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Drove for 30s without oil. Help?

I have a 2014 Mercedes Benz SLK 55 AMG. I accidentally went over a parking bumper/parking block at 5mph. Usually there are in the very end of the lot but this happened to be at the beginning to mark a no parking zone. I didn’t see it and I boom ran over it. Barely though. I reversed the car and parked it in an adjacent lot.

Anyway, my oil started leaking a lot and I looked underneath and it looks like it was only the oil cover. I called the towing company to tow it in. The guy turned on the car and towed it on the truck. It was barley 30seconds and on the truck which is 20-30 ft but car ran out of oil and was almost nil. We noticed a metal ticking noise which wasn’t there before. I told the driver that the car says do not turn the engine on but he said it should be fine as we are just loading it on the truck. It’s at the dealer now and I should know everything that’s wrong with it by tomorrow afternoon. But I’m panicking because I’m worried that there might have been engine damage. How bad do you guys think it might have been damaged?

Hope you have good karma but the metal ticking sound might just have been the valve clattering from lack of oil. Just have to see. They’ll have to prolly fix the leak, put oil in it and run it to see and then do a compression test etc. Best case no problem but worst case new engine. Don’t tell me the guy drove it off the flat bed again at the dealer??? At any rate, if there are damages, you can claim against the towing company so make sure you’ve got all of the particulars-company, driver, time, towing receipt, etc. and find out what he did at the dealer.


I agree with Bing. Write down all the details of what happened ASAP before your memory fades, because based on what you’ve written, if it turns out the engine was damaged by a lack of oil, the tow truck driver or the company he works for should be held responsible.


Yup just looked up the valve clattering noise. It sounded exactly like that. My service advisor asked him to roll it off the truck at the dealer. Even after we got it on to the truck, the oil was leaking so I’m hoping it had very little to not cause the damage. I’ll find out in a few hours. I definitely remember what happened so I’ll write it down and go from there.

Not sure what this means. Roll it under power, or with engine off?

With Engine off.

I doubt there was any engine damage if all they did was drive it up the ramp, that’s basically just idling the engine for 30 seconds. Some oil remains coating the internal engine parts and providing a lube function even if all the oil in the pan leaks out. So if it was just 30 seconds, don’t worry about it. If the car sat there for a couple days, and then started and driven up the ramp with no oil, that would perhaps be a concern, but from what I can tell this all took place in the span of a few hours.

All that said, were I in the same situation, I wouldn’t have allowed the tow truck driver to start my car. They’d have to come up with another solution. I’d be happy to help push the car into positon at the foot of the truck tho. If the tow truck couldn’t winch the car from that point for some reason, I’d just call another tow truck that could.

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Thank you so much. I’m slightly relieved. But I still won’t know till Friday. Yes I made a big mistake by letting him do that. I was worried and my mind was somewhere else. But lesson learned.
And here’s a picture of what my dash cam captured. Because of the shade and being pretty low to the ground you can barely see that parking bumper. I was only at 4/5mph but that bolt to the bumper hurt it. A horrible place to put one.

Hope it works out. Let us know. Don’t feel alone. I ran over one of those landscape islands at a convenience store too once. It was a dark and rainy night and I parked at the stall right next to it. Backing out I misjudged how long the thing was and got hung up on it a little with my Riviera. I was able to gun it and free it and it did no damage underneath because it was well reinforced with a steel plate. Funny thing was there was a police car there and the guy came over and wanted to make sure everything was ok. I think really he wanted to make sure I hadn’t been drinking. At any rate I hate those things and you cant see them all the time, especially in the winter with snow.

yeah, I hit a barrier at a gas pump, sort of like this one. Couldn’t see it through the side window, too low. Crumpled up the sheet metal on the right side a bit.

Never got the time to reply to this, but I got the car back a while ago. Luckily nothing happened. My dealership just replaced the lower oil pan. They did mention that on initial startup the engine was really loud, but after 15-30 seconds, it was back to normal. My service advisor is really nice. He was able to lower down the total cost of the repair by a good amount. Everything seems normal as usual and runs perfectly fine. Anyway thank you guys for the responses.

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Glad to hear no major damage involved. Thanks for taking time for the good feedback!

I assume by loud you mean a rattling or knocking. If that noise was in the valve lifters then that is not as big an issue.
If the rattling or knocking was in the crankshaft bearings and it took 15-30 seconds to shut those up then there may well be a problem.
The only thing is that it’s not as noticeable right now. In 10, 20, or 50k miles; who knows. And yes, an engine can run fine even with a crank bearing problem. Within reason of course.

Since the pan was off what I would have done is dropped a few crank bearing caps and inspected the bearing condition.

The service advisor didnt tell me that information about the loud noise. I saw it on the RO. It said “noticed loud engine noise at start, went back to normal quickly.” I assumed quickly to be 15-30 seconds. And they only replaced the lower engine pan without taking out the whole engine. I was told that if they noticed something wrong after installing the new pan and oil, they would have sent in a microscope of some kind to check it completely. I asked if they ran compression tests etc, and they told me that they ran the tests and checked the firings and everything. The RO also reported all the tests and it was normal. Well hopefully nothing goes wrong in the future. :smiley:

On my Olds that just sat most of the time, when I went to start it after a couple months, the lifters clattered like crazy and ran rough for a couple minutes until the lifter got pumped up again. So I can see that happening if all the oil was drained for a while.

Does your Olds have a carb @Bing? If I leave my carb’d truck parked for more than a couple weeks it has a hard time starting up b/c the fuel in the carb’s fuel bowl has evaporated. If I left it parked for a couple months I’d have to pour some gas into the fuel bowl to get it to start.

Nope, it was the fuel injected Northstar V8. Definitely a collapsed lifter from non-use. Its in heaven now.

If the rattling was crank bearings, then 15-30 seconds is an eternity if it took that long for them to shut up.

A compression test will not reveal anything about the crankshaft bearings. When there is a lack of sufficient oil pressure issue the crank bearings are always the first thing to receive damage and it doesn’t take long for damage to occur.

Knock on wood things will remain in good shape.

Just to clarify a point. Are you saying this tow truck driver went ahead and operated the car with engine running to get it on the tow truck while knowing there was a lack of oil/oil pressure issue? If so, wow.

Back in the 80s a transport driver unloading new cars at the dealer where I worked was a bit too aggressive and ripped the external oil cooler lines loose on a new Turbo SAAB. He knew it was puking oil and continued to drive the car to its designated parking space. I was the one assigned to fix it.

The engine was rattling noisily. With the repair done and full of oil it ran quietly. The car was sold with everyone thinking it was good for the duration. Not so. Two years later it came in with a subtle bearing knock; no doubt the result of the transport driver’s actions a few years before.
This led to a ruckus of course and I was never privy to the details on who was gonna pay for the new engine. I’m sure the transport company denied all responsibility and odds are some kind of Good Will warranty was performed on the sly.


I just made this post for another thread. If you are worried that internal damage maybe lurking, I would sample the oil. If it did have a rod or main knocking, this will show up in the oil sample. This would allow you to remedy the problem before it turns into catastrophic issue. If you have bearings that are getting chewed up (I think it is unlikely given the writeup) there will be lead, copper, or copper alloy in the oil and will show up in an analysis.

My advise is to get your oil sampled. There are a few places that do this. This will sample the oil and will check for contaminants in the oil. Trace materials like copper will indicate that you have bearing wear, aluminum might indicate that you have piston wear, chromium might indicate that you have ring wear, etc. Since you don’t know much about cars I would recommend one of the more expensive kits that comes with a write up. I think blackstone ( or wix ( would be a good choice. I personally use Caterpillar service ( but I know it does not get any sort of detailed write up explanation. It basically just gives you the results that you have to then interpret.

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