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Symptoms Of Low Engine Oil Everyone Needs To Know About

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Knowing the symptoms of low engine oil is one of the most important things you need to know about your vehicle.

These symptoms going unnoticed can leave you stranded in the middle of know where with a broken down vehicle and a high repair bill looming.

In this post, we will show you the key things to know about the signs of low engine oil.

Symptoms Of Low Engine Oil

In this section, we highlight the key symptoms of low engine oil, what to look out for and how you can fix them right away.

How do you know if your car is low on oil?

Here are 4 symptoms to look out for:

1. Warning Oil Pressure Light

This is one of the first ports of call when you are worried about your engine oil.

Most modern-day vehicles are quite good and will warn you early enough that your engine oil is running low.

The light is connected to your onboard computer and will light up (usually in RED) when your oil is low.

The same cannot be said for older vehicles; in many cases, the warning light is far too late and it might as well be a death sentence for your engine.

This is why it’s so important to check your engine oil regularly.

I don’t know why but this is something I found quite satisfying for one reason or another.

If you ever see your oil pressure warning light come on; stop and turn off your vehicle immediately and put oil into the car right away.

It only takes a couple of seconds to destroy your engine for good.

2. Grinding & Knocking Noises

If you are hearing some light knocking and grinding; there’s a good chance you are low on oil.

What happens is that your parts are not being lubricated by the oil and are starting to rub off each other causing a grinding and knocking type of noise.

In some cases, if you are hearing these types of noises, especially a loud knocking when you accelerate, there’s a good chance you have damaged the crankshaft which could be a bigger problem.

If this is happening to you right now, check the oil and get your engine checked by a mechanic right away.

3. Engine is Overheating

Symptoms Of Low Engine Oil

We touched on this on the last point but when an engine typically overheats, it’s usually a sign of low engine oil.

Your engine has a lot of moving metal parts, that move at high speed closely together.

When these parts are not lubricated to slide along one another, it causes friction between the parts, leading to a burning smell or even a fire in some cases.

If this is not addressed immediately, your engine will get seriously damaged.

If your engine is overheating, pull over right away and call a mechanic.

4. Smell of Burning Oil

If you can smell burning oil coming from the engine, you should pull over to check if you have an oil leak.

It’s likely you have an oil leak, which drips onto the hot engine causing the strong burning smell.

The leak is likely caused by a loose drain plug or maybe a filter that wasn’t attached correctly. It can also be caused by something as simple as an oil cap being too loose.

What Happens When A Car Is Low On Oil?

signs of low engine oil

Engine oil plays a vital role in running and maintaining your engine; your engine will not function properly without it.

The oil is required to lubricate the moving parts of the engine; but when there’s not enough oil, moving parts within the engine do not get the lubrication they need. 

Without the engine oil, these metal parts are rubbing against each other at high speed causing friction and overheating.

The engine oil becomes hotter because it isn’t allowed enough time to cool down a little before it is required to go back into the engine.

The oil gets hotter and hotter, breaking down into a tar-like substance, sticking to the internal parts of the engine it’s supposed to be lubricating.

From here, things just get worse and worse.

The increased friction leads to further wear and tear of your engine parts at an alarming rate; eventually leading to engine failure.

How Does It Feel When A Car Needs Oil?

When your car needs oil, your car will not feel right. When you are running low on oil, the moving parts are not lubricated which causes them to rub against each other causing friction.

This usually leads to knocking and rumbling noises from your car; also the possibility of your engine overheating.

As you accelerate, the knocking noise should get louder.

If you are experience and form of knocking or rumbling while driving; pull over right away and check the oil – you most likely need to add some oil right away.

The longer you drive without oil, you quickly increase the chances of blowing the engine which can not be fixed but only replaced with a new one (nobody needs that).

We have a post explaining how to tell if your engine is damaged from no oil that you should check out to get a better understanding of engine oil and how it works with your engine.

Can I Drive With Low Engine Oil?

Driving With Low Engine Oil

No, you should not drive with low engine oil.

If you drive with low engine oil, you run the risk of engine failure and destroying your engine for good.

You can drive your car for around 30 minutes, but even then you are likely causing internal damage to your engine that you can’t see.

Without the engine oil, the metal parts are not lubricated and this friction causes the parts to wear and tear, which leads to rumbling, knocking, and certain engine failure.

Do not drive your car when it’s low on oil!

Final Words Of Wisdom

Always keep some engine oil and cloth in your trunk, so that you are never caught in a bad spot without oil.

Even though it’s likely you will be close to a gas station if you do run low on oil; it’s when you are caught in the middle of nowhere with no gas station in sight is when you need it most.

Get into the habit of checking your oil regularly; this is crucial if you drive an older car.

On older cars, when your oil pressure warning comes on; sometimes it could already be too late.

Either way, checking your oil regularly and knowing the symptoms of low engine oil will give you peace of mind


Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission.

Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases.

The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

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