Low engine oil symptoms

Low Engine Oil Symptoms & FAQs

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The oil in your car engine keeps things operating nice and smoothly, so it is crucial that you make sure it’s not too low. Almost all of the oil will leak out or burn away over time. This means that you’ll need to supply more oil to the motor and patch up any leaks if any occur.

The majority of people carry out the most basic kind of upkeep, which is replacing the oil. All of the people who won’t replace their engine oil on a consistent schedule will notice a decrease in its amount. They may simply rely on the mechanic topping it up during a regular servicing, however this isn’t always ideal as the oil can burn away before your next car service is scheduled.

6 Symptoms of Low Engine Oil in Your Car

When you start the ignition of your car the engine immediately has a lot of moving, and rotating metal parts. These parts continually brush against each other. It is the job of engine oil to prevent this from causing excessive friction and therefor damage to your engine.

Using a good engine oil ensures that these parts can move smoothly against each other without heating up too much, and cracking. Engine oil also helps with the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.

When your oil levels are too low, several indicators will alert you, so you may conduct the necessary precautions to stop any harm. Here’s a rundown of some of the most frequent low engine oil symptoms.

Burning Oil Smell

When you notice a stench of burning oil coming from under the hood of your car or truck, pull aside immediately and switch off the engine. That might indicate a leakage, with oil pouring onto heated engine components and producing the stink that you can detect. Allow your car to cool down before checking the oil level.

When the oil level is below the minimum, your dipstick should alert you. When it’s below the required level, don’t try to keep driving otherwise you will end up causing further damage to your vehicle. The best option is to have your vehicle transported somewhere so that it can be inspected by a qualified mechanic and have its oil topped up.

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Oil Pressure Warning Light

Your car’s warning light is the best method to determine whether it’s getting short on oil.  It can also indicate that it is time to change the oil. The light is linked to various high-tech sensors that keep track of the fluid levels in your engine.

If it blinks rather than staying on constantly then that usually indicates a problem to do with the oil pressure, rather than just the level of the oil. The oil pressure could be too low, or if the oil passage is blocked, the pressure could be too high.

The warning LED will illuminate and blink when the oil pressure falls below a certain level. It would be a good idea if you had your car fixed as quickly as you notice this signal to get the oil back to the the level and pressure that is required.

Decreased Fuel Efficiency

If your car is running optimally it should be reasonably fuel efficient and economical. However if the engine oil is too low, due to increased friction in the engine the fuel efficiency will decrease.

In this case, since there isn’t enough oil to effectively maintain the motor’s components, the engine will have to do more work, thus consuming more fuel as well as damaging various components.

Knocking Sounds

If you can hear a knocking sound coming from your cars engine, it’s never a good thing. If this is happening to you it is best to get it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. However, it may just be a case of needing to top the oil up.

The noise is caused by various components scraping and bumping against each other because they are not lubricated well enough by the low amount of engine oil present.

Overheating Engine

An overheated engine is among the most noticeable signs of insufficient oil and one of the most important factors to pay attention to.

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If the engine goes past a certain temperature it can cause a great deal of damage, that is very costly to have repaired.

The overheating engine is simply caused by excessive friction and metal parts rubbing against each other. Consequently, it warms up gradually, and it may even eventually burn up. When your engine overheats, pull aside as soon as it safe to do so. Your best course of action after that is to get in touch with someone like a mechanic who can see to the issues.

Car Stalling

Some vehicles, in particular modern ones, come with a safety feature to prevent damage to the engine occurring. One such feature is when the engine stalls completely when the oil levels are too low, or when the pressure is too low. When this happens it will usually be accompanied by a warning light.

This means that if your car keeps on stalling time after time, you may well need to have a look at your oil levels and top them up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Engine Running Out of Oil?

There are a number of different causes that you could come across. It’s best to let a mechanic take a look to be sure about why the engine is running low on oil. But one of the more common issues is an oil leak. An oil leak can be due to poorly fitted components, or damaged parts from age and wear over time.

Another common reason for low engine oil is simply because the oil is being burnt up and used. As the engine becomes older and less efficient this is even more common. It’s also common for those who drive their vehicles at high speeds accelerating often. The harder you drive your vehicle the more often the oil will need to be topped up.

Why is Engine Oil Important?

Engine oil is a fluid that is designed to lubricate the internal components of your engine. It also helps to keep the temperature of the metal parts lower by reducing friction. Some specially designed engine oils can even give your engine a longer life of use by cleaning out buildups and deposits within the engine.

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So by using the right engine oil for your vehicle you can make sure that your car runs more smoothly. You can also save money on the cost of fuel and maintenance.

How Often Should Oil be Changed?

This is one of those questions to which different people will provide different answers. However, as a general rule of thumb mechanics usually suggest that the oil should be changed at least every 10,000 miles. Keep in mind that changing your engine oil is different from topping it up, which needs to be done whenever it gets too low, as indicated on the dip stick.

How to Check for Low Engine Oil?

Image of a dip stick

If your car has symptoms of low engine oil, you may want to check to make sure that this is definitely the problem, and that the symptoms aren’t caused by some other unknown issue. To check the level of your cars engine oil first you need to give it a few minutes to cool down after it was last running. Then you need to open up the hood of your car and locate the dipstick.

Pull the dipstick out and wipe of the oil so you can get an accurate reading. After that re-insert the dipstick and pull it back out, the line on the dipstick will indicate how low/high your oil levels are.


By now you should understand that engine oil is a critical thing to consider for the health of your car. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your oil levels and make sure that it is topped up as needed.

We’ve gone over some of the most common symptoms of low engine oil so that you have some kind of an idea about when this issue is occurring. It’s always best to get things looked at by a professional if you’re unsure about any of these symptoms, but with that said, hopefully this article equips you with the knowledge to understand when that is, or isn’t needed

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