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What Should I Do If My Car Runs Out of Oil? 

How to Prevent Common Oil Change Complications

If you're wondering, “what should I do if my car runs out of oil?” you need to do the following:

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  • Pullover immediately and turn off the engine
  • Reach out to the road assistant or a towing company
  • Get your vehicle towed to the nearest repair shop
  • Top off the oil level and fix any faulty component causing the significant reduction in oil level 

Engine oil is one of the very critical fluids in any vehicle. Without the proper level of oil, your engine can get self-destructed in no time. As a driver, you need to keep an eye on the engine oil and prevent it from dropping below a certain threshold.

There are some situations where your engine oil drops significantly, and in some cases, your car runs out of oil. If that happens, there is a huge risk on the engine, and if you didn't act immediately, your engine could get damaged, and you will deal with time-intensive, costly repairs to get your vehicle running again.

If you're wondering, “what should I do if my car runs out of oil” this article is purposely for you. It highlights the main purpose of oil in your engine and provides you with some action items to take care of when your engine runs out of oil. 

Why does my car need oil? 

The combustion system consists of a lot of interacting moving components. These components require some lubrication to prevent friction and overheating. If the required lubrication was not provided to the engine or the components within the combustion system, the engine temperature increases significantly and exceeds the optimum working level.

When the answer is temperature increases by a certain amount, the engine can easily get destructed by itself. Thus, maintaining the proper oil level is a must in any moving components around the engine or any other part of the vehicle. 

Oil provides the necessary replication to the engine and prevents it from overheating. Oil must be maintained at a certain level to achieve the amount of temperature reduction required. Otherwise, the oil will fail to do its job, and the engine can get the structure even if it has the best cooling system. 

What should I do if my car runs out of oil? 

Running out of oil is one of the worst situations your engine can face. Therefore, as a driver, you must act immediately to prevent engine damage when your car runs out of oil. Let's take a look at some of the actions you can do to deal with the car running out of oil situations

  • Pullover and stop the vehicle 

If you are driving and notice that your engine is running out of oil, you need to pull over immediately and turn off the engine. However, if you're driving on the highway, you might not even have time to take the nearest exits, and you probably might have to stop here and take the safest shoulder close to you. 

  • Get in touch with a road assistant or mechanic shop 

Once your parked and stop the engine, you need to get in touch with your mechanic or your insurance road assistant service. Since the vehicle does not have any oil, the situation is critical, and you cannot drive the car even one foot.

Thus, consulting and reaching out to the road assistant or a mechanic shop will provide you with some guidance on what to do next. They will to your vehicle to the nearest repair shop or top off the engine's oil right at your location. 

  • Get faulty components repaired 

A sudden drop in the engine's oil is not normal, and you will usually see a gradual reduction in the oil level. However, if you saw that your vehicle suddenly ran out of oil, there might be an issue causing it.

Usually, the sudden oil reduction could be a problem with some major severe oil leaks due to breaks in the oil lines or another major mechanical problem.

Whichever the source of the problem is, you need to take care of it immediately. Sometimes the road assistant might not resolve your issue because even after topping off the oil, they won't get the problem resolved. After all, oil keeps leaking.

Keep in mind that there might be some major mechanical problems causing the oil to leak this severely. Therefore, be prepared for some high repair costs on some occasions. 

How long can an engine run without oil before damage? 

Engine oil has a very critical component for your engine to work properly. Driving without oil is absolutely a big mistake. Your engine might still function for up to 30 minutes, but it will immediately fail right after the 30 minutes threshold.

Therefore, there is no way, and no automotive experts recommend you continue driving your vehicle without oil, even for one foot. 

Can I add oil to my car?

Although it's better than nothing to add some oil to the engine when running out of oil, it's not the only solution because there are other things to take care of.

For example, when you top off the engine oil, you need to replace some surrounding components like the oil filter. Also, the significant reduction in oil to this point might be related to another major problem that could not be resolved by just topping off the oil level.

Therefore, it is still not good to continue driving your car if it ran out of oil. Instead, you'd better consult a professional mechanic who has a better idea about what needs to be done, and you will most likely have to tow the car to the nearest repair shop if you couldn't get a roadside assistant. 

Can low oil damage the engine? 

Absolutely. Running your engine with very low oil can engine destruction in no time because the engine has many moving components that get in touch with each other, requiring lubrication. Without the proper lubrication, these components can cause a lot of friction resulting in so much heat that it could damage the engine immediately.

Therefore, if you don't start your engine's oil is getting low, you don't want to get to a point where your vehicle runs out of oil because it's a killing point to your engine. 

What are the signs of low engine oil? 

Since engine oil is a very sensitive component in any vehicle, it's important not to wait until the vehicle runs out of oil. Therefore, keep an eye and ear for symptoms indicating that your engine's oil is getting low and close to a serious point. Let's take a closer look below at some of these common symptoms:

  • You notice oil pressure warning lights on the vehicle’s dashboard
  • You might smell some burning oil
  • The vehicle engine will make weird noises
  • You will notice that your vehicle's overall performance dropped significantly
  • You'll see that the engine's temperature is increasing significantly 

Does the car make noise when oil is low? 

Yes, when your vehicle does not have the right amount of oil, the engine's moving components will get in touch with each other making some weird knocking, grinding, and clunking noises that you will notice immediately. 

If you ignored the low engine oil and passed a certain threshold, the engine's rod can break and make even louder noises right under the hood. 

Why is there no oil on my dipstick after the oil change?


If you inserted the dipstick in the oil reservoir and noticed no oil on the stick, you did not top up the oil properly. It could also indicate that you didn't insert the stick to the end of the reservoir, which means that there might be some oil at the bottom, but the stick is not reaching it.

Either way, inserting the dipstick in the oil reservoir and not noticing any oil indicates that you must top up the oil and add more oil. It might be a problem with some oil leak in the vehicle, especially if you change your vehicle's oil. On the other hand, it might be that the oil is just leaking immediately after topping it up, which means that you must take care of the other problem that could be causing the oil leak. 

Why is my car losing oil but no leak?

There might be some situations where you notice that the oil level is dropping significantly, but you can't see any signs of oil leak under the vehicle. That is not rare because it might be related to an internal leak, which you cannot see.

Therefore, even if you don't see any signs of oil leak under the vehicle, this does not guarantee any internal leak. Thus, you must consult a professional mechanic and inspect the vehicle immediately to determine the exact cause of this internal oil leak. The mechanic should be able to identify the culprit and fix it if needed. 

In general, if your car is losing oil, you must fix the problem immediately to prevent paying thousands of dollars to get the engine replaced. 

Will a car not start because of low oil? 

Starting problems are not usually related to battery, alternator, starter motor, etc. However, if your vehicle does not have any oil, the engine might seize, causing the car not to start. Therefore, the short answer is yes; low oil might prevent your car from starting

Can you fix a seized engine?

Unfortunately, when the engine is seized, you are in a very critical and severe situation. It is not simple to say that you can fix the seized engine because it will cost you thousands of dollars, and in some scenarios, replacing the entire engine might be a better option for you.

That's why many people prefer to get a new vehicle instead and sell this one to another potential buyer. This way, they save themselves time, effort, and money. 

Can I add new oil to the old oil?

Yes, you can top off the old oil with oil without any problem. However, you still need to do a complete oil flush at certain intervals depending on your vehicle's type. In addition, you might need to refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual to get a better idea about the frequency of replacing the entire engine oil. 


Engine oil is one of the most important fluids maintained at a proper level in any vehicle. If the engine's oil dropped below a certain level, it could cause engine overheating and, therefore, engine self-destruction.

When your car runs out of oil, you must pull over and stop your vehicle immediately. Then, consult the road assistant or a towing company to get your vehicle towed to the nearest repair shop. After that, inspect any faulty component and fix it if needed. Then, make sure to top off the oil level to the right threshold. 

There are situations where the engine all drops because of an internal mechanical problem requiring major mechanical repairs. If your car needed very costly mechanical repairs beyond your budgets, it might be the right time now to solve this car Cash Cars Buyer instead of wasting your time and effort getting it to work. 

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  • Describe your vehicle’s type and condition
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