The Dangers of Driving with Low Oil Level

At C&S Car Company in Waterloo, IA, we know how important oil is for the efficient operation of your vehicle. This vital fluid absorbs and releases heat so your engine maintains its correct running temperature. Oil enables parts to glide past each other with minimal friction. Having too little or no oil can be hazardous to your vehicle and, eventually, yourself.

What Are the Dangers?

Your engine will continue to run as long as it has some oil in it. However, if you do not replenish the oil level, the fluid will disappear. Because your engine does not have enough lubrication between its parts, they will rub against each other and generate too much friction. These parts will wear down more quickly and generate heat.

Your engine will also run hot because it has no oil to absorb the generated heat. This can cause performance issues, warp components, and cause them to fall out of alignment with each other. Your engine may then blow, which requires an expensive and time-consuming engine replacement.
Finally, the minimal oil in your engine will get dirtier more quickly. This soiled fluid will not be able to circulate and clean the engine, leaving particles behind. These leftovers can grind against moving parts, producing more friction and heat.

Signs to Watch Out for

When your car is running low on oil, you’ll notice or more of the following signs.
  • The oil light comes on. The most common symptom of low oil levels can be turned off if you just add more oil. But, if the light stays on even after topping off the fluid, you may have a bigger problem, such as an oil leak.
  • Oil puddles under the vehicle. You obviously have a leaky hose or a defective connection between the hose and another component. This can lead to a low oil level if you don’t have it already.
  • You hear a knocking sound. When your valve train and camshafts don’t have enough lubrication due to low oil. The sounds come from too much friction on the crankshaft bearings. The sounds may also be due to other causes, such as cracks in the flex plate of the flywheel, which do not affect oil pressure.
  • You smell a burning order. Lack of oil means excess heat from lack of temperature regulation and due to too much friction between unlubricated parts. The high temperatures burn the remaining oil away, producing the odor.
  • The engine overheats. If you notice smoke wafting from under the hood, your engine may be overheating because of the friction due to lack of oil.

What You Can Do

When you discover that you have low oil pressure or no oil, do the following:
  1. Pullover immediately or you risk damaging your engine if it runs without oil. The last thing you want is for your vehicle to break down in the middle of rush hour. Look for a spot that is safely away from traffic and yet allows you to walk to the front of your car.
  2. Turn the engine off so that any unlubricated parts stop rubbing against each other. Wait for the engine to cool to prevent burns when you look at it.
  3. Open the hood and find the oil dipstick. If you don’t know where it is, check in your owner’s manual. Pull it out of its receptacle and wipe off the end. Reinsert it and pull it out one more time. Examine the tip. If the oil is below the minimum, you can either fill up with oil yourself or drive your vehicle to our service center for an oil change. If you see no oil on the tip, you are out of the fluid and will need towing.

For More Help

Do you have any questions about how low oil levels affect your vehicle? Or do you need repairs caused by low oil levels? Then bring your vehicle to the service department at C&S Car Company. We are staffed by brand-certified automotive technicians who can change your oil or take care of more serious problems. To keep your vehicle running like new, we use only parts that are approved by the manufacturer.