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Forgot to add oil and started my car is it done for?

So I drained all my oil out of my car to do an oil change forgot to add oil and started my car I let it idle for 5 minutes and it shut off on its own. I added oil to it and let it sit for 10 minutes when I went to start it it wouldn’t start it makes this spinning sound. Is it done for? What’s my next move?

An engine that runs without oil for 5 minutes is no longer an engine.



Your next move is to pull the plugs and check the compression. I fear Tester may be correct that your engine is no longer an engine.

The first step (after getting the oil level back to spec) is: Remove the spark plugs and test if you can rotate the engine using a ratchet & socket on the crankshaft bolt. If it won’t budge, that’s definitely not a good sign. That the engine stopped running all by itself also isn’t a good sign. But …

I’ve never idled an engine w/out oil for 5 minute, or any other amount of time. But I would have guessed (having never done this experiment mind you) if the engine was cold it might be able to survive 5 minutes of idling. I’d expect it would begin to make a noticeable racket though. Did you notice any weird noises?

I’d guess a cold engine on a cold day could idle — having drained the oil out, but presumably some oil still inside sticking to the surfaces — 10 to 15 minutes before engine-killing damage. By idle I mean 600-800 rpms, never rev’ing it up.

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I saw a pickup driven a block then stopped, turned around and returned and filled with oil and started and ran without a problem for a few weeks when I fired the mechanic(?) Needless to say he was closely supervised 'till he left. And you won’t believe it but I allowed employees to use a lift and provided free oil and filters for their vehicles.

When it cools off completely, it might at least turn over again. If you do succeed in getting this engine started again, it will probably have excessive bearing/timing chain noise, and will probably burn much more oil than normal. Suffice to say that it’s probably time to start shopping for a used engine, or a replacement vehicle.

I think that’s a great idea, keeps the staff/boss relationship on the positive. Engine oil seems quite a bit more expensive than it was 20 years ago, but maybe it is similar if adjusted for inflation. I paid nearly $20 for a 5 quart container of a brand-name dinosaur oil a few months ago.

I pumped gas at a freeway gas station from 10 pm to 6 am as a teenager and the owner used to let us workers use the lift, grease gun, tire changing machine as much as we like as long as there were no customers. No free oil or filters though. As you might imagine given I worked the over-night shift my vehicles were well greased during that brief period :wink:

The mechanics who could put up with me and remained for quite a while earned a nice income and were given access to personal use of whatever was free at the time to work on their personal vehicles @George_San_Jose1. An oil change these days could be costly with synthetic oil but considering today’s flat rate and the average hours a good man turned in each week (55 plus hours at 40% of ticket labor) I would likely still cover the cost.

This engine has hydraulic lifters, how could you not hear all the clatter for five minutes?

Yes, without oil the engine will self-destruct quickly.

My late father in law sold his Buick and the next owner had the oil changed at a famous department store’s automotive division, and they forgot to add oil after draining the old and replacing the filter.

A Buick V8 will run 7 miles or so without oil before the engine seizes up…



Your truck should have an oil pressure gauge and a check gauges light. Did neither of these work?

Well… assuming the worst is what you should do… But that doesn’t mean all is lost… you never know. You might have gotten lucky. Were there any horrendous sounds coming from the engine?

I’m sure you have added oil by this time…and even tried it out.

Well…what do you report after adding oil? If the reason you wrote this is because you now hear all sorts of noises…then…yes…it hurt itself. If you are wondering whats the big deal…you might have gotten lucky.

So you tell us… Is it toast or not?

My not so mechanically inclined mechanic heard the lifters pecking and recognized the low oil pressure and drove back to add the oil he forgot. I was speechless for a while when he returned. If I had been dumb enough to not refill the oil I certainly wouldn’t have added to the damage by being so stupid that I drove back to get it.


I would take out the plugs and spray some kind of oil into the cylinders and cross my fingers while waiting a while. Then disable the ignition and try turning over the engine a little with the starter.

That seemed like the best possible method to start a dry engine @shanonia. When oil pumps were driven off the distributor gear it was easy to hook up a drill and run the pump long enough to fill the filter and see oil reaching a few rocker arms before starting but with oil pumps run on the front of the crankshaft that isn’t possible so removing the plugs to eliminate bearing compression stress and spinning the engine until the dash gauge indicated pressure seems a necessary step to a safe dry start up.

Maybe uncover the camshaft and oil it, too…

When possible that would be worthwhile.

Five seconds of no oil pressure is survivable. Five minutes and it’s done.