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#3391587 - 06/07/14 05:03 PM How well does your engine handle low oil levels?
RPMster Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 120
Loc: Southern California
When it comes to vehicle maintenance many of us here are nuttier than the average Joe. Keeping engine oil constantly topped up to the full mark is one of those common obsessions.

The importance of this maintenance item of course varies with different vehicles, engines and usage.

Let us know your opinions and experiences on this subject. Include any details such as:

- vehicle model

- how vehicle was used/driven

- oil sump capacities

- engine types

- observations you've made when running low, whether it was a half quart low, a full quart, and so on

- any differences you noticed on UOAs after running low

- any other information you would like to include that is not listed above

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#3391610 - 06/07/14 05:26 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
opus1 Offline


Registered: 12/13/04
Posts: 2005
Loc: Chicago Area
Honestly, I don't know if you're going to get much in the way of usable answers on this site...in my case, "low" means I start topping off if the vehicle is down a 1/2 quart. Which hasn't happened since I sold the '79 Impala that tended to burn a little oil on longer trips.
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#3391613 - 06/07/14 05:35 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
Warstud Offline


Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 2922
Loc: MIchigan
Not sure why you would ask that. I think most of us know it sure isn't good to run it low for the lack of lubrication which results in premature wear.

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#3391614 - 06/07/14 05:38 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
Turk Offline


Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 8080
Loc: MN
I can hear it in the engine when both the 2000 & 1998 Saturn SL2's are 1/2 quarts low.
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97 Camry 216k Maxlife


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#3391623 - 06/07/14 05:52 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
901Memphis Offline


Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 6319
Loc: Northern Kentucky
I never let my engine run below the middle of the cross hatch, although i have heard plenty of stories of dealerships draining oil burners and only 2 quarts come out of a 4-5 quart sump to know the engine doesn't grenade until it gets really low.
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#3391624 - 06/07/14 05:53 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
NHGUY Offline


Registered: 10/09/11
Posts: 3442
Loc: USA
Family had a 77 Nova 250-6 that was very sensitive to oil level.Even if it was full,it would trip the oil light if you drove down a very steep incline.A thorough POS vehicle,that I don't understand why people get so nostalgic about...broken leaf springs,rusted thru shocks,squaky waterpump,5 mufflers,defective carburetor,defective choke thermostat,broken heater control knob,4 batteries,a complete paint job,all in only 5 years of ownership new and 32,000 miles.

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#3391644 - 06/07/14 06:33 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
CurtisB Offline


Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 160
Loc: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Running the sump level to the bottom add line isn't going to affect how the engine lubricates. Oil is still circulating throughout the engine uninterrupted, it's just the reservoir has reached a level that it should be replenished. More sump oil volume doesn't equal better lubrication, but going below the add line may start causing issues...
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#3391654 - 06/07/14 06:45 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: 901Memphis]
Kuato Offline


Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 3241
Loc: Northeastern MT
Originally Posted By: 901Memphis
I never let my engine run below the middle of the cross hatch....


This.
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#3391656 - 06/07/14 06:49 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
Powerglide Offline


Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 26
Loc: SE Florida
I had a friend in high school had a 78 Toyota Celica that was making noise. I checked the oi
l. Nothing on the dipstick. I suggested we just top it off for now. I poured 3 1/2 quarts into it before it ever reached the dipstick. Another quart topped it off. That car went another 200,000 without incident.


Edited by Powerglide (06/07/14 06:50 PM)

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#3391662 - 06/07/14 06:57 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: Powerglide]
Nightmare Offline


Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 118
Loc: KY
@BITOG, you might be hard pressed to find members who let their oil get low. Last road trip I took, i packed a extra qt. in the trunk, for just in case it did get a 1/2 qt low..lol

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#3391679 - 06/07/14 07:09 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
widman Offline


Registered: 05/27/02
Posts: 3072
Loc: Bolivia
Some cars will drink a lot until the half way mark, then none.
I'm comfortable with it anywhere in the range as long as I'm not about to take a long trip.

I have about 4000 miles on this oil change on my Grand Cherokee Pentastar, and the level hasn't changed to where you could notice it.

My two 300,000 mile Toyotas are usually about 1/8" down at 5000 mile changes.
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#3391698 - 06/07/14 07:28 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
Rick in PA Offline


Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 2211
Loc: Southeastern, PA
A long time ago (I'm embarrassed to admit) I let the oil go low on a 2.2L Chrysler motor and wiped the cam. I should have learned.

Another time I pushed a lawn mower too far. It was due for it's oil change and I hadn't been paying attention to the oil level. I had to mow the yard "one more time". About half way through, the motor slowed and stalled. When you remove the oil fill cap and smoke fumes come out, that's a bad sign. Seized Tecumseh.

I believe that once you reach that point, it spirals downhill and bad things happen fast. The oil level drops to where it can no longer do its job. The oil that remains rapidly becomes overheated and breaks down, plus the contamination. The lubricating system "crashes" and fails to lubricate. Rapid, catastrophic mechanical failure ensues.

That's my confession for today.

I have a friend at work who often says "Any oil is better than NO oil." He's right.
I have seen the light. My oil is now meticulously maintained in the upper half of the "run" range.
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#3391706 - 06/07/14 07:35 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: Powerglide]
Jasper8146 Offline


Registered: 04/25/10
Posts: 160
Loc: Lenexa, Kansas
Had an ex-girl friend that had a brand new 1990 Toyota Celica that she ran down to less than 1 quart in it. Engine didn't sound too bad even then. But, about a year later, she told me she traded the car because it was burning oil all the time. Maybe it was a burner to start with, but I can't help but think she did a lot of damage.

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#3391709 - 06/07/14 07:38 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: RPMster]
fdcg27 Offline


Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 9574
Loc: OH
The dispdtick defines a conservative safe range for oil level.
It is unecessary and wasteful to add oil before the lower line is reached.
The OM of my old BMW even says that oil should not be added until the level reaches the add line.
The actual safe level is well below the add line on the dipstick.
As long as the pickup isn't sucking air, all is well with respect to engine lubrication.
The oil pump and the bearings have no idea how much oil remains in the sump, nor do they care as long as they get a steady supply of it rather than air.
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02 Accord 127K G-Oil 5W-30
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95 BMW 318iC 150K Defy 10W-40

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#3391715 - 06/07/14 07:44 PM Re: How well does your engine handle low oil levels? [Re: NHGUY]
Tzu Offline


Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 263
Loc: near Buffalo, NY
I had to laugh when I read this. Just turned 47 last week, and vehicles of these years were in my high school parking lot. From some with smoking blue on startup, exhausts falling off, various road signs used for floor boards and a lot of rust, I don't really miss these vintage of cars, but my first vehicle was a used '78 C10 as a HS grad present from my parents in '85. 2 new doors/fenders and 14 spray cans of blue paint and my truck looked good (as a 18yr. old could do then). It had 72,411 miles on it then and I took it off the road 3 years ago with 337,780 miles on it. It leaked/burnt oil pretty bad near the end, but I really never knew it on how it sounded. Fouled spark plugs gave it away though. It had the equivalent power of my beater '91 Camry four cylinder even though it had a 305 V8. My current Silverado doesn't burn hardly any oil, gets much better mpg and feels twice a strong with 247,000 miles on a 5.3. But I still have feeling for my old truck:)
Originally Posted By: NHGUY
Family had a 77 Nova 250-6 that was very sensitive to oil level.Even if it was full,it would trip the oil light if you drove down a very steep incline.A thorough POS vehicle,that I don't understand why people get so nostalgic about...broken leaf springs,rusted thru shocks,squaky waterpump,5 mufflers,defective carburetor,defective choke thermostat,broken heater control knob,4 batteries,a complete paint job,all in only 5 years of ownership new and 32,000 miles.
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