General Question

rjb1983's avatar

Drove car 2,000 miles past oil change date, no oil in car; have I ruined my car?

Asked by rjb1983 (158 points ) January 28th, 2011

I very stupidly misread the reminder sticker for my oil change and drove 2,000 miles past my oil change date. When I brought it in today to get the oil changed, realizing my error, the mechanics said it was completely out of oil. However, at no time did an oil light come on (not sure if this matters, though). The engine ran fine, too, up to this point, but perhaps sounded a little rough at times.

Have I completely ruined my car?

It’s a ‘98 Nissan Sentra with 110,000 miles. Trying to figure out what to do.

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24 Answers

Austinlad's avatar

Probably not, but you haven’t done it a lot of good, either. Get thee to a shop.

YoBob's avatar

Yep, what @Austinlad said…

thorninmud's avatar

If you didn’t have any oil 5,000 miles after an oil change, then you already had a problem. Either you’re burning oil through bad valves or you have a leak somewhere. Blue smoke from your exhaust? Big oil spot on the ground where you park?

john65pennington's avatar

When rubbing parts have no oil in your engine, its metal to metal and i am amazed your engine did not lock up on you. your car has a lot of miles on it, which means you are going to have to check the oil dipstick each time you purchase gasoline.

Go ahead and pay to have the oil changed. your engine oil really only needs to be changed every 7,000 miles. the sticker states every 3,000, but thats because they want your money. 7,000 miles is okay. i have changed my Toyotas oil every 7,000 miles and it has 266,000 miles on it. also, ask or buy a high mileage oil filter and motor oil. its salvation for your engine with this many miles.

rjb1983's avatar

I just talked with the mechanic again doing the oil change; he said there was ¾–1 quart of oil still in the engine… It’s probably still screwed, though, right? :(

john65pennington's avatar

I find it hard to believe your engine only had this little oil in it and was still running. do you trust this mechanic?

rjb1983's avatar

@john65pennington So do you think the car is screwed, with that amount of oil left in the engine?

Scooby's avatar

All you’ll ever need to know about engine oil, RIGHT HERE, I hope it helps….. :-/

YoBob's avatar

Sounds like your mechanic is trying to sell you a total overhaul.

If you were out of oil it would take very little time for your temperature gauge to rise through the roof and/or for your engine to seize up. The fact that neither of those have happened (or you probably would have mentioned it) means that you had sufficient oil to keep from melting your engine.

Put in new oil and a filter, make sure that you aren’t seeing blue smoke out of your tail pipe (an indication you are burning oil), and if the mechanic tries to sell you anything more say “thank you very much” and get a second opinion.

rjb1983's avatar

@YoBob – Thank you. I’m getting the impression perhaps the situation is not as dire as I thought, i.e., I can stop crying now.

blueiiznh's avatar

I agree with others and think that this “mechanic” stating that is only playing on your fears.
Running it low is one thing, but you cannot have run completely dry and still drive the car. It would seize.
Have the oil and filter changed at most. Watch for signs like stated above. Poor performance, hard to start, get a second opinion with someone you trust.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The low pressure light did not come on, right? Is the car blowing blue or white smoke? No?
Then, you’re fine. It is a ‘98 with 110k miles on it. Keep running it until it croaks.
Promise you will check the oil periodically, OK? If you are going through a quart every 800 miles, you can relax on the oil changes. Just keep it filled.

rjb1983's avatar

@worriedguy Thanks. That makes me feel so much better.

rjb1983's avatar

@worriedguy Sorry—the answer is no, no low pressure light came on, no blue/white smoke, etc.

But the engine was making a weird vibration noise when accelerating, maybe for about the past month. That’s the thing that worries me.

tedd's avatar

-You can go past 2000, or 3000 miles between oil changes. Oil and car parts are manufactured at such a high level today that the new recommendation should be around 7500 miles.
-You can operate your car on LOW oil for an extended period of time. This is what you did, as unless the light it out your car never really had NO oil. If your car had had literally NO oil, you would have seized the motor without a doubt in my mind.
-You did not destroy your engine, but more than likely you shaved a few miles off the length of its life.

rjb1983's avatar

@Tedd Okay, thanks. Really glad to hear this.

When you say “low oil” would that include ¾ – 1 quart of oil in the engine (the dipstick was empty)?

tedd's avatar

@rjb1983 For a smaller engine car yes it would include that. I’m assuming your sentra is a 4 cylinder 2.5 or less liters, and that would definitely fall into that range. Its an imperfect science as you never want to run your car on low oil. But it CAN survive pending how much oil, how long, the condition of the engine already, etc, etc. Its just not good for it in the long run (adds wear and tear very quickly).

MissAnthrope's avatar

I just want to say as an addition that you will want to check your oil periodically, because if it does go completely out of oil, your engine will seize up and there is no turning back or saving the engine at that point.

My car burns oil, too, the mechanic said it was only a little and not to be worried about at this point, just to keep an eye on oil level.

RocketGuy's avatar

If the oil light did not come on, the engine was never starved of oil => no major damage. Maybe the oil was degraded after 5000 miles, so you might have gotten more wear than expected. So I agree with @tedd on that.

Go with @MissAnthrope ‘s advice and check the oil level yourself once a month.

woodcutter's avatar

those quicky lube places will almost always say your oil was low and will document this on the paperwork. This is to free them of any liability if in fact one of their min wage monkeys forgets to put the right amount of new oil in and the motor does indeed squeak later on down the road. Or they will take the dip stick out of the block as soon as the motor stops and show you how low it is. They won’t tell you but all oil will show low at that point in time because it takes a few minutes for oil to drain back to the pan where the tip of the dipstick is. I busted so many of these hacks that I gave up and went back to just doing it myself. Check your oil often even when the car is new and especially right before you go to get it changed and see if you don’t bust them too. It’s pretty easy, and fun.

john65pennington's avatar

Rib1983. Do not trust engine oil lights. some work, some do not. I am still convinced that your engine would have stopped running and lock itself, if you it only had ¾ of a quart of oil in it. I am not there, so this answer is just in general.

RocketGuy's avatar

I have had a car run low on oil. The oil light came on every time I made a turn (centrifugal force caused what little oil move to away from the pump inlet. I gently drove straight to Pep Boys. Total time that the oil light was on – maybe 15 sec. The dipstick showed no oil when I got there! The engine was fine after I put in 4 qt of oil. So a few seconds of oil light is OK, continuous red light means your engine will soon be destroyed.

woodcutter's avatar

really unless the engine suffers a catastrophic breach there should be no reason for someone to discover really low engine oil one day. If it is a oil burner then it is expected through consumption that more oil will need to be added regularly and probably is a good idea to have a qt. of oil in the car to keep it topped off from time to time. All cars will use oil if you keep them long enough. It’s just a good idea to peek under the hood at least once a week if for no other reason to keep a mental picture of what things look like under there. During these inspections there is the possibility of discovering something else wrong or about to go wrong. It’s too easy to get complacent because the car isn’t that old and take it for granted all will be well. It’s just one ounce of prevention being worth one pound of cure.

tgkeith's avatar

If you hear knocking at a fast idle, you may have a rod bearing that is bad. If you hear knocking when the engine first starts, it could be a main bearing. In either case, don’t drive it.

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