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  1. #1

    fleurya's Avatar
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    If you drive you car with no oil... ?
    So a coworker of mine was telling me a story the other day about a couple years ago when she got her oil changed at a Jiffy Lube and they happened to forget to put oil back in after they drained it! I guess she only went 30-some miles before getting it taken care of and hasn't had any problems since, but now that her car is getting up there in mileage (around 90k) she's worried that incident might have prematurely worn the engine and it's life may be shortened. She's thinking of trying to trade it in or something before it blows up for good.

    I was thinking that there may not be any significant damage since she didn't go too far and the residue from the oil taken out provided some lubrication, but I'm not sure. Any more knowledgeable car people that have an opinion on this?


    Incidentally, this isn't the first time I've heard of this happening at a Jiffy Lube. I can't imagine how a place that does oil changes primarily can forget to put oil in the car, but somehow they manage it! Bottom line for those less knowledgable of cars, stay away from Jiffy Lube!!
    "Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others"

  2. #2

    louishen's Avatar
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    There might be some wear, but if the engines still running OK, then it should be good. 90K isn't a lot for an engine, but that depends on the make and how the car is driven. At 90K I would expect the cam belt to have been changed at least once - if this has not happened yet then it should be a matter of priority.

    If any significant wear had taken place then I would expect the car to run smokey, where oil gets into the pistons and burns smoke. If the engine is well maintained and is not running rough or creating a lot of smoke then it should be OK

    A bit of soot when initially started is not a worry, but if its smoking when running for a bit, then you will soon need an engine rebuild or just get rid of the car
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  3. #3

    1991-C4's Avatar
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    She has been driving it for a couple of years and now all of a sudden she is worried about it?


    "Doesn't anybody screen these calls?"

  4. #4

    wavinwayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1991-C4 View Post
    She has been driving it for a couple of years and now all of a sudden she is worried about it?


    "Doesn't anybody screen these calls?"
    LOL...Don't drive like my brother...
    Don't believe anything I tell you, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as "doing your homework."

  5. #5

    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fleurya View Post
    So a coworker of mine was telling me a story the other day about a couple years ago when she got her oil changed at a Jiffy Lube and they happened to forget to put oil back in after they drained it! I guess she only went 30-some miles before getting it taken care of and hasn't had any problems since, but now that her car is getting up there in mileage (around 90k) she's worried that incident might have prematurely worn the engine and it's life may be shortened. She's thinking of trying to trade it in or something before it blows up for good.

    I was thinking that there may not be any significant damage since she didn't go too far and the residue from the oil taken out provided some lubrication, but I'm not sure. Any more knowledgeable car people that have an opinion on this?


    Incidentally, this isn't the first time I've heard of this happening at a Jiffy Lube. I can't imagine how a place that does oil changes primarily can forget to put oil in the car, but somehow they manage it! Bottom line for those less knowledgable of cars, stay away from Jiffy Lube!!
    Well it just so happens that one of the areas that I would consider myself VERY knowledgeable about (other than Macintosh computers)...is auto repair. I've been doing 95-99% of all of my own repair & maintenance on my vehicles for almost 30 years. I have NEVER owned a new car...and most of the time I buy cars that are 6-10 years old & have 50,000-90,000 miles on them (so when I get them, they usually need some sort of TLC). I can do anything from pulling an engine or transmission out of a car, rebuilding an engine, replacing anything brake related, blown head gaskets, tune-ups...basically just about anything on a car I can diagnose and/or repair. So call that my "car repair resume".

    Like "1991-C4" mentioned...seems sort of strange that this person is now worried about this oil change SNAFU a couple years later...or maybe this was just the first time they had the opportunity to tell you the story.

    Anyhow...the first thing I would mention is...this person should have seen/noticed a "Low Oil Pressure warning light" on their dash very shortly after pulling away from the Jiffy Lube. I certainly would not have driven 30 miles before I would have noticed the warning light...but then I know that I pay more attention to these things than some other drivers.

    As far as the wear. There's a product called "Slick-50" (similar products as well)...that you add (one time) to your oil. This product is supposed to contain "Teflon-like" molecules that impregnate/coat all metal surfaces it comes in contact with...making them more "slippery" (thus reducing friction), which leads to reduced wear & improved gas mileage.

    One of the tests the makers of "Slick-50" did was, after treating the engine with Slick-50...they supposedly drained the oil out of the car's engine...and drove it for something like 50 or 100 miles. The results of the test were that there was no abnormal damage, and the engine did not overheat during the test (which would have been expected on an untreated engine). There have been similar tests/commercials on TV for other products.

    What I'm trying to say is...it does seem possible to run an engine without oil for a period of time...but obviously this would not be a good thing to do...or something you could do for an indefinite distance. Also (like you mentioned) there was certainly some residual oil in the crankcase & coating all engine components even though the oil was drained.

    Long story short...I'm sure (technically) some unnecessary or pre-mature damage was done driving 30 miles without the proper amount of oil in the engine...compared to if while driving the same 30 miles there was oil in the engine. The question is...was this wear significant?

    Some things to consider:

    1. It's been a couple of years since this incident...and it sounds like this car has been running fine (now with approx. 90,000 miles on it).
    2. Areas that would have seen additional wear would be the piston rings, camshaft lobes, and crankshaft bearings (all other bearings as well).
    3. If the car has an oil pressure gauge, the oil pressure while idling & driving would or could be lower than it used to be (compared to a new engine, or what the oil pressure was a couple of years ago).
    4. A "compression test" could be performed to see what sort of shape the engine is in. The results would have to be compared against what a good engine or an "out of spec" engine would have.
    5. If this engine was suffering from "being worn out"...the engine would probably be "eating oil". Meaning when the oil level was checked via the dipstick on a weekly or monthly basis...the oil level might be decreasing slowly (or rapidly)...requiring oil to be added. Assuming that the engine is not suffering from an oil leak of some sort.

    Overall...considering that this incident happened 2 years ago...and that this car has nearly 90,000 miles on it...it could also simply be getting worn out due to:

    - it's age
    - the driving habits of the owner (good or bad)
    - the regular maintenance upkeep of the vehicle (or lack of)
    - the 90,000 miles it already has on it

    So what I'm saying is...if the car is "eating/using" oil...and/or if a compression test show low compression...it may be time to think about another vehicle. But if the car is not "eating" oil & the compression test numbers are good...and the vehicle has no other issues...then this car may be just fine.

    Sorry for the long post...hope this helps,

    - Nick
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  6. #6

    iggibar's Avatar
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    Though the lowest point for oil to gather is near the oil plug, there is usually still some oil inside the engine compartments. That's usually what happens when you change the oil when the engine is off(oil doesn't get pumped back). You probably have noticed how sometimes when you do a new oil change, you notice that the oil is higher than the recommended mark(the recommended quarts number is for an empty engine, while a oil-dumped engine still has some oil in it, which will mix with the new oil). That's probably why it went 30 miles. One of the reason why engines are loaded with SO much oil is so that it can help cool the engine as it lubricates. You don't need to have a full load of oil in the engine for it to run properly, but the chance of it heating up, which is the main cause of engine seizing, are a lot higher.
    “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” Marcus Aurelius

  7. #7

    fleurya's Avatar
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    I don't know all the specs, just something that came up in conversation at work. I told her maybe she should dump it for a trade-in or something just in case, but it kind of got me thinking so I thought I would see if anyone knew. A friend of mine also had this happen at a Jiffy Lube back in 2003... pretty pathetic.

    I do remember seeing those commercials where they run engines while there's no oil to prove their product, which got me wondering if there's any worry at all. Thanks for all the info. I'll let her know.


    EDIT: I just realized how much this sounds like one of those "so this friend of mine" stories. LOL
    "Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others"

  8. #8

    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fleurya View Post
    I do remember seeing those commercials where they run engines while there's no oil to prove their product, which got me wondering if there's any worry at all. Thanks for all the info. I'll let her know.
    Yeah...that's the commercial I was referring to as well. The one where "engine A" had "regular oil" in it & "engine B" had the "super oil" mentioned in the commercial. The both engines are drained of oil...and run "without oil".

    The engine A that had "regular oil" in it..."konked out" quickly...while (of course) engine B which had the "super oil" in it...kept on running...no problem!!! Ha ha. Isn't that the way it always goes!

    Quote Originally Posted by fleurya View Post
    EDIT: I just realized how much this sounds like one of those "so this friend of mine" stories. LOL
    Well...maybe! You even changed your gender to "her" to confuse us even more!

    - Nick
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  9. #9


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    I'm guessing there wasn't much damage done to the car especially since she drove it for 2 years without any problems. The benefit for her in going to a quick oil change place is that they don't take the time to completely drain a car of motor oil. There was probably enough left in the engine to give it some lubrication.

    Now if she drove for several days without oil then that's a different story. I don't think even Nick would be able to fix the car after that!

  10. #10

    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EndlessMac View Post
    The benefit for her in going to a quick oil change place is that they don't take the time to completely drain a car of motor oil. There was probably enough left in the engine to give it some lubrication.
    Great point! Depending on how busy the quick oil change places are...they may not have allowed much "dripping time" for most of the residual oil to drain out. I'm guessing (since I haven't actually measured it)...but this could amount to around 4-8oz of oil (depending on the temp of the oil when drained (colder = thicker = slower draining). This still isn't much...but it may be possible for some of it to get "slurped up" by the oil pickup tube in the oil pan while driving.

    Add this to what "idrinorbarsaku" mentioned about some oil being retained/trapped in the "nooks & crannies" of an engine...and this might allow someone to drive 30 miles "without" oil & not experience too much unnecessary wear.

    Quote Originally Posted by EndlessMac View Post
    Now if she drove for several days without oil then that's a different story. I don't think even Nick would be able to fix the car after that!
    Yeah...fixing a "seized" engine due to improper lubrication...probably not...or probably not worth it. Kind of like someone who has a fried logic board in a Macintosh notebook...not worth the expensive replacement cost of a new logic board.

    - Nick
    - Too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
    - Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some slow computer tips: Speedup
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