Here's What Happens When You Let Your Car Run Out Of Oil

That oil change can definitely wait a few more months, right? After all, the gas powers the car and that’s the main thing that gets it from A to B.


Wrong. Without oil, a car’s engine is toast—burnt, smoking, ruined toast. And engines are a lot more costly to replace than that neglected piece of bread.

In a far more practical “let’s see what happens when we do this to a car” video than YouTuber TechRax pouring Coke into the tank of a 2003 BMW 325i, here’s a recently resurfaced video from British TV series Fifth Gear. The show guiltily destroyed the engine of a Proton Wira in what it calls “cruelty to cars” years ago, all for the sake of showing people what happens when a car’s oil runs dry:

Oil does a few vital things for a car’s engine, and without it, that engine will die a loud, sad and potentially stranding death. It lubricates engine components so that they don’t grind each other apart, cleans out substances that don’t need to be in the engine and keeps them away from moving parts, and keeps the engine cool by transferring the heat it creates around.

Without oil to do all of that, the engine is done for.

Fifth Gear drained the oil of a Wira to show what happens when oil isn’t there to do its job, and it didn’t take long for the engine to get really loud (perhaps even louder than my husband, who has the day off from work, drilling holes in planks of wood in the living room because it’s too cold to do it in the garage). The noise comes from parts in the engine beginning to rattle without lubrication.

The Wira died a sad death for the sake of educating people about the importance of oil, since, at the time, Fifth Gear said it was estimated that 25 cars a day in the U.K. were ruined due to owners ignoring the need for oil.

So, just like a warning light for gas means a car won’t make it much farther, don’t ignore the need for oil. That’ll strand the car and its occupants, and the actual damage will be a whole lot worse (and more expensive) than any pride damage that comes with failing to coast into the nearest gas station.

Staff writer, Jalopnik



Visited a nearby $19.99 oil change place. Approximately 6 weeks later, I my car’s hi temp warning light came on and the temperature gauge shot into the red.

I checked my car’s oil. Empty. I noticed that there was oil all around the oil filter and engine compartment. It appears that the shop screwed on the filter incorrectly and the oil leaked out all over the place.

Thankfully a few quarts of oil and a new filter did the trick. Car topped 200,000 miles on Christmas Eve and runs beautifully.