Dear Tom and Ray:
Can I check my oil with a paper towel or an old towel, or is it best to use a shop towel? I'm wondering if the lint from paper towels affects the oil's protective qualities. — Joan
Tom: No. I mean, if you throw the whole roll of paper towels into the engine, you might have a problem.
Ray: Or if you were wiping off the dipstick by dipping it in a box of cat litter.
Tom: But a tiny bit of lint from a paper towel or a cloth towel won't hurt anything.
Ray: The engine has an oil filter, and anything large enough to cause any trouble is quickly trapped by that filter and taken out of the system.
Tom: And anything small enough to get through the filter is either (A) oil, or (B) small enough to be "absorbed" by the oil and held in suspension, where it can't do any damage while the oil circulates.
Ray: So you can check your oil with a pure heart, Joan. And with the Quicker Picker-Upper, if you like.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)