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How to Tell if an Engine is Damaged From no Oil

March 18, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

Many factors can cause damage to a car Engine, but how do you tell if an engine is damaged due to no oil?

It’s not new that a lack of oil flow to the engine component will increase friction among moving parts of the system and cause a knock.

Likewise, coolants mixing with oil could also reduce the viscosity of the motor oil, thereby reducing its power.

Engine damages caused due to no oil are often costly to repair because several components are broken, burnt, or damaged.


This is why I’ll advise any car user to perform a regular oil check to refill the oil level when it gets low.

Nevertheless, if, as a mechanic, a damaged engine is brought to you and you want to decipher if the damage results from insufficient oil, then this article is for you.

In this article, I’ll show common signs that tell you when you’re running low on oil and how to know if an engine is damaged from no oil.

How to tell if an Engine is Damaged from no Oil

Since oil helps reduce friction on moving parts in the engine, a seized or knocked engine is the most common way to tell if an engine is damaged from zero oil.

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You’ll also notice the moving metals in the engine have been grounded, overheat, and become unresponsive; this is often accompanied by excess smoke from the engine.

Here are a few notable signs to let you know about damage if there is no oil.

1. Grinding Metal Sound

Due to no oil to keep the engine’s moving parts lubricated, they’ll start to rub on each other, producing a high strange metallic sound from the engine.

This collision may further produce rattling or clunky noises, which, if not addressed on time, could lead to breaking, wear and tear, and permanent engine knocking.

2. Excess Smoke from the Engine

Due to the reaction between metals, you will notice excess smoke in the engine compartments, and this could also escalate to a fire outbreak if it’s not addressed.

Worst of all, your engine could become stiff and unresponsive if you continue driving in this condition.

3. Burning Oil Smell

As discussed in our article on why coolants get mixed with motor oil, excess heat from the engine can damage the head gasket and result in oil leaks.

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The small results from oil dropping on the moving parts undergo friction, causing it to burn.

4. Overheating

Once your engine starts Overheating, there’s a 90% chance that it results from low oil.

You can monitor your temperature gauge to help you notice the situation before it goes beyond your control.

5. Fire on the Hood

As the famous saying goes, “There’s no smoke without a fire,” if the pressure on the metallic component increase, it could result in a fire outbreak in your engine.

So, the best option is to turn off the engine once you start seeing smoke from the hood.

6. Engine Seizure

When your engine is no longer responsive despite cranking it, it has been seized.

This is also a green light for permanent engine damage, especially when the components crack through the cylinder.

But don’t fret yet; it could also be a random Piston or crankshaft crack.

What to Do if Engine Damages from No Oil?

Firstly, ill advise that you refill the engine with fresh oil and sew if it responds.

If it responds, then you have nothing, then you can manage it for the meantime before replacing parts that were pretty damaged.

However, if the engine doesn’t respond, you’ll need to seek the help of a mechanic or tow your car to an auto repair shop.

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Symptoms of Low Engine Oil?

While most of the above symptoms depict an engine deficiency in oil supply, let’s look at the promising signs of a low engine oil level.

  • The check Engine light turns On.
  • Overheating Engine
  • Clanking metal sounds
  • Engine becomes slow
  • Oil and coolant leaks
  • Smoke from the Hood

How Often should you check your Engine Oil Level?

Advise from car experts recommend that you check your Engine oil level once a month.

To be more careful, you can perform an oil check once you want to embark on a long trip and refill if necessary.

Should I Check my Engine Oil When the Engine is Hot or Cold?

It’s essential to check your Engine oil within 10 – 30 minutes of turning it off so the oil can settle and give you an accurate reading.

How Long Can I Drive Without Engine Oil?

How long you can drive a car without engine oil depends on the make of the engine.

You can check out our article that breaks down all you need to know about driving without engine oil.

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.