Should I get rid of my car?

Let me preface this by saying I screwed up big time. I did something very stupid and I’m extremely lucky that things did not turn out worse. I’ve been yelled at several times.

I put off getting my oil changed for way too long. Monday morning, about a mile away from my work, my oil light flashed on for literally a second and then went away. Just before I pulled in the parking garage, it happened again. I asked someone about it when I got to my office & he said I was probably just low enough on oil that it was triggering the sensor, but he would check it for me. Turns out, it was extremely low, so on my lunch break, I walked to a Gas Station and picked up 2 quarts of oil. He put them in for me and checked & I was still pretty low, so after work I drove back to the Gas Station and bought another quart.

The Gas Station is next to a repair shop & one of the mechanics saw me struggling and helped me. After the 3rd quart, my oil was still low. He gave me a 4th quart and finally my level was perfect. So basically, I was just about out of oil. I had no idea the light wouldn’t come on until I was already at risk for ruining my engine. The mechanic said I have 58k miles on my car, but now my engine basically has 100k on it. He started the car & revved the engine and said I was good, but I’m still freaked out.

I have learned my lesson and I will faithfully get my oil changes on time from this point on. I totally could have destroyed my engine and I’m so lucky I didn’t. That being said, I am clearly not at all handy with cars and I am trying to decide if I should get rid of this car now, while it’s running great, or should I hold on to it and risk hefty maintenance costs? I’m almost done paying it off, so it would suck to start all over, but I guess I could consider that my stupid tax.

Not sure if it matters, but it’s a 2012 Nissan Sentra.

Just keep it. No point getting it to some other unsuspecting person at this point.

I should have clarified that someone who knows what happened wants to buy it.

I don’t necessarily agree with this statement. You were lucky and took action just in time. Just make sure to start changing at intervals recommended in your owners manual. Not only the oil, but other fluids as well.


If you operated this vehicle for 20,000 miles (unknown) on the same oil without an oil change the engine has consumed approximately 1 quart every 5,000 miles, maybe more.

You should check the oil level and add as needed every 500 miles. If oil consumption is proven to be low, you might adapt to checking the oil level every 1,000 miles.

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I should emphasize that it’s not enough to change the oil as required, but also to check the oil level on a regular basis and add oil as needed.

For you, I’d suggest checking it weekly. But check it daily for a while to be sure you don’t have a problem.

edit: I agree with mustangman, get another oil and filter change in a few weeks.

Keep your car, pay it off and then start planning for a new(er) car so you can 1) have a fund to pay for unexpected repairs and/or 2) buy a newer car… I’d give that advice to anyone, regardless of the oil change incident.

Not checking the oil is bad and going long on an oil change is bad too but check your oil on a regular basis, get the oil changed on a regular basis and the car will give you many more miles of service. I’d suggest doing the next oil change in a few weeks. Yes, you just put “new” oil in, but the filter is the same old one.

Just to ease your mind a bit. A work friend did exactly what you did and ran his Jeep 22,000 on an oil change and just about ran it out of oil. He had over 275,000 on it before he got rid of it.

I’m afraid you haven’t learned the correct lesson. Although you do want to get your oil changes on time, the problem here is that you didn’t check your oil level regularly as your owner’s manual tells you to do.

As for your original question, I can see why you’re tempted to sell it now, but I think I lean toward keeping the car and crossing your fingers.

+1 to everything that lion9car stated.
Yes, going too long between oil changes can limit the life of an engine, but failing to check your car’s oil level on a frequent basis between oil changes can kill that engine very quickly. I think that the OP is lucky to have–probably–dodged a bullet in this situation.

While the engine’s ultimate lifespan may well have been reduced by negligence, I think that simply getting rid of it at this point would be an overreaction. And, I have to say that I am mystified by the number of people who apparently never bother to check their oil level, or to have it checked by somebody else who might have more automotive expertise.

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You may want to let your friend at work know that most cars don’t have a “low oil level” sensor/light. They have a low oil PRESSURE sensor/light. If it goes on it means you must pull off the road immediately (safely of course), turn off the engine, and check your oil level. You CANNOT rely on it to tell you when to add oil.


Unless it was making unpleasant noises when you were low on oil, you’re likely to have gotten really lucky and not actually run the engine out of lubrication. If that’s the case, then you probably didn’t do all that much damage if any.

Even if the mechanic is right (I don’t think he necessarily was, and I suspect he was applying the “scared straight” tactic to get you to maintain your oil levels better in the future, and it sounds like it worked!)… OK, you have a 100k mile engine now. Those engines can easily go 200k. I wouldn’t get rid of a car with 100k left of life in it unless I just wanted to get rid of it.

Now the one concern I have is that a 2012 should never be 4 quarts low unless you’re going aeons between oil changes, so that suggests that you either have a leak somewhere or are already burning oil to a high degree, which is concerning on a 5 year old car.

Manufacturers usually say that losing up to a quart between scheduled oil changes is normal. Losing 4 times that much is decidedly not. Unless you went around 28,000 miles without an oil change, I’d be looking for that oil leak. If you did go 28,000 miles without an oil change, then that is a good candidate to have done bad things to your engine.

I’d have someone knowledgeable pop the oil filler cap off and look inside the valve cover for signs of sludge buildup, and if there is any, I’d have it cleaned out by an independent, local mechanic. Not Jiffy Lube. They’ll just squirt some crap in your oil and overcharge you for it, and it won’t work anyway.

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This is the real issue in my opinion. This new and low mileage car should not be loosing oil this rapidly. There is potentially some issue. How many miles did you go without an oil change?

Going longer than 5000 mile interval is not necessarily a deal breaker. Most of the modern oil should be good for 10K assuming it stays clean and does not get too hot. My camry runs on propane, I was doing synthetic oil changes at 20,000 miles. I sampled the oil for analysis at these intervals and it was still good oil. I changed it out of peace of mind and not because it really needed to be changed. My wife’s yaris I routinely change the oil at 15K-18K miles. Once again the oil is still good on the gasoline burner. Both cars have over 250K miles on them. During these long oil change intervals, the cars use very little oil. For your car to be 4 quarts low (likely only has 5 quart capacity) is troubling. The oil is going somewhere.

Back to the original mechanics assessment that your engine has been abused and is the equivalent as a 100K mile engine. That is hard to qualify. It could be 200K miles or it could be just fine. With only 1 quart in the engine, you could have easily starved oil to the valve train.

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.

This oil sample will give you some insight to the inside of the engine. If you don’t like the results than sell the car. If everything is fine, then keep the car. You will likely need to sample a few times to get a trend. I personally sample my oil every couple of oil changes. My wife has a brand new toyota car. I have started this sample while the car is still under warranty. This will help me identify potential internal problems while the car is still under warranty instead of waiting to be outside the warranty period.

I wholeheartedly agree. There’s no value whatsoever in getting rid of it and buying another used car that might have been subjected to something even more serious… like an accident that’s been hidden with some bodywork.

I think it is cool you are having the ethical debate. Many folks would simply pawn it off to the quickest buyer. If you have a buyer that is fully informed you don’t see at family gatherings, I’d move it on.

If the car is paid off and otherwise meets your needs, I see no reason to get rid of it. Like others have said, the engine may go next week, or you could get another 100K miles out of it. I lean toward the latter, myself.

I’d also chalk this up to an expensive lesson on not only checking your oil regularly yourself, but getting the oil changed regularly. Good luck.

That happened on my Corolla one time, where the oil light came on at a stop sign leaving home for work. I looked at the dipstick, no oil at all. I’m not sure how low I was, probably at least 1.5 quarts low, maybe 2. But no damage occurred from that incident. When I first noticed it, drove it back to the driveway and took my truck to work instead, then later I did an oil and filter job, no problem since. It was low I discovered b/c I had a leak from the valve cover. I had changed the oil about 5000 miles prior, along with the filter. Not changing can be worse than the oil getting low. As long as the oil is high enough to fill the oil pump, the engine is pretty immune to that for driving about town purposes. If that happened on a 80 mph cruise in the hot desert for 300 miles, that’s no good tho.

Gee hope we get an updante from the inferno :rage: