Q: What is the proper
way to interpret the reading on the oil dipstick? I have a 2017
Chrysler 200 that takes six quarts of oil. The fill line on the
dipstick has a section that reads “safe zone.” The car was
driven with the oil at the bottom of the safe line for about 3,000
miles. Was any engine damage possible? Is that safe zone simply a
reserve area to protect from potential engine damage? My car
actually came from the factory with the reading halfway on the safe
zone, and I was told that was quite normal.
— K.T., Schaumburg,
A: The best way to
read a dipstick is to remove it, wipe it off, reinsert it and then
remove and read the oil level. But I suggest you wait a few minutes
after shutting off the engine to allow the oil to return to the oil
pan. Your initial reading was, perhaps, a bit under full. No damage
would have occurred.
Q: Twice l have had
close calls trying to stop on snow-covered roads (both times at low
speeds). When brakes were applied, the car continued on without
slowing. I’m assuming the ABS was confused by the complete lack of
traction. This seems at odds with its intent and dangerous, as well.
— J.H., Chicago
A: It is possible,
but unlikely, that all four wheels can stop rotating. If so, the
vehicle may slide. Keep in mind that the ABS usually does not kick
in below 12-15 mph. But we have driven on ice, even on the hockey
rink at Notre Dame, and the ABS kicked in while braking. If this is
a persistent problem with your vehicle, have it looked at.
Q: You may have
misled with your reply about the Grand Cherokee (that pulled to the
right). I have a Jeep with auto lane assist. It absolutely pulls if
you tend to drift over the lane marker, and the boyfriend was
correct in saying it is a safety feature in case the driver falls
asleep. It steers you back into your lane. Not sure if this is the
case for the person who wrote, but it should not have been dismissed
as a joke!
— J.B., Lake
A: I must agree that
lane departure prevention systems may help the vehicle steer. But
since the person’s question was about a persistent pull to the
right, we would not overlook crowned roads as a possible cause.
That’s unless she constantly rides near the center line of the
Q: In response to
your item about why speedometers go up to 140 mph, it is probably so
that manufacturers can use the same instrument cluster in all
markets. 140 kph translates to a little less than 90 mph, which is a
reasonable top speed for ordinary cars. And everybody but the U.S.
has gone metric and thinks 140 kph is — well — ordinary. Just a
thought, but it seems reasonable. You write a good column —
that’s why I read it.
— D.D., Chicago
A: For the most part,
the speedometers in cars for the U.S. market display both mph and
kph with the metric numbers a bit smaller. With a glance, the driver
will see both. But with digital speedometers, the driver may have to
switch between scales.