96 Buick century tapping no power

I have a 96 Buick century 3.1. 120k miles. While driving I experienced hesitation while accelerating. Found a place to stop. Checked oil it was very low. Oil light never came on. Added 3 qts of oil and let it cool. Cheked over flow tank no sign of oil miximg with collant. Drove home about 40 miles. Engine has power loss and very loud tapping noise. Today I added 2 oz seafoam. Engine idles fine but higher rpms tapping clatter noise gets louder. Still big loss of power. Help please.

Running an engine very low on oil for…possibly a lot of miles…coupled with loud tapping noises and a loss of power sounds to me like an engine that has sustained a lot of damage from the low oil level.

Seafoam is a very good product, but it can’t undo the damage done by running an engine on a low oil level. My advice is to have a mechanic do a compression test and give a listen to the engine.

More than likely, he will tell you that you have damaged bearings, and/or scored cylinder walls, and/or coked-up piston rings, and/or other types of damage from the low oil situation, and that it is time for a rebuilt engine, but…maybe you will luck-out with a less expensive diagnosis.

If the diagnosis is as dire as I suspect, then you have to ask yourself whether it is worth sinking major $$ into a 17 year old car that will undoubtedly need other expensive repairs in the near future. For instance, if you have ignored the need to change your transmission fluid every 3 years/30k miles, a rebuilt transmission is in your near future, to the tune of…over $2k.

If your transmission has not been serviced in this way–and if you are told that you need to replace the engine–I strongly suggest that you not spend the money for a new engine, and that you start shopping for your next car.

Just for future reference, checking the oil dipstick is very important, and should be done at least every couple of weeks. With a 17 year old car that has been in service for 120k miles, the dipstick should probably be checked once a week. Unfortunately, relying on warning lights can be very expensive, because they don’t usually light up until major damage has already been done.