Driving with no oil

How many miles could a person expect to drive a car that had no engine oil?

No very far and the engine is toast, Castrol’s “advertising” to the contrary.

And Castrol was forced by the FTC to remove that advertisement too.

Well, I have an actual case of such a situation. My father-in-law sold his Buick (which had a trailer towing package) to a colleague, who took it to Woolco automotive for an oil change. They forgot to put the oil in and the owner drove away with no oil in the crankcase. He got to about 6 miles before the engine seized up. Woolco footed the bill for a replacement engine.

Another reason, as many posters pointed out, to be VERY CAREFUL in picking lube chains to do your work.

You can ruin an engine in just a few miles (maybe less) if there is no oil in the crankcase or no oil PRESSURE in the engine. In my younger days I tried to make it 2 miles home with the oil pressure warning light on. I made it but the engine needed a rebuild. Not worth it.

There is no fixed number of miles. Just know that damage occurs as soon as you start an engine that has no oil.

Thanks, The nature of my inquiry is from a customer complaint. I operate a repair shop and was accused of not putting oil back into an engine during an oil change. The customer took the car home, parked it for 2 months then drove about 300 miles. After the trip, the engine had a knocking sound and the customer added 4 quarts of oil to the engine. Since there was no oil present under the car where it was parked, and no oil present under the vehicle from driving 300 miles, she is convinced that we forgot to fill the engine with oil. Most vehicles would show signs of leakage on the chassis from a drip, but I suppose it is possible that the aerodynamics of some vehicles would allow the oil to get “blown” to the ground depending on the air turbulence and body design. The car is a 1968 Mustang.

Impossible to drive that far on no oil!!

It is possible for a 1968 Mustang with an engine in poor condition to lose 4 quarts of oil in 300 miles. one or more stuck or broken oil control rings, malfunctioning PCV system, excessive internal engine wear can all make this happen. This is especially true if the car was driven hard for 300 miles after sitting around for a long time.

This vehicle, 40 years old, must have sat often unused for lengthy periods of time and has no doubt deteriorated seals. On a fast highway trip oil can disappear in the various ways mentioned, without leaving signs of leakage or visible blue smoke in the exhaust.

Less than 50 miles, if you had good “breaking in” oil, previously.

However, don’t try it!
I got lucky, once, lost my “Oil Drain Plug”, but noticed the sudden drop in oil pressure, and am still “running” with the same engine.

Hiking back down the road, I found the oil splash, about 5 miles from where the truck was stopped! But, most of the time, the engine will “freeze” without oil in less than 20 miles.

So, check your oil after any “quick change”, before you drive it home!
And, always look under your vehicle, before starting your car, since it may get “sabotaged” by any of your enemies.

An engine with no oil is not going to make it more than a mile or two and any symptoms (oil light, knocking, etc) would be readily apparent.
There is no way on earth this person drove the car home, parked it for a few months, took a 300 mile trip, and THEN discovered there was no oil.
If you had left the oil out the car owner would not have made it home much less a 300 mile trip in it.

Bottom line is that this car did not move that far with no oil in it - period. If one used the argument that you did indeed leave the oil out then why did the car owner ignore the oil light? Why did they ignore clattering valve lifters, which are going to be rattling? Why did they wait several months, take a trip, and NOW complain?

Something has occurred with this car and they’re just looking to pin it on somebody. Engine burning oil like a bandit, car loaned out to someone with a lead foot, possibly hammered the car hard themselves, who knows?
My feeling is that it’s an oil burner or may have overheated badly in which case it then became an oil burner.
Inspection of the spark plugs and tailpipe could help determine this.

The guy owns a classic mustang and has someone else do his oil changes for him?!
When I had my 65 Chevelle, I did the oil changes myself. Granted the more mechanically challenging things(for me anyways) like the distributor, points, spark plugs, etc I hired out. biggest thing about the plugs was that I didn’t have a torque wrench to tighten it up to specs.

It may be sad, but I’ve never used a torque wrench to tighten spark plugs to specs. Never had any problems with anything stripping, seizing, or coming loose. (even on aluminum engines) Perhaps I’ve just lived a charmed life.

Agreed with you. I never use a torque wrench, even on aluminum heads. “Feel” is a much easier and safer method.

There may be other factors at work, but in answer to your direct question, I’d guess damage would begin at about the half mile mark and the engine would probably sieze at about the five mile mark. All this time, the oil pressure light HAD to be on. At first glimpse, the driver should have shut the engine off.

I DO NOT believe that you are at fault here at all. There are too many things that should have clued the driver that the oil was low, IF INDEED IT WAS LOW. I think the car was an oil burner, used up its oil and siezed. The driver is trying to stick you with the problem caused by their negligence.