When comparing cars to human beings, you can consider oil as the blood and fuel as food. Your car needs engine oil for lubrication, cooling, and cleaning of the many moving parts in the engine which is why you should always make sure you have a sufficient supply of viable engine oil in your car before driving it. It still happens that you are driving your car and all of a sudden, the engine oil sign comes on or you hear knocking sounds and you have to stop the car for an urgent refill after which you have to know how to start a car after it runs out of oil to keep going. This step-by-step guide will help you prevent damage to your engine and start your car if you encounter a sudden low engine oil situation.
Safety Measures to Prevent Running out of Oil
Before we talk about starting your car after running out of engine oil; here are some basic tips to protect your engine from getting to that situation.
- Check For Leaks
Every morning when you pull out of your parking, you should check under the car for any signs of leaks. Engine oil leaks will leave a viscous liquid under the car and that is a sign that your vehicle needs a mechanic to fix the leak before your engine runs out of oil.
- Check oil levels with your dipstick regularly
You don’t have to wait for your engine oil indicator to go off before opening your hood to check the oil. You should check your oil levels using a dipstick every time before leaving, while servicing or when refueling your car. That way, you will know when it needs a refill and prevent a situation where your car runs out of oil in the middle of nowhere.
- Replace Your Engine Oil Regularly
The lifespan of your engine oil will vary depending on the car you are driving. Most modern cars have an oil lifespan of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Your oil lifespan will be calculated by your car based on the number of miles traveled as well as engine speed and other wear and tear factors that affect the usability of your oil. When you have hit the 3,000-mile mark, it would be wise to prepare yourself for a refill.
- Use The Right Type of Oil
When your dashboard shows that your car has low oil pressure, then it means that the pressure from the oil pump is not enough to get oil to all the parts of your engine. This may be caused by the wrong choice of oil. You have to use the oil with the viscosity recommended in your owner’s manual at the right time. For example, oil that is too viscous will flow too slowly and not reach all engine parts while too light will flow very fast but not lubricate effectively.
- Check Your Oil Pump and Oil Filter
If your oil pump fails or has a fault, your oil pressure will automatically drop because it won’t pump enough oil into your engine. The same goes for the oil filter which can get clogged by debris reducing the amount of oil reaching your engine. When you take your car for regular servicing, ensure that these two are checked to keep oil flow into your engine at an optimum level.
Warning Signs of Low Engine Oil Levels
Running out of oil can result in total damage to your engine and even if you stop before the engine is totally damaged. You may observe all the engine oil maintenance regulations and still have low oil pressure though. It is therefore smart to listen to your car and watch for these signs.
- Your Oil Pressure Warning
The oil pressure light on your dashboard is one that you don’t want to come on at any point in the entire lifespan of your car because it always signifies that your engine is in danger. That light only comes on when the oil level in your engine is significantly low which means that damage to your engine is most certainly imminent. You should pull over and get it sorted immediately.
- Low Oil Level on Your Dipstick
The dipstick is always the most reliable indicator of the actual level of oil you have in your engine. You have to rely on it even if you have just added oil to the car. The dipstick has indicators for maximum, optimum, and low engine oil levels. You have to put the dipstick in the tank regularly when refueling or servicing to determine the quality and quantity of oil available to your car.
- The Smell Of Burning Oil
Oil leaks may be hard to detect sometimes but the smell of burning oil is a sure indicator that oil is spilling into the hot parts of your engine. If you smell burning oil, you have to stop the car immediately and get a mechanic to fix it before your low oil levels cause the engine to seize.
- Worsening Engine Performance
For your engine to work properly, all its parts have to be properly lubricated so low oil levels will always affect the engine performance. Low-quality oil may also cause poor engine performance, so if you notice your engine performance going down, you may want to get it checked for an oil change or a refill. If it persists after refilling the oil, then you may have an oil leak.
- An Overheating Engine
Poorly lubricated metal parts tend to heat up really fast. Engine oil is the main lubricant and also a cooler for your engine and when it is in low supply, metal parts will start coming into contact causing your engine to overheat. You should stop immediately, allow things to cool down before checking and topping up your fuel.
- Clunking/Knocking Noise In The Engine
If you hear noise in your engine, it may be caused by lots of different issues but they are all indicators that something is wrong and you have to stop the car immediately. Unfortunately, if you hear the sound and the oil is the problem, chances are that a significant level of damage has already happened, so just adding oil and restarting the car is not an option. You have to get a mechanic to look at your engine.
Step By Step Guide to Starting Your Car After Running Out Of Oil
When you experience any of the above-named signs, you should pull over immediately and allow your car to cool down before opening the hood. You should also avoid touching hot parts of the engine so you don’t get burned. After your car cools down, follow these steps to refill and restart it.
- Confirm The Oil Level
Locate the oil tank cap after opening the hood and open it and then unlock the engine oil dipstick. Clean the dipstick before inserting it into the oil tank to confirm the level. If your dipstick is totally dry or the indicator is close to or below the low oil level marker, then it means you need an oil refill.
- Drain The Remaining Oil
You should be able to locate the drain plug at the center or the rear end of your oil pan at the bottom of your car. You will need to use your crescent wrench or any other compatible wrench you have to unscrew the plug.
Drain the oil into a pan or bowl if you have one and feel it for metal parts. It is the best way to determine the level of damage low oil may have caused to the engine. If there are pieces of metal in the oil, then it is safe to get the car towed and checked by a mechanic. If there are no metal parts, then you can try topping off the oil and restarting the car.
- Add Oil Slowly While Checking the Level After Each Refill
You have to pour small quantities at a time. You can start with ¼ liter refills. After pouring the first quarter, put the oil cap back in place and wait for five minutes before repeating step 1 to confirm the oil level. You have to continue refilling and checking until your dipstick reads close to the maximum line. (you have to ensure that the dipstick is clean every time you check the oil to avoid getting the wrong reading).
- Check For Leakages
A sudden change in oil pressure often indicates rapid loss of oil which is often caused by leakages. While draining the oil or after topping off your oil, check for any leakages. In most cases, leakages will leave oil dripping under your car. If there is a leakage, then you may have to get a mechanic to fix it for you. If everything stays inside after topping off and there are no metal parts in your drained fuel, then you can attempt a restart.
- Restart The Car
Restarting the car after you just ran out of engine oil requires a little patience. You will have to insert the key into the ignition and wait for up to 20 minutes before turning on the engine. In some cases, if the damage is severe, clunking sounds may continue to come out of your engine. If low oil was the only problem, your car should start with a stable oil level after a kick or two. It would be smart to drive to a service station immediately to check your car for any damages that may have happened while you were low on oil.
The baseline is that starting your car after running out of oil can be a nightmare for any driver because running out of oil is a death sentence for your engine. The steps in this guide will only work if you catch it early enough and refill your oil before damage occurs to your engine. However, in most cases, once the car runs out of oil while being driven, severe damage will happen and you will have to repair or replace the engine before you can drive again. It is therefore important to observe the safety measures and ensure that your car never runs out of oil.