Driving while low on oil

I have a 2016 hyundia accent sedan, when I took my car in to get a oil change the mechanic said you only had about a quart to a quart and a half of oil in your car. Could driving with that amount of oil in my car damaged my engine at all? This car means the world to me and I’m freaking out a little , google says my car takes 3.8 quarts, I live in southern California so there isn’t a whole lot of uphill and downhill roads…




What are the chances? Did I just ruin my car?

Maybe you’ll start checking your oil level once week now, and adding oil when needed.


You may have shortened the life of the engine some, but no way of telling for sure. If your engine is not making any noises it did not used to make and is not smoking, you may have dodged a bullet.

Start checking your oil regularly until you know how much oil you use. If it is 1200 miles or less per quart, tell your Hyundai dealer you want an oil consumption test.

Whenever you get your oi; changed, check it and make sure they have filled it. Check for oil spots on the ground where you park.


If the car means the world to you, take care of it. If you do not take care of it it will not take care of you. Oil is the easiest and cheapest maintenance item you can do to keep an engine healthy. Set up a schedule to check the oil. I do it each weekend, some do it every time they fill up with gas. Find something that works for you.

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If the oil light on your dashboard didn’t come on, then you didn’t do any “immediate” damage.

But that’s not all of it. When your engine oil level is low:

a) The oil temperature gets much hotter, and usually it begins to coke and turn to sludge. When that happens, not only does it lubricate less, but it also clogs your engine’s oil passages and plugs up your piston’s oil control rings.

b) You have less “good oil additives”. Engine oil normally has lots of anti-foaming compounds, acid neutralizers, corrosion inhibitors, demulsifying agents, viscosity and pour-point improvers. The additives in an engine with only one quart of overworked hot sludging oil probably aren’t able to do what they’re supposed to do.

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It’s damaged. The only question is how many miles remain before it gives up.

You may not like this but that car does not mean the world to you. If it did then you would have been checking the oil on a regular basis and the engine would have never gotten that low on oil. And odds are this is not the first time that car has been way low on motor oil.

My sister has a 2017 Accord. She has the oil changed every 10k miles and says this is her final car which will last her the rest of her life.

A few weeks ago when asked she said she never raises the hood to check anything and at that point she had been 8k miles without raising the hood. The odds of this car lasting the rest of her life (she’s only 59) is about as close to zero as it can get.


You’ve certainly shortened the life of the engine by some amount. As others have said, you’ll just have to wait and see by how much, but don’t be surprised if it dies soon. Also, you’ve now given up any warranty that you might have had on the engine for any other problems that come up, but that’s secondary at this point.

I did the same with my first car 20 years ago, a Peugeot 106. The oil light hadn’t actually come on but I wasn’t putting any oil in the engine since I had it.

One day, I was out on the freeway and at 80 mph, my engine caught fire. RIP.

I got 50 dollars from the mechanic for scrap parts.

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You may have some damage, BUT, from working in a shop I can tell you this.

If your oil light didn’t come on, And you had no loud or unusual noises before or after the oil change, I wouldn’t be concerned. Just check your oil more often.

I worked in a shop for 40+ years. I find it hard to believe the tech knew exactly how much oil was left in the engine when he drained it. Even if he was close, he didn’t include the oil still in the filter. Don’t worry about it.

You might not have damaged your engine. There are a lot of factors. First of which is that the mechanic could have been wrong and you had more oil than that.

As long as you don’t have a red oil light come on, then you always had oil pressure. But as the oil level drops, the oil left gets cycled through the engine more frequently so that it is subject to more heat and wear. That causes it to break down quicker. How fast depends on the initial quality of the oil you are using.

If you regularly change your oil more frequently than the maximum allowed on the maintenance schedule, the oil may not have had time to break down enough to adversely affect the engine.

Whats done is done. Going forward I suggest that you check the oil level frequently, like each time you fill the gas tank. Then you can add oil when the level drops below the add mark. After you have checked it regularly for a couple of months, you will get an idea of the rate of oil loss and you can adjust the frequency of the checks.

Also check the oil level as well as the color of the oil just before you take it in for an oil chance. If you check the level and it is full, and you go to the same oil change place/mechanic and they tell you that you were very low again, you will know that you weren’t low this time and don’t listen to them again. Maybe even find a new place to get your oil changed at.

EDIT: and check the oil again after the oil change to insure you have fresh oil and it is at the proper level.