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What is that rattle in my Civic?

I put almost 7000 mi on my 1999 Honda Civic LX (Rhonda) this last summer without changing the oil. When I checked the dipstick it was almost dry. I was worried because I had recently been hearing a rattle when the engine would start, but once the engine warmed up the noise was gone. I topped off the oil until I could get it changed. When I got the oil changed I asked the technician if he could make sure I didn’t do any damage to the engine. His response was that if I had done damage it would be making a lot of noise.

My questions are these:

Is he right about my oil situation?

Either way, what could be making the rattle noise?

There hasn’t been any change in performance, but the noise still has me worried. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

“Almost dry” means you were probably down almost 2 quarts. Not good for summer driving. If all the noise diasappears when the engine is warmed up, you probably have a noisy valve gear through some excessive wear, and readjusting the valves is about the only thing you can do. I would certainly not bother opening up the engine at this time.

Since this is a 1999 car, you may not want to put much into it.

I strongly advise however that you check the oil level at every second tank of gas. That’s what your owner’s manual likely advises. And I would change the oil and filter every 4000 miles or so; again, check your manual.

I agree. You can consider yourself lucky if the Civic keeps running.

I certainly hope this has taught you the value of checking the oil level more frequently. You’re lucky you didn’t run it completely dry. That would have caused a lot of damage.

Not being able to hear the “rattle” you’re worrying about, or knowing how many miles the car has on it, makes it difficult to speculate about what might be causing the noise. As Docnick suggests, if this engine has manually adjustable valves it might be a good idea to have someone check them.

The oil change technician is basically correct. If the lack of oil had caused significant damage you’d know it.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice to know where the two quarts of oil went?