Dealer Technician Ran Car without Oil During Service

Hello. I recently bought a 2007 Honda Ridgeline. I know the recommendations say to wait until the maintenance minder system tells you to change the oil (around 5000 miles). I have heard from some that there is a break-in additive the factory puts in the new engine, which is supposed to stay in there for that long, at least until the first oil change, as prompted by the car’s maintenance minder system. However, I’m one of these old-school guys who is crazy about changing oil far more frequently than most. After asking several technicians, and Honda representatives, i decided it would be okay to change the oil after 500 miles, and go from there, with the next two changes after 1000 miles each, and after that, every 2000. However, this isn’t the specific reason I’m posting this. When I bought the car, the dealer gave me a free-oil-change card, which I thought would be a waste not to use, even though I ALWAYS insist on doing any work possible myself, as I don’t trust any mechanic to treat my car the way I would. So I took it to the dealer, and hung out with the technician while he raised my car, drained the oil, replaced the plug, and changed the filter. I had been asking him where various fill/drain plugs were (which he was incredibly uninformative, and, in fact, mistaken about in many cases). As I watched, he lowered the car, then walked around in front of me, got in, and started it. I immediately noticed that the oil-fill cap was off, and said, “Hey, you didn’t put the oil in yet.” He shut it off when he heard me. The point is that this DEALER TECHNICIAN ran the car for about 3-5 seconds without any oil in it. I am wondering if this caused any damage to the rings, bearings, or whatever. Everybody at the dealer (and most people everywhere else) says that short of a time running oilless at idle wouldn’t cause any damage. I’m freaked out because this is the only car I’ve ever bought new, and had dreams of keeping it perfect and running for as long as possible. I’ll bet if there is any damage, it won’t show up until after the extended warranty I bought (8 years). I’m thinking that if this hadn’t happened, the car wouldn’t have had any problems for maybe 15 years, but that, since it has happened, maybe the car will have related problems after only 12 years.

What do you guys think?

The engine didn’t run long enough to do any damage. Not ALL of the oil drains out during an oil change, and there was undoubtedly some oil film still on critical components. A few seconds won’t do anything.

Having said that, you learned a valuable lesson about dealer service departments. Follow your instincts and do the oil changes yourself.

Now you need to learn another valuable lesson: Times have changed, and there is NO NEED to change oil more frequently than the owner’s manual suggests. The Honda engineers know what they are doing (isn’t that why you bought one), so stop trying to out-think them.

Changing oil at 500, 1,000, or 2,000 mile intervals is a waste of money and motor oil, and will do virtually nothing to protect your engine. Follow the maintenance schedule in the manual and your new Honda will last as long as possible.

First, I doubt if there was any damage done.

Next, the old school was good, but times have changed and along with time so have engines and oils. They no longer will benefit from more frequent oil changes.

250,000 miles from now those who followed the old school advice will say, "I sure am glad I did all those oil changes, and the neighbor with the same car, and same miles will be saying, I am sure glad I did not waste all that oil, time and money for extra oil changes

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations

There have been test that show more wear on engines that have their oil changed more often. Oil actually gets better with a little use. (however again the difference is extremely small.

I don’t think any damage was done. I’m sorry but you could have said what needed to be said in about two lines. I can’t believe the dealer let you in to talk with the grease monkey while he was working on the car. It would have been very distracting to have someone asking 20 questions while they are working on the car. Next time watch from afar and let them concentrate on doing the work.

I agree that a few seconds did not cause any long term damage.

I also agree that customers should stay completely out of the shop unless it’s absolutely necessary. The only necessary would be to show them something first hand or to explain a repair.

When a customer is standing around carrying on a conversation it is extremely frustrating and especially distracting from the job at hand; even if the tech does not say anything or even give the impression that it’s distracting.

Mechanic work is 90% mental and it does not take much to derail the train.

well Bert, i think this is a perfect example of the trust issue.

i believe the other three posts are from professional mechanics. a common sentiment from them is: stay out of the shop when they are working on your car, (since it apparantly distracts them.)

i dont completely agree with them, but when i have to take my cars to the mechanic to do stuff i cant figure out, or have the time to do, i DO leave it for him to do. i do think i can read him when he furrows his brow, and scrunches up his nose, its time for me to leave!! but when i do ask a question he does answer, and i have found NO reason to doubt or further question him.

i guess the point here is; you actually waited around the dealership and took the time to snoop around. if you felt that way, you should find another dealership (or better yet a mechanic) so you can trust them.

Just to elaborate a bit about customers in the shop and potential problems.

We had a Subaru in one time at the dealership and the car was going to be down for about 3-4 days waiting on an oddball part. After a few days the owner came down one day with his wife and the boss walked him out into the shop so they could get some misc. paperwork out of the car for something or the other.
They came in at the end of the week, picked up the car, and drove off.
Two months later my boss gets a letter from a lawyer. It appeared this guy claimed his wife had “tripped over an air hose that was negligently left on the floor (imagine that) and was suffering pain and headaches”.
No way and no how did either of them trip over anything since they were guided the entire way, but it cost my boss 1500 bucks to settle this matter; conveniently 3 X the amount of the bill.

Also, I used to be a state safety inspector and the inspection job is a PITA.
The mechanic gets paid 1 dollar for doing this inspection (later raised to 2).
The problem is that the tech is mentally engrossed in putting an engine or transmission together and management is breathing down their neck to stop then and there to perform an inspection (as the law says we must).
So. The tech does the inspection, earns the 1, or 2, dollars, and then goes back to what he was previously doing. At this point he may have forgotten something.

This happened to a guy I worked with. He had assembled an engine and found one measly wrist pin keeper lying on the table.
He asked me if I was messing with him, which I was not, and he wound up having to pull a cylinder head and piston just to make sure.
And sure enough, that keeper belonged in that engine. If he had started it up the engine would have been trashed. All because of stopping for an inspection which then led to another half day’s work and more gaskets.

See where the mental distraction comes in? It’s not a matter of concealing something or trust; it’s a matter of trying to stay focused.
And that includes trying to ignore fellow employees too. Some of them can be a distraction in the shop. These are also the ones who may be prone to mistakes.


No, I’m a beauracrat not a mechanic so this is from a customer or DIY perspective. When I read:

I hung out with the technician while he raised my car, drained the oil, replaced the plug, and changed the filter. I had been asking him where various fill/drain plugs were

It just seemed like the kid was getting very flustered from all the questions and may have been why he got side-tracked. If I can’t be helpful or answer questions about the problem, I stay well out of the way of the guy working on my car-out of courtesy and safety.

Never watch or bother people when they work on your car unless you are tough-minded. You should see how my tire was fixed in 1978. I didn’t care as long as it held air. At least you know that he changed it. The manufacture doesn’t want you to have the oil changed early because they know that their people will wreck the thing during routine maintenance. (The car might last longer if you never change the oil.) A stargate however, can take a lot of punishment.

Get the service manager and the technician to write you up a report about running the engine with no oil regardless of how long or short he ran it without oil. Have the service manager document it on the dealer’s computer system and have a print out provided to you. Protect your regular warranty and more importantly, protect your extended warranty! Have them include the amount and type of oil that they eventually put into that engine. Check your oil level to ensure that it is exactly at the full mark, usually when the engine is hot. Oil expands when it gets hot. So a full oil pan cold will show an overfill condition when hot. GET IT IN WRITING to protect your warranties down the road if any problems occur.

Every dealer,car repair shop and the rest wher ei live have asign in the service area boldly stating something like “Customers not allowed in service area
because of insurance regulations.”
I think the best you can do is to keep records of service and car issues, and drive your car and enjoy it.

Just for peace of mind get the incident documented. But I have seen several engines run for up to 5 minutes with no oil without damage.