Running car without oil

I own a 2005 corolla CE manual and a year ago (approximately 10000 miles ago) while driving it on the highway the oil light came up, when I noticed it I drove to the next parking lot and pulled over; the engine temperature didn’t seem affected (at least 10 miles of driving and going 65 mph without oil). Though I will say he engine sounded strained or ‘grungy’. When I checked the dipstick it was empty (odd because I had the oil changed not a 1000 miles before this), I filled it up with oil and while sitting there noticed that all the oil had simply leaked onto the ground. I had it towed to the nearest shop and they said the oil drainage plug had fallen out. They also said it looked as if the engine was fine. I took it to the shop where I had the oil changed and they too said it was fine.

The car has been driving since then without any problems (10000 miles like I said) or loss in gas mileage, though it sounds ‘grungier’ of late. Is there anything thing I can do to check it (oil analysis) or am I going to just have to drive it until it dies, or did I get lucky?

Maybe you should have a compression test performed, but even if you find damage, what then? The shop that changed the oil has been absolved of liability because you drove at least an additional 10 miles at 65 MPH after you saw the oil light. When you see the oil light, you are supposed to pull over, no matter where you are, and shut off the engine.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do short of a total teardown to assess how much damage was done. It’s virtually guaranteed that as a minimum you’ve shortened the engine’s life. No engine can survive 10 miles on the highway without some damage to the bearings, crank, and the valvetrain (read: cam, lifters, etc.). Those unusual sounds you heard were metal grinding against metal.

Recovering for damages will be extremely difficult, as no evidence exists as to how shortened the life of the engine actually is. Perhaps a judgement could be obtained in a small claims court for the oil change company to pay for an extended and extensive warraty for you, but I won’t kid you…this would be unusual.

Yes, you could have an oil analysis done to determine what bad stuff (such as metal particles) are suspended in your current oil, but tieing the result to the oil change will be difficult.

You could and should also talk with a lawyer and get a legal opinion. But since the car still runs and one shop has already said it’s fine, you may have no case.

I’m truely sorry, but I have nothing positive to offer. Except to avoid that oil change place in the future and of the light ever again comes on pull over off the soft shoulder immediately. If you don’t have AAA and a cell phone, now would be a good time to consider both.

Yeah, I’ve talked to a few mechanically inclined people and they said the same, short of tearing it apart there is nothing I can do. One told me to look for exhaust with a blue color since it would indicate metal parts being worn down. saying it was the oil change place to begin with would have been tough since it was a month and more than a 1000 miles later that I had this happen (could be sabotage I suppose). Further more another mechanic said that slick 50 would help extend the lifespan in this situation. Any truth to this?

Thanks once again.

You are the luckiest guy on the planet (to still be using the sme engine after 10 miles with no oil). Nothing you can do now.

It does pain me that mechanics (we come in all flavors) are still promoting the advantages of Slick 50. The product sounded good but did not deliver as promised.

Few people get to drive 10 miles staring at an “OIL” light. 7 is the usual number when things grind to a halt. At this point, it’s impossible to evaluate how much damage was done. Time will tell…

Off topic, didn;t Dupont some years back make them stop using the word Teflon to describe the PTFE additive?

“I took it to the shop where I had the oil changed and they too said it was fine.”

I am not surprised, are you?

Was this a quick oil change place? They have problems with doing the simple oil change properly.

When the oil light comes on that indicates you have little to zero oil pressure and the oil is no longer circulating around the motor. At this point you need to stop running the motor ASAP. According to your post you drove another 10 miles at 65 mph after the light came on. If this is true you are very lucky to have a running motor now in your car. If this should ever happen again don’t worry about finding a parking lot, pull off the road and turn off the motor and call for a tow.

At this point your choices are keep the car. It seems to be running OK. Are you adding oil between oil changes? How much and how often?

If you are burning oil and hearing a lot of noise from the motor “grungier” as you call it then you should sell the car or trade it in for another one, BEFORE your motor deteriorates further. Fixing the motor in the car means a complete overhaul, or a new block and without an insurance company paying for this work it is too expensive for you to tackle.

The oil change place is responsible for this whole problem. The either stripped out the threads in the oil pan and didn’t realize it. Or, they knew they screwed it up and put in a drain plug designed to fix stripped out holes and that didn’t work. Since the drain plug itself is gone you’ll not know what kind of error they made but if you oil plug is gone 1,000 miles post oil change they definately messed it up. You should have had their insurance company pay for proper evaluation and repairs if needed of your motor at that time. 10K miles and months later you can’t do that now.

Thanks for the advice… So I had it checked today by another car shop, (the cylinder compression ratios were 190, 195 195 190… ) and they said it was fine, the oil that they drained was fine, and that it sounded good too (could be my imagination trying to pick up noises, as it’s obvious from my dilemma; I do not know much about cars). I don’t add oil between oil changes and as I said above the other car shop said it was fine. So I imagine I’m in the clear until major noises come up again (the shop said clicking, knocking, metal on metal sounds) ?
Once again thanks for all the advice.

“I don’t add oil between oil changes”

Do you mean that the car has never needed oil between changes, or that you choose not to add oil between changes, even if the oil level is low? I am asking this question because of your admitted sparse knowledge about cars.

Anyway, in the wake of this “no oil” incident, it is very likely that your oil consumption will increase. I strongly suggest that you begin by checking the oil every time that you fill the gas tank. If, after a few weeks of this regimen you find that the oil level is still normal, then you can safely switch to checking the oil every two weeks.

However, it is still vital to monitor your oil level very frequently, as oil consumption can increase suddenly. And, you should not allow the dipstick level to drop more than 1 qt before adding oil. Personally, I will not allow an engine’s oil level to drop more than 1/2 qt.

Never needed oil between changes, ie I checked that and it’s always topped up (without adding anything extra), though I’ll keep checking it from now on. Does all the other info from the car shop make sense?

Good compression readings are a good sign. That means the cylinder walls aren’t scored.

However, it doe not mean that the engine’s life has not been reduced. Wear on the crank and bearings cannot be measured with the engine intact.

The bottom line is that you fortunately have good compression and unfortunately have no way to tell exactly what effect the loss of oil had. You have no place to go from here but to drive on and enjoy the car. Hopefully you’ll have many happy years with it.

Move past the incident. You’ve no choice.

Happy motoring.