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  • Writer's picturejianmei huang

What happens when a car runs out of oil?

Updated: Feb 29

Well, the worst thing that can happen is that you are left without a car...

Today we ask ourselves a good question that you should all ask yourself: What happens when a car runs out of oil? Although it is foreseeable that you can imagine the answer.


The oil is the lubricant for the engine's moving parts, which covers them with a thin layer and prevents direct contact between them. If it disappears or is not in good condition, friction will cause these pieces to exceed their thermal tolerance limit and end up breaking or fusing with those nearby, ceasing to perform their function. You may have heard the expression 'the engine seized'... as it refers to this.

The Lifeblood of Your Vehicle

There are hundreds of parts that need that lubrication. The ones that suffer the most, if possible, are the pistons, which, for example, at 3,000 rpm travel several tens of linear meters every second, so imagine the importance of having lubrication.


Lubricant is perhaps the element you should watch the most in your car. It is used - to a greater or lesser extent - in the gearbox of a vehicle (valve), in clutches that are not dry type (more common in motorcycles than in passenger cars), in door hinges, in turbochargers... and as we have talked about, in the block of any engine. For all this, it is often said that if a propellant is the heart of the car, the oil would be equivalent to the blood of the human body.


Your vigilance is vital for the engine to last many kilometers, especially after a long trip like the one you have surely taken or will take this summer. And some elements, such as the rod, will help you in this control. This simple element will show you its level and also the state it is in.

How might a vehicle become depleted of oil

You may find yourself frantically scouring for a leak within the engine's circuitry. Often, the culprit for these scattered drips lies in one of the more unassuming elements: the oil drain plug. If re-securing it fails to rectify the issue, consider replacing it. Should the dilemma persist and you've ascertained that the rocker cover is intact, brace yourself for a potentially more grave and expensive fault.


Moreover, vigilance is key when examining the terrain where your vehicle is habitually parked. Stains on the ground could be remnants of oil drips, either from your own car or another's, particularly if you're parking on public roads or in communal spaces. To confirm whether your car is the source, place a pristine piece of cardboard beneath the engine next time you park. A stained cardboard upon retrieval will be a telltale sign of your vehicle's ailment.

Keep the Level

Remove the rod every 15 days or a month. Clean it and reinsert it so that it gives you the real measurement, but always do it on a horizontal surface and after starting the engine for a few minutes (and after stopping it, of course) so that the engine is somewhat warm. If the brand is close to the minimum level, buy a lubricant of the same type you were carrying and fill the cap.

Pay attention to the kilometers

From time to time it is very important to change the lubricant. As the kilometers go by, the mixture ages, or part of it is lost. The additives in the lubricant break down and the lubricant becomes dirty with dust and tiny particles (due to constant friction). Filling the tank is not enough, you need a total periodic replacement. Leave a reminder in the car with the date of the last change.

And every time a complete lubricant change is performed, you should also change the oil filter and install a new one, since it is a vital part that is responsible for keeping it free of impurities.


When buying oil, what do the codes mean

Do you know how to interpret the figures and letters that appear on the labels of oil containers? Since the mid-70s, multigrades began to become popular and choosing them was no longer as easy as one for summer and another for winter.


Motor oil codes like "5W-30" indicate the oil's viscosity, or thickness, and flow characteristics, based on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) system. The number before the "W" (for "Winter") shows the oil's flow in cold temperatures; lower numbers mean thinner oil is suitable for colder environments. The number after the "W" shows viscosity at high temperatures. Higher numbers indicate thicker oil, ideal for hotter conditions or older engines. These codes help choose the right oil for your vehicle and conditions.

Empower your vehicle care with the ANCEL car scanner's precision. Click for a guide on how to effortlessly diagnose and address car issues before they escalate.


oil is not just a component of your vehicle; it's a vital element that ensures its smooth operation, much like blood in the human body. Regular maintenance and attention to oil can save you from costly repairs and keep your car running smoothly for years to come.


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