Obstacles to Finding the Right Oil Level

Times Staff Writer

Question: Whenever I change the oil and filter on any of my cars, especially my new Integra, I have a problem determining the correct amount of oil to add. If I add the amount listed in the owner's manual, even after running the engine for a few minutes to allow the oil filter to fill up with oil, the dipstick shows I have overfilled the engine. Should I ignore the dipstick or the owner's manual?G.P.R.

Answer: You should go by the dipstick. It's possible that you are not draining all the oil, no matter how long you allow the oil to drip out of the engine. In addition, manufacturers often specify oil capacity in fractions of quarts, which are difficult to measure. For example, your Integra takes 3.7 quarts. The final problem is that if you don't trust the dipstick, you would never know when to add oil between oil changes.

With today's smaller engines, you should not allow your oil to fall by a full quart before adding some. In your Integra, the loss of a full quart would rob the engine of 27% of its lubricating oil. The new resealable plastic oil containers make it easy to add half quarts to an engine.

Q: I have a new Mazda 323. Recently, my wife washed the car using laundry detergent. Since then, I can see a lot of stained spots on the hood. I used a car wax to remove it, but it didn't work. Do you have any suggestion to remove this stain without damaging the original paint?D.C.

A: It isn't generally advisable to use a laundry detergent on a car. You don't mention the type of detergent, and hopefully the spots or stains are not the result of discolorations from the finish being eaten up. If that's the case, you may have to live with the damage or have the car repainted.

It's more likely that the spots are deposits on the surface. Many paste waxes contain cleaning agents that should have removed those spots. You may want to try a stronger cleaner or polish. Most auto parts stores carry a number of liquid and paste cleaning compounds that contain mild abrasives for polishing a car finish.

You shouldn't confuse a polishing compound with a rubbing compound, which is much more abrasive. When using any of these products, it's best to test them on an inconspicuous area of the car. Many two-stage paint finishes use a rather soft, clear coat that can be easily scratched.

Vartabedian cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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