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That's it in a nutshell. My guy took a look and said that my antifreeze levels look okay, except the dipstick is charred (!). That would make sense; for the past month or so, whenever we get out of the car, there's a slight burny smell that's gotten stronger recently. It smells like hot plastic, not oil or metal, which would tally with the dipstick being burned (?!).
Twofold question: 1. Why/how the fuck would that happen, and 2. What kind of shop should I take it to? Our local Jiffy Lube is excellent, but I don't know whether this falls under their domain of...dipstick...stuff. Should I try a more expensive full-repair shop? I have to drive a few hundred miles this weekend, and I'm disinclined to let it get any more fucked up, especially not knowing the problem.
Oh, and-- Is it weird for the antifreeze to have a dipstick in the first place? The car is a 2003 Kia Rio, 75,000 miles.