What Are Low Engine Oil Symptoms? Causes And Effects

If your car doesn’t have enough oil, it can’t prevent metal-on-metal contact, flush out pollutants and keep your system cool. It means your vehicle will need critical repairs for those problems. Since engine oil keeps your engine in prime condition, you should change this oil frequently. What if you top-up your car but show the low engine oil?

If your car shows a low engine oil level, then you may wonder why showing this problem. This article will describe low engine oil symptoms and why your vehicle runs low. So, please read on.

Low Engine Oil Symptoms

When your car’s engine oil (motor oil) runs low, the signs are hard to miss. Here are some signs you may face due to low oil or pressure. Let’s explain in detail the symptoms of low oil in an engine:

Oil Pressure Warning Light

This is the most definitive way to notice that your engine is low on oil. Most modern cars have a warning light that assesses the oil pressure and reports it to the ECU.

If your vehicle doesn’t have enough oil pressure, the ECU triggers the warning light. When you see this warning light, immediately inspect your vehicle and top up the engine with motor oil if necessary.

Knocking Noise

Any noise coming from under the hood is never a good sign. If you hear a knocking sound from your engine elements, chances are your engine is low on oil.

But why is this?

When your engine doesn’t have enough oil flow, its components can rub together and build friction. This can loosen your car’s engine rods. Thus, this is a crucial engine part responsible for tightly securing the pistons.

So, if you don’t lubricate your engine correctly, these rods will be thrown around inside the machine. And after, it creates a knocking noise. You may also hear a cam bearing noise due to low oil pressure or low oil level.

Poor Fuel Economy

Your engine can work harder to meet the car’s demands with adequate oil flow. And if your machine can work hard, it burns more fuel. Notably, after that, it can impact your fuel economy. Ergo, check your vehicle for low engine oil if fuel efficiency drops.

Burning Oil Smell

If your car starts to smell burning oil, pull it immediately. A burning smell from your vehicle and a low oil level may indicate an oil leak. This oil can drip onto hot engine parts, causing a burning smell.

Once you pull over, let your car cool down. Then, check the dipstick for low oil levels. Do not drive if insufficient because low oil can cause severe engine damage. If you face this problem, you can refill the engine with oil.

Idle Vehicle Performance

Low engine oil can also affect your car’s performance. Since engine oil maintains lubrication for smooth operation, a lack of it can cause your engine damage. This results in reduced engine efficiency and performance. Lack of oil also can cause severe damage that requires costly engine repairs.

Low Engine Oil Symptoms

Low Engine Oil Causes:

Here are some possible reasons which are responsible for the low oil level in your vehicle:

Engine Oil Leak

Your engine may leak motor oil if your oil level is low despite a recent oil change. Your engine may leak oil due to a poorly installed oil filter or worn seals, allowing oil to escape.

You may notice oil holes under your car if the leak is from the oil pan. Nonetheless, small leaks are challenging to detect and often require engine dismantling.

Check: Why My Car Leaking Oil After Oil Change?

A Bad PCV Valve

If your motor is low on oil but has no leaks, it probably means the engine is burnt inside. A bad PCV valve is a frequent culprit in burning oil – but what exactly is it?

A PCV valve is constructed to allow air to escape if the pressure in the crankcase is too high. But the PCV valve will draw too much oil into the engine if it goes wrong. The upside is that valves are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace for skilled technicians.

Engine Oil Burning

Accordingly, when you notice low pressure on the oil pressure gauge and no leaks, it means there is burning oil.

It’s normal for your car to burn a little oil, particularly as the engine ages. Topping it up with some new oil should fix the problem.

But if your new car starts burning oil quickly, you should inspect it immediately. Besides this, if you see blue smoke coming from your exhaust, it could indicate a bigger problem.

Check: Car Blowing White Smoke After Oil Change

Worn Piston Rings

Intake and exhaust valves at one end of the cylinder. And you can find the pistons are at the other. The piston rings seal the piston; if the piston moves, the cylinder doesn’t get any oil.

Ergo, a worn piston ring can allow oil to enter the combustion chamber. If the piston rings are worn, this could indicate the engine itself is worn out.

Low Engine Oil Symptoms

Effects Of Low Oil On Car:

Due to low oil levels, your car engine will break down, resulting in a very costly repair. Low oil level causes seals to dry out, valves to burn, heat internal parts, and eventually break.

Unless it’s damaged, the engine can continue to lose power and burn extra fuel while running poorly. When something eventually goes wrong, the cost of repairs can be prohibitive. If this happens to a car, you want to find a new ride. Let’s explain more effects of low oil in the car:

Increase Your Engine Temperature

Low oil has some terrible consequences. The first thing that will occur is that your engine temperature will increase while the oil pressure drops. If you quickly notice this problem, this can’t damage your engine. But if low oil lasts long, it can damage your mechanical systems.

Fail The Valve

Valves allow air to enter and exit the combustion chamber. These valves need oil to stay calm and continue to function flawlessly. Generally, you can find the valves at the top of the engine. So because of low engine oil, the valves can feel excessive wear and tear.

Valves are small metal parts mounted on a long, thin metal rod. The valves can fail or break when they get hot from not getting oil. Likewise, this can cause the engine to operate poorly and stop it altogether. Yet, if your machine works with bad valves, your power output will be low, and your fuel economy will be worse and more.

Deformed Heads and Damaged Cranks

When engines heat up due to low oil, they deform various parts. Several current machines have heads that are formulated from aluminum, which is prone to damage if overheated. Aluminum heads need good, clean oil of the correct viscosity to control internal friction and heat.

When heads warp, they can no longer seal well with a gasket. In addition, the cylinders will lose compression, and the machine eventually fails. Internal damage is usually so extensive that a completely new engine may be the only viable solution.

When oil is insufficient or unavailable, the crank heats up and eventually warps. A warped crank will not turn, and the engine will seize and spoil.

No Insurance or Warranty Protection

When you drive with too low an oil level for too long, the oil causes further damage and abuse. It will lose its viscosity slowly and stop doing its intended job.

It can become a common financial disaster when an automobile lasts many more years. In fact, due to a bad engine, you need to spend thousands of dollars suddenly.

Driving your car with low oil is a way to void engine warranty protection. There is no insurance coverage for damaged engines – mainly because of low oil levels. That’s why it’s essential to check your oil regularly and top it up if the oil level is too low.

Is Low Engine Oil Car Shaking?

Yes, low engine oil can shake your car. Typically, if you notice your car shaking when accelerating, it is a sign that your engine oil is low. Low engine oil makes all shorts a problem for your vehicle. Including low oil can reduce engine performance and fuel economy and increase wear and tear on your engine components.

Car shaking or vibration is the most common sign of low engine oil. The reason is that low oil levels can cause engine parts to rub together, leading to vibration. In some cases, it can even cause engine damage if the issue is not recognized quickly.

How To Tell If Oil Is Low On Dipstick?

First, pull the dipstick out and read the engine oil level. To indicate the engine oil level, it may show lines, holes, or letters.

The lines on the dipstick are marked as highs for a minute to lows. The letter H on the dipstick indicates that the oil level on the dipstick is too high. On the other hand, the letter L indicates a low oil level.

Check: Engine Oil Dipstick Hard to Read: Tips & Tricks

What To Do If Engine Oil Is Low?

Usually, if you experience any of the above symptoms of low oil, check your oil level. Subsequently, when the oil level is below the minimum amount, top it off. Flash out the old oil with a brand-new English flush to clean all sludge.

Check for leaks by noticing oil drops on the floor. And monitor how many miles you need to top off again. There is another effortless way to avoid low oil problems with regular oil changes.

In the old days, you had to change the oil every 3,000 miles. But modern oils recommend oil changes every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. Some engines that use fully synthetic motor oil need 15,000 miles before changing.

FAQ(Frequently Asked Questions):

Q. Can low oil cause a car to shut off?

If your car’s oil pressure is low, the oil pump isn’t circulating the oil properly. Because of it, your engine will overheat and eventually shut down.

Check: Low Oil Pressure at Idle: Causes & Repair process 

Furthermore, if you see your car’s oil light is on or you hear strange noises, check the oil level immediately.

Q. Is It OK to drive with low engine oil?

No, it’s not OK. If you drive with low oil levels, you risk damaging the moving parts of your engine. You know the job of engine oil is to lubricate your engine moving parts. The lower the engine oil, the more likely these parts will experience friction. In particular, this may cause additional part wear.

Q. How do I know if my car needs oil?

Accordingly, you should take some steps to know if your car needs oil. First, make sure you park your vehicle on level ground. Then you also make sure your engine is cold. If your car is not cool, it can burn your hot engine parts. For some vehicles, the automaker recommends checking your oil when your engine is warm.

Now open the car’s hood and locate the dipstick. Pull the dipstick from the engine and wipe any oil from its tip. Then insert the dipstick into its tube and push it all the way.

The dipstick shows that the oil is slightly low as it is below the circle. In this case, you can add a quart portion to top it off.

Final Word:

In short, engine oil is a crucial element that helps keep your engine cool, lubricated, and clean. But, oil can degrade over time, impairing your engine’s performance.

If you notice low engine oil symptoms that don’t disappear after a top-up, you should contact the repair shop. Ultimately, this is the article where you can get the most helpful information you seek. Overall, if you want to know more information, we are always here for you. Thanks for reading this article attentively. Best of luck.

Read Also: Can Low Oil Cause A Misfire? Causes And Solutions


I am Engr. Z Eusuf Lubricant Specialist, Mechanical Engineer & has been working with engine lubricants for a long time and knows what makes them work best. I can help you find the right oil for your needs, and I have tips on how to keep your engine running at its best.