Car stalled after it ran out of the head gasket blown?

My 2003 Chevy Impala stalled after driving it for about a mile.
The ‘low engine oil’ came on. I noticed white smoke coming out
from under the hood. I pulled the dipstick and it was out of oil.

I poured 2 quarts of oil and attempted to start the car.
The car started after I pressed the gas pedal but shut off when
I took my foot off the gas. I tried several times. It started but
shut off when lifting the foot of the pedal.

I’m hoping it’s not the head gasket.


Bring the engine oil level up to where it should be

Remove the radiator cap and look at the coolant . . . does it look like coffee? Also, if the coolant level is too high and looks contaminated, that’s probably where the oil went

Both the 3.4 V6 and the 3.8 V6 had intake problems. The 3.4 had problems with the intake gaskets.
The 3.8 also had problems with the gaskets, but also with the actual intake manifold.

Please let us know what engine you have, and I will post some documents to help you

There is also a possibility that you have a bad idle air control valve, but the white smoke makes me think you’ve got more serious issues

So, IMO, if the engine oil is getting into the coolant, it’s probably because of an intake problem

Engine is 3.8. The white smoke was visible only when it stalled the first time around if that makes a difference.

I’d be more worried about fried rings, scored bearings and loss of compression. Low oil results in lack of lubrication and direct metal-to-metal contact. Check the dipstick for signs of coolant, and the radiator for signs of oil. Then consider a compression test and oil pressure test.

If I could get the engine to continue running do you think it’s safe to drive it or should I have it towed?


Check this out

Check out these pictures

If the intake is your problem, I advise you to replace both the upper and lower manifolds, as per the GM bulletin

@BustedKnuckles - if the oil and coolant are contaminated what course of action do you recommend? compression and oil pressure test?
Pardon my ignorance but what bearings are you referring to?

@db4690 - my knowledge is very very limited when it comes to cars. If the intake is indeed the problem do you know how much it would cost to have it repaired?

This may sound redundant but the idle is not consistent when I start the engine. The only way to keep the engine running is to keep the foot on the gas pedal.


Chilton labor times says 4.9hrs to replace the lower manifold, which also includes removal of the upper manifold.

The AC Delco upper and lower manifold and the gaskets are $588.26 on . . . local prices will be higher, perhaps significantly higher. You’ll also have to figure in at least another $100 for oil, filters, sealant, coolant, etc.

Also, a shop may charge more than 4.9hrs. Those Chilton labor times are guidelines, not rules.

The labor rate at dealers is often over $100/hr, often significantly higher in larger metropolitan areas.

I believe a competent independent shop could diagnose and repair your car, provided they have access to good parts and the appropriate service information, as needed.

Good luck, and please keep us updated

How much oil is in car now? How much “pedal” do u need to push to keep motor running? 1/2 pedal? Can u basically make it idle or run at 1000 rpm or so without much trouble? How does it sound at 1k rpm?

I checked the dipstick and there’s no evidence of coolant. I checked the radiator and there’s brownish liquid on the cap. It looks the same as it did several months ago when I had it flushed.

So I started the car up today and pressed on the gas pedal. Strangely, the engine didn’t stall. At first, it sounded kind of rough and I thought I was going to stall. But, the RPMs normalized and stayed at 1000. After letting the engine run for about a minute it sounded OK. There’s no white smoke coming out of the exhaust.
I’m tempted to have an oil change and drive it.

U added 2 qts and level is ok now on dipstick? That’s not “out” of oil.

@cavell - I added two quarts an the level is fine on the dipstick. If it wasn’t out of oil then I don’t understand why it would’ve stalled and now it seems to be running OK after I added 2 qts. Unless what was left was very dirty?