off - need advice/info


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ohhhh boy... need some advice/info on my 1996 Pathfinder VG33 4x4 with 320k miles.  Oil dipstick tip (metal indicator) broke off in drain pan - guess just old did NOT recently pull engine or transmission or remove drain pan etc (like I have seen inquired in some posts elsewhere).  Regardless of the why, its broken off / detached.

 

To retrieve of course I could remove drain pan BUT as is 4x4 would take lots of work like remove/loosen exhaust pipes (yeah right, drill out every bolt likely), remove front differential, support engine and remove engine mounts etc.  Not something I can reasonably consider.

 

I assume the tip is sitting in the oil pan (hopefully the deep part of the sump) and dont see any way it cant go through the strainer (thats good).  But, could the tip get "picked up" or kicked up by the oil churn... is the crankshaft (or any part like the counter balance) bathed in / sitting in oil... which is called a "wet sump?" 

 

Does the VG33 use "wet sump" lubrication?  Is that frickin dipstick tip steel or aluminum (try to fish out thru drain hole)? 

 

Realize no one can give me any guarantee, just looking for some informed info & advice - thanks in advance.

 

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My memory is so fuzzy, that it's very possible I'm wrong, but I thought you could access the bolts the hold the lower oil pan on the vg33 like you can with a vq35. Might be tricky for a hand grab if you have thick wrists but magnets and whatnot should be able to grab the missing piece if it's in the upper oil pan. You'd have to make sure you don't warp or gouge the lower oil pan during removal or you're gonna have to get real serious with the rtv or order a new pan. 

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Given where the dipstick sits, the broken part is more than likely down in the deep part of the pan, and unless the oil pickup screen is damaged or you turn the truck upside down, it can't really go anywhere from there. I'm not sure how you'd get it up in the shallow part unless you whipped the dipstick out like Zorro and it caught on the guide and pinged off just right. It's probably fine--but, yeah, if it was mine, I'd want to at least know it was out of harm's way, if not get it out of there, preferably without taking half the truck apart to get to it.
 

If the dipstick is like the one in my VG30, it's a steel cable with a crimped or cast lump on the end of it. I haven't checked but I assume that bit is nonmagnetic, and unless there's a gremlin with a die grinder in your crankcase, I'm guessing that bit has simply come loose (cracked?) and slid off the cable. If that's the case, the magnet's not gonna do crap. I would drain the oil, make sure the lump didn't come out with the oil (long shot), then stick a borescope in there and see if you can find it. You might be able to grab it with one of those spring steel claw tools. Just be careful you don't lose the borescope and the claw tool in there, too.

You asked about wet-sump, so, yes, your engine is wet-sump, but no, that doesn't mean the crank is submerged in oil. I don't know of any engine that does that. For one thing, the crank would whip air into the oil, which is bad for pressure-oiled engines. For another, that would be hell on efficiency (like running through knee-deep water). Even splash-oiled engines (like lawnmowers) keep the crank out of the oil, and throw the oil around using a small flinger sticking off the end of the conrod or a spinning bit geared off the camshaft.

Wet-sump just means the oil collects in the oil pan, and the pump draws it from there to feed the bearings. This works fine for most engines. Racing engines that get flung around a lot tend to have trouble with the oil sloshing away from the oil pump pickup, which causes the pump to suck air instead of oil. Most engines control this with baffles and deeper sumps. Dry-sump systems pump all the oil from the pan to a tank, which provides a more reliable source of oil to a second pump, which feeds the bearings.

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Thanks for the thoughts.  I did drain oil and stuck in borescope, so far havent seen it but the scope flops around and not easy to navigate.  Going to try again today/tomorrow, tape it to a wire to keep it from flopping etc.  From my best judgement I think the tip (in my case is/was @2" long and rectangular maybe 1/8" each side) is in the sump part... still trying to convince myself.  Stay tuned - thanks.

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2nd attempt at borescope - was able to see the tip, it is/was in the deep part of the oil pan.  I could not retrieve with borescope hook attachment. 

 

I was also able to see the oil pickup tube strainer (at least one side of it) and the strainer (mesh) looks intact.  So the piece is approx 5inches away from the oil pickup tube which has an intact strainer/mesh on it.  Also, from part catalog I see the oil pickup tube has 2 of 90deg bends not sure if this piece (1.5-1.75inch long) could actually make it through the bends?... anyway this is quite the tortuous path.  I feel better.  Time to fill up with oil and head down the road, and find a new dipstick of proper length.  Thanks for the thoughts.  

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