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How to Prevent Damage to My Engine That Ran Without Oil

by David Montoya

Oil keeps your engine lubricated and prevents overheating. If you're low on oil or, worse yet, run your engine without any oil, you're probably in for serious problems. Running your car without oil can cause extensive damage to your engine. If you're lucky enough to not have completely ruined your engine, there are a few things you absolutely must do to prevent further damage.

Step 1

Stop driving your car.

Stop driving your car. If the engine has no oil you have no business driving your car. Even a few seconds of running without oil can ruin the engine.

Step 2

Add oil to car.

Add oil to your car before you turn on the engine again. The new oil will run through the engine and properly lubricate all the parts if you have to drive your car again. You shouldn't drive the car until it is inspected, though, since you likely caused extensive damage already.

Step 3

Tow car.

Tow your car to the nearest mechanic. You may drive if absolutely necessary (see Step 2) but it's likely you've caused extensive damage to your engine by driving without any oil. Even if you add oil before your next drive, you could make the situation worse. The best course of action is to get your car towed and have a mechanic inspect the damage.

Don't drive car without oil.

Never drive without oil in your engine again. This sounds obvious, but if you drove your car without oil you undoubtedly ignored several signals from your engine that something was very wrong. First, the engine will give off a grinding sound. This sound is caused by the engine parts actually grinding against each other due to the lack of lubrication. Second, the engine will begin to stall. Do not attempt to keep driving when your engine is quitting on you. Third, the engine temperature gauge on your dashboard will skyrocket (the friction between the moving engine parts creates significant amounts of heat). Fourth, you'll likely begin to see smoke emanating from the hood. Any of these signs means you need to stop driving immediately.


  • Educate yourself about proper oil maintenance to prevent a recurrence. You should inspect your oil level often by examining the oil dip stick under the hood. Oil changes should occur every three months or every 3,000 miles for most cars (check your owner's manual for your car's specifications). Regularly check under your car for oil leaks which can lead to low oil pressure.

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