What happened to my 2003 Nissan Murano?

I purchased a used 2003 Nissan Murano from a reputable Lexus dealer in Chicago on Jan. 24-09. At the time it had just under 35,500 miles, it now has just under 39,000. I was told the car underwent a detailed inspection, as well as tune-up and oil change. The sticker on the car states next oil change due June 2009, or 40,000 miles. So, it surprised me when the car started making a clicking noise, a few days later the oil and engine lights came on. I pulled over and there was virtually not a drop of oil in the car. Now, I don’t have an oil leak, and have only driven the car 3100 miles. So, my questions are: how could this happen? And how much damage could there be to the engine? We added oil to the car, the noise is gone and the oil light went off. The car seems to be running fine, but the engine light is still on. I know my questions should be answered by the dealer…but easier said than done. Unless you are buying a car, no one returns phone calls.

You drove the car for…possibly 3.5 months…without bothering to open the hood to check the oil? Unless someone is VERY sure of the rate of oil consumption of a used car (or even a new one!), it is really important to check the oil at least once a week until you have some idea of its rate of oil consumption.

Apparently, this vehicle consumed a bit more oil than normal for its age and mileage. Now that it has been run dangerously low on oil, it is very likely that the rate of oil consumption is even higher than before. There could indeed be internal damage to the engine, and I would suggest that you have the car examined by an independent mechanic to determine the possible damage as well as the reason for the CEL to be illuminated.

Unless this used car came with a longer guarantee than usual, the dealer is probably not going to help you. What were the warranty terms on this vehicle?

The dealer warranty is up, though I did purchase an extended warranty from a different company. Maybe I should have been checking the oil, but I certainly don’t know a single person who checks their oil weekly. I trusted the inspection report that there were no defects or major problems with the car. I would say burning 5-6 quarts of oil in 3.5 months is a serious problem that would have been discovered by the dealer selling the car.

How much oil was in there the previous times that you checked it?

I hadn’t checked the oil, as I’d only had the car for 3 1/2 months. I’m guilty of being ignorant with car matters, but I didn’t expect to be checking the oil on a car that had just gotten an oil change and deemed to be in “superior” condition. To speculate, if it had just received an oil change right before I purchased it, it would have had at least four quarts.

The vital fluids, and routine maintenance are YOUR responsibility. For those other people who, also, shirk their responsibilities, that will be on their heads when some similar, avoidable, something happens.
WHAT engine light is still on? The low oil pressure light? The maintenance reminder light? The check engine light (or, symbol)?
If there is a “full service” station you can use, you need to use that to get the vital fluids checked regularly.

Maybe they didn’t put enough oil in the engine when it was changed. This happens more often than you’d think.

The “oil light” is a warning of low oil PRESURE, not low oil level. Assuming you stopped and turned off the engine as soon as the light came on you may be lucky. Only time will tell if the engine has been damaged by lack of lubrication.

You will have to monitor the oil consumption, if there is any, over time. Get in the habit of checking the oil at least twice a month and keep records of how much you add, if any.

Good luck.

I wasn’t “shirking” my responsibilities. Yes, I’ve now learned that I should check the oil more frequently than when it is due for an oil change, but to tell me that I “shirked” my responsibilities is rude. I don’t know anyone who checks their oil monthly, weekly, whatever. Yes, now I will, but your response was not constructive or helpful.

Thank you. I appreciate your helpful, non-rude response.

Checking the oil weekly is necessary under two scenarios:

After purchasing a car–either new or used–frequent checking of the oil is necessary until you establish the engine’s rate of oil consumption. Some engines use no oil between changes, others might use 1/2 qt or even a full qt between changes, and some may use much more, even if that rate of consumption does not fall within the “normal” range. Only by checking every week for at least the first month would you know the rate of oil consumption.

When an engine has been run dangerously low on oil–as this one apparently has–the oil consumption rate can increase dramatically, so frequent checking is even more vital.

In addition, I will add that it is a very good idea to check the oil and other fluids immediately after a vehicle has been serviced. While it is not frequent, it is also not unheard-of for an oil change technician to be distracted sufficiently to underfill or overfill the crankcase, or transmission, or brake master cylinder. If you don’t do a fluid check after servicing, you could wind up driving for an extended period of time with fluid levels that are too low or too high (this is also bad), and that can lead to various types of damage.

To assume that everything under the hood is hunky-dory is naive, IMHO. And, on a used car whose previous usage and maintenance is usually an unknown, failure to check fluids on a regular basis can lead to major problems. I hope that you don’t have major problems with this engine, but I have to say that I am not optimistic, based on your description of the situation.

Well, I’ve definitely learned a lesson, hopefully it doesn’t turn into an expensive one. Thank you for your advice.

I’m very glad to say that my 1987 Ford Ranger does not have a Central timer module/electronic control module." Nor does it have a “remote anti-theft personality/RAP module.” It does’nt have any other useless electronic garbage either.

However it does have a very simple little gadget that would have prevented the OP’s problem

In addition to the low oil pressure warning light,it also has a “Low oil LEVEL” warning light on the dash.

Granted the OP should have been checking the oil frequently, but theres more than one way to avoid a disaster.

Yes, my dad, who checked the car, was astounded that there was no low oil level warning.

…which is yet another illustration of the importance of reading the Owner’s Manual.

That booklet would have revealed that there was no such warning light on that model, thus making it really important to open the hood and use the dipstick to regularly determine the oil level in the crankcase.

Hopefully the motor did not suffer significant damage. The only way to tell is have a compression test done, and have the mechanic check for signs of sludging (which can occur when oil gets too hot), and varnish deposits.

You’ve stated in a number of posts that you’ve learned your lesson about checking the oil level. Today’s self serve gas stations put the responsibilty on the owner to check fluid levels. If the owner doesn’t check, noone checks. Some cars burn little to zero oil in between oil changes, other cars burn 1 to 2 quarts. Both cars can be normal, for that car. Apparantly your Murano uses some oil and perhaps other cars you’ve owned didn’t.

What happens when a car gets say 2 quarts low. Now 3 quarts are doing the work of 5. So those 3 quarts get a workout and quickly that oil breaks down and burns off even faster. Now your 3 quarts down and 2 quarts of depleted oil are doing the work of 5 and that makes the remaining oil get hotter and burn off faster. Soon, you’ve got little to no oil not doing any job at all. This is the reason you need to add oil when the bottom mark on the dipstick is reached. If the car has 5 quarts in the oil pan when full, then when you add oil you are down to 4 quarts. This way you keep between 4 and 5 quarts in the oil pan all the time.

Once you’ve had the Murano for a while and you’ve been checking the oil weekly, if there is no loss of oil you can go to two week checks. Then, maybe monthly checks. For me, I check the oil before starting on a highway trip in addition to once every other week. I’d rather fill the oil from my supply in the garage purchased at WalMart for $2.25 a quart than at the gas self serve mart for $5.00 a quart.

The fact the oil light is off and the noise is gone means nothing. Any time an oil light illuminates some engine damage will occur. The only thing debateable is the degree of damage.

Usually the first thing to suffer is the overlay on the crankshaft bearings as it only takes seconds for this to start wiping away. Once the overlay starts disappearing then the engine is damaged goods. It may go for 50k miles like this; or it may not.

An inspection, no matter how thorough, is no guarantee of a problem-free ride.
You erred by not inspecting the oil on a regular basis and you’re likely going to find out just how worthless 3rd party extended warranties really are.
The warranty company will likely put this off on you and they do have a leg to stand on in this case.

Well, I’ve definitely learned a lesson, hopefully it doesn’t turn into an expensive one.

I hope so too. The important part is you have learned. We all need to do that at some time in our lives. The only thing to be ashamed about is not learning.

I’d also get in the habit of checking the oil immediately after getting an oil change too. Cheap insurance and even the best of the best do forget things sometimes :slight_smile: