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Top 7 Symptoms Of Low Oil In Engine You Should Be Aware Of

Symptoms of low oil in engine

Are you facing engine difficulties even when all the crucial parts like timing belt, spark plug, battery & others are working fine? If yes, your ride might suffer from symptoms of low oil in the engine.

Engine or motor oil is the lifeline of your car engine that ensures its smooth operation. If you are running low on it, it can severely damage your engine, which may require expensive repairs.

Thus, you must ensure your car engine is always filled with optimal engine oil levels. However, most car owners in their busy lives forget to keep a keen eye on engine oil levels and keep driving at low oil levels to the point where it is too late to mend any damage.

But what if I tell you you can save your ride before significant damage is done? Several symptoms of low engine oil in the car can tell you that you need an oil change. All you need to do is learn about them and pay close attention. 

Thus, today, in this article, I bring you a comprehensive list of the top symptoms of low oil in engines while driving and how you can tackle them.

Let us get started.

7 Most Common Symptoms Of Low Oil In Engine While Driving

The engine is the heart of your automobile. If it is in excellent condition, you have nothing to worry about, and you will get to enjoy driving it for years. However, if your engine begins to degrade, you will end up with an unpleasant ride to drive and one that can stop altogether at any time.

There are several reasons why your engine might act out of the ordinary, and one such common reason is low engine oil levels. The motor oil provides the much-needed lubrication to the engine, ensuring its healthy and smooth operation.

But if there is not enough, the engine cannot function, causing severe damages that sometimes causes the situation to replace the engine. But do not worry. Below, I have listed signs you need an oil change immediately. Explore each symptom and learn how you can handle it.

1. Oil Pressure Warning Light Is On

Oil Pressure Warning Light Is On

One of the best things about modern-day vehicles is that their dashboards have a system that alerts you via various symbols if something is wrong with your ride.

And this stands true with your low engine oil symptoms. If your vehicle is running low on engine oil, a symbol that looks like a dripping oil can will light up.

Also Check:

The illumination of this check engine light oil change symbol means your motor oil level has dropped below a safety level. As soon as you see it, pull over and check your engine oil’s color and consistency.

If the oil appears transparent and has no residue, it is clean, and you simply need to add more oil. However, you need a complete oil change if the oil appears dark and sludgy.

2. Reduced Performance & Fuel Economy

Reduced Performance & Fuel Economy

If your ride is performing poorly than before, then there are high chances of low engine oil levels. In simpler terms, if your vehicle’s fuel economy has gone down the slope and you can feel your engine struggling to climb uphill, you need to fill up the engine oil tank.

3. Grinding or Knocking Noise

Grinding or Knocking Noise

Lubrication is the primary task of motor oil. It ensures the smooth operation of the engine. So, if you begin hearing peculiar sounds while on the road, it is among the overdue oil change symptoms.

The absence of adequate engine oil levels leads to the engine’s mechanical parts grinding together, resulting in premature wearing. And if you ignore these knocking and grinding noises, you might end up with a busted engine whose only cure is to be replaced.

4. Burning Smell

Burning Smell

If you are incredibly dedicated to maintaining your ride and regularly changing and refilling the oil and are still ending up with the symptoms of low oil in the engine, there might be leakage.

Generally, leakage is a common reason for low motor oil levels. You can pinpoint this symptom as your culprit if you smell a burning oil scent in your cabin.

Also Check:

This strong odor occurs when the leaking engine oil drips onto the hot engine. If the leakage is a recent incident, you might not be able to recognize it even after checking the engine oil level. Thus, ensure you continuously check on the oil level to know for sure.

As soon as you have the answer, schedule an appointment with a professional service and have the leakage fixed.

5. Engine Overheating

Engine Overheating

Another significant no oil in car symptom that you can encounter is an overheating engine. Without enough motor oil to lubricate each part of the engine to work in harmony, there is no layer of protection.

The various parts of the engine grind or rub with each other, increasing the metal-to-metal contact that produces sound and raises the system’s temperature, causing the engine to overheat. An overheating engine is a serious issue that can become disastrous if not handled immediately.

So, if you find your engine overheating, pull over, kill it, and let it cool. After that, check the oil level. If it is low, simply change the oil, and you will be good to go. And if not, there might be some other reason for which a mechanic’s assistance might be required.

6. Exhaust Smoke

Exhaust Smoke

Generally, the smoke from a car’s exhaust system is primarily invisible, with a slight smell to it. The gasoline rides have very little colored exhaust, while diesel rides produce black and soot-like exhaust.

But one of the most noticeable symptoms of low oil in engine diesel and gasoline cars is the blue smoke coming out of the exhaust system.

The blue smoke is caused by the engine oil seeping into the engine and getting burned along with the fuel. Also, there is a possibility that the engine oil is dripping onto the exhaust system because of external leakage.

Also Check:

In addition, if your car is exhausting grayish smoke, this is highly likely due to an incorrect fuel-to-air ratio, meaning your engine is burning too much fuel.

Not everyone can handle this symptom as it requires precise knowledge of the mechanical structure of a car. Thus, have a professional take care of the issue for you, and you always keep your eyes open for the obvious symptoms of low oil in the engine.

7. Vehicle Stalling

Vehicle Stalling

If you find your vehicle stalling frequently, one of the top reasons for the occurrence is low engine oil levels. Engine stalling is unhealthy as it could damage the pistons, cylinders, and other engine components.

So, if you find your ride doing the stalling game, check the oil level and maintain it if required. However, even after the proper fresh motor oil level and the engine is fully lubricated, your car continues to stall, and you may have a dead car at your hands that you must get rid of.

Top FAQs About Overdue Oil Change Symptoms

How to tell if the engine is damaged from no oil?

Suppose you are having difficulty getting optimum performance from your ride, have hard grinding noises while driving, or have a burning fuel smell in your car cabin. 

In that case, your engine suffers from poor lubrication and insufficient engine oil to perform the task.

What does low oil pressure mean?

The low oil pressure indicates two things. One that the oil pump of your ride is not circulating enough oil to maintain the healthy working of your car’s internal mechanical parts.

And the second is that there is not enough engine oil in the system. So, if you find your oil pressure light coming on while you are driving, simply pull your ride to roadside safety, turn off the engine, and investigate the issue before it does any more damage.

How to check engine oil levels?

Checking the engine oil levels is easy for even your teenage driver to master. Below are easy steps that you should follow:

  • Turn off your engine and let it cool.
  • After you ensure your car’s engine is cold, open your vehicle’s hood and locate the engine oil tank and the dipstick.
  • Once you have located the dipstick, clean it of any settled contamination and find the lines for minimum and maximum levels.
  • Now place the dipstick in the oil tank or pipe and remove it.
  • After the removal, check the imprint of the oil level on the stick. If it is between minimum & maximum levels, you are good. However, if it is near the minimum line, you need a refill, and if above the top line, you need to drain out some oil.
What to do if engine oil is low?

If you find any of the symptoms of low oil in the engine, then you must stop yourself from driving your car. Park it in a shady place and let the engine cool down.

Once the engine is cool, open the hood of the car and with the help of a dipstick check the engine oil level and its purity.

If the stick shows a low oil level with the presence of smudgy contaminations, you need to replace the oil entirely. You must drain the existing oil in the tank and refill it with the fresh new oil.

And if the dipstick comes out clean, you simply need to refill the oil without requiring to drain out the existing one.

What are dirty engine oil symptoms?

Suppose your engine oil levels are fine, but you still have trouble with your ride’s performance. In that case, it means you have dirty oil that needs to be replaced immediately.

To know if your engine oil is indeed dirty, you need to look out for symptoms like:

  • Grinding noises from the engine;
  • Visible black smoke coming from the exhaust system;
  • Presence of sludge in the dipstick.

When you encounter any of these issues with your oil levels intact, you have old and dirty oil sitting in your oil tank.

What are the symptoms of low oil pressure?

If your ride is suffering from low oil pressure then the oil pressure warning light present on the dashboard of your car will turn on.

The symbol for low oil pressure comprises a dripping oil can. As soon as this low engine oil level warning light glows up, you need to stop driving your car, let the engine cool down, check the oil level, and pour more oil up to the required levels.

If the engine oil levels are fine, then this means there is a fault in the oil pump for which you will need professional assistance.

How or when should I change my motor oil?

There is no particular time or schedule for changing engine oil in your car. It is a crucial task in your vehicle’s maintenance on which you can get the guidance in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Most vehicle experts like mechanics recommend getting oil change in every three months. It does not matter whether you have driven your car or had it sit in your garage; in every three months or 3,000 miles, replace your motor oil.

As for refilling, it is advisable to check your engine oil levels with the help of a dipstick once a week.


Motor or engine oil is a crucial fluid in your vehicle’s system whose absence can ruin your precious ride for good. Thus, knowing the symptoms of low oil in an engine and how to handle them is necessary for every car owner or driver.

This article covers the seven most common symptoms, telling you your car is low on oil and how you can rectify them. Keep all these tips in mind, and you shall ride for a much longer time than anticipated.

Meet Michael Kors, a seasoned automotive blogger with 8 years of experience in the industry. His passion lies in researching SUVs and trucks, dissecting their features and performance with precision. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for uncovering hidden gems, Michael shares his expertise and insights with his readers, guiding them towards the perfect ride for their needs. Follow along as he navigates the ever-evolving world of automobiles, offering valuable advice and recommendations along the way.


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