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What Causes Low Engine Oil Level? All Possible Reasons 

What Causes Low Engine Oil Level? All Possible Reasons 

Understanding what causes low engine oil level is an important skill for any driver to prevent running vehicles without the right amount of oil, leading to engine damages. Here are some of the common causes that you need to look for: 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


  • Engine leaks

  • Problematic PCV valve

  • A faulty piston ring 

  • A blown head gasket

Your engine oil is one of the most important fluids that must be maintained at a certain level. This oil is responsible for lubricating the internal components of your engine to prevent friction and therefore eliminating any overheating that could damage the engine.

It is OK for your engine to lose some oil over time of use but, it is very concerning if your engine loses too much oil in a short time. Understanding the main causes for dropping your engine’s oil is a must. When the engine oil drops below a certain level, it leads to major problems that can quickly result in engine self-destruction.

This article highlights the main causes for low engine oil levels. It also provides you with symptoms to keep an eye for, indicating a low engine oil level. This way, you will know when it's time to visit the mechanic and prevent major problems from getting worse. 

What causes low engine oil levels? 

When you notice any of the symptoms that indicate a low oil level, you must take immediate action and have the problem resolved to prevent major damages. Understanding the main causes for low engine oil can help you prevent the situation from happening and prevent surprises with major repairs that you're not ready for.

Here are some of the common possible causes for low engine oil levels

  • Engine leaks 

One of the most common causes of low engine oil is an oil leak through the engine's different components. This leak might be minor where you can't notice it, and your vehicle won't show any warning sign on the dashboard. Unfortunately, even if the leak is minor, calling it can result in some problems that could grow over time. Therefore, we almost recommend that you perform an oil level check frequently to detect some of the following signs indicating a minor engine oil leak. This way, you can get rid of the problem without waiting until it evolves into a major car leak.

On the other hand, when there is a very big leak in your vehicle’s engine, you'll notice it immediately. First, the vehicle will throw a couple of warning lights on the dashboard to bring your attention to take care of the problem. Also, considering the different characteristics of your engine oil, you will immediately notice a big puddle of dark viscous fluid sitting underneath your vehicle, which is most likely an oil leak. 

Keep in mind that major oil leaks should be treated differently than minor leaks. This is because, in certain severe situations, your vehicle might not have any amount of oil to help drive successfully without causing any major damages. Therefore, we always recommend that you consult your mechanic about any major fluid leaks in your vehicle and confirm that you can still drive a vehicle to the repair shop's location. 

However, if your mechanic indicated that you must tow the vehicle to the shop, you must do so; otherwise, don't be surprised with thousands of dollars on repair costs. 

  • A problematic PCV valve 

The positive crankcase ventilation system is responsible for revealing any pressure coming from the combustion system and sending it back to the intake manifold for the engine. This way, any pressure or stress from the internal combustion processes does not damage the engine's different components.

Over time of use, the PCV valve can go bad for a variety of reasons. When the valve is not functioning properly, there's a high chance that oil could leak inside the engine’s cylinders can't even burn them within the combustion process. As a result, you'll notice that your vehicle's oil level drops significantly. 

The good news is that replacing the PCV valve is not a complicated process, and if you chose the right mechanic, it shouldn't take much time or effort to be replaced. But the more you ignore the problem, the more it results in damaging some of these surrounding components that might cost thousands of dollars or require replacing the entire engine. 

  • A faulty piston ring 

The piston ring works directly inside the cylinders, and as it works, it rubs against the cylinder walls. As a result, when the piston ring fails, there is a very high chance that oil might leak upwards inside the vehicle's internal components. As a result, you'll notice that the engine consumes more oil than it should, and the oil level drops significantly.

When the piston ring goes bad, you'll notice additional symptoms like blue smoke coming out of the exhaust system tailpipe when that happens and indicates that oil leaves the engine through the exhaust system.

Unfortunately, a bad piston ring requires immediate replacement to prevent further damage resulting in engine self-destruction. 

  • A blown head gasket

The head gasket is responsible for sealing the engine cylinders and preventing any fluids from leaking inside the cylinders. It also prevents any harmful and hot gases from leaving the cylinders and damaging the internal components of your engine.

Over time of use, the head gasket might get damaged due to the severe temperature levels and the other stressful situations inside the engine. Thus, oil might leak inside the engine cylinder, which could drop the oil level significantly. Therefore, if you tried to test the oil level using the dipstick, you will notice that it is much lower than a couple of days ago.

About a blown head gasket is a very serious problem because it not only results in dropping the oil level but can also damage the entire engine, if not the surrounding other components costing thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, replacing the blown head gasket is not cheap, and many drivers give up on their vehicles immediately after dealing with a blown head gasket. 

What are the symptoms of low engine oil? 

Many inexperienced drivers might not even pay attention that their engine's oil is dropping. Therefore, learning about low engine oil level symptoms is an important skill to prevent dealing with major damages that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Here are some of the common symptoms of a low engine oil level: 

  • A warning light indicating low oil pressure 

One of the fastest and easiest ways to know that your vehicle's oil level is dropping is by monitoring the dashboard. Your vehicle's dashboard should throw some errors indicating that the pressure is not at the right threshold. 

  • A burning oil smell

Another common symptom indicating a low engine oil level is a burning oil smell. This is because when the engine oil leaks on hot components, it can't immediately burn any rubber components here; therefore, you'll smell this burning oil-like smell.

Keep in mind that some other internal problems might result in a burning smell but not necessarily an oil burning smell. For example, my bad brake pads or in-transition clutch could cause some of these burning smells.

Therefore, to confirm that the problem is coming from a low engine oil level, you need to use the dipstick, check the oil level, or have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic. 

  • Weird loud noises 

Since the oil is responsible for preventing any friction between the engine's internal components, these components will rub against each other when the oil level drops significantly and cause loud knocking noises. Unfortunately, when your vehicle reaches this point, it indicates a major issue, and you must take care of the problem immediately to prevent high repair costs. 

  • A reduction in your vehicle's performance 

Of course, when the engine does not receive the right level of lubrication, you'll immediately notice a significant reduction in the overall performance. However, a reduction in performance is not one symptom that you can rely on to confirm an issue with a low engine oil level. Instead, this is because the engine's performance can drop due to a variety of other reasons. 

  • Engine overheating 

Finally, as we indicated earlier, the oil is responsible for lubricating the internal engine components and prevent friction that could lead to increased temperature. When the engine temperature increases significantly, your vehicle's engine can get self-destruction due to overheating. 

What to do when your vehicle's engine oil level drops? 

If you notice any of the mentioned symptoms of a low engine oil level, you must act immediately. Depending on the severity of the drop, your response might be a little different.

For example, if the drop in oil level takes time and it's not very fast, it might be a minor internal leak that you can't take care of but not immediately. 

On the other hand, you might notice a significant dripping of oil underneath your vehicle, which indicates a major internal leak requiring immediate action from a professional mechanic.

In general, when your vehicle's engine oil level drops, you should not ignore the problem because it might refer to a major internal issue, and once you detect this issue early, you can save yourself a lot of money. Thus, the first step you can do when dealing with these situations is to consult a mechanic and get some advice about whether you can drive the vehicle to the repair shop or not. 

Can I drive my car with a low engine oil level? 

When your vehicle's engine oil level drops, it is not recommended to continue driving this vehicle at all. Even if the dropping oil level is not major, the problem might worsen the longer you drive the vehicle. Therefore, as we indicated before, you must consult your mechanic and check whether you can continue driving the vehicle to the repair shop or you should tow it instead. 

Why is my car losing oil but no leak? 

As we indicated before, while engine leak is one of the main causes of low oil level, it is not the only cause. There are plenty of other problems that could result in reducing your engine's oil, including a blown head gasket or a faulty engine. 

Thus, to get a better idea about what exactly is causing the drop in your engine oil, you can either use an OBD2 scanner that helps scan your vehicle's internal computer and provide you with a code relevant to the problem. Otherwise, consult your mechanic oh can pinpoint the real culprit causing the problem. 

Conclusion

Your engine oil level is one of the important measurements that you need to check frequently. This measurement reflects the health of the engine, and it might indicate signs of major internal damages.

The oil level must be maintained at a certain threshold, and it should not drop below this threshold; otherwise, your vehicle's engine might experience overheating and, therefore, self-destruction.

Various reasons are causing a low engine oil level, including engine oil leaks, about PCV valve, a damaged piston ring, and faulty or blown head gaskets. While some of these causes might be simple, some of them require very expensive repair costs. Therefore, if your vehicle has an issue with a low engine oil level related to a blown head gasket, for example, it is important to investigate whether it's worth fixing the problem or not by comparing repair costs to your vehicle's overall value.

If you realize that repair costs are piling up and approaching 75% or more from the value of your vehicle, it might not be worth fixing this car. Instead, you should sell your vehicle to Cash Cars Buyer and use the money towards a better vehicle that doesn't have any problems. 

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