How to Start a Car After Running Out of Oil [Step-by-Step]

Running out of oil in your car can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re on a highway with no help in sight. This would not only leave you stranded, but it can also cause serious damage to your engine. 

But did you know there are steps to start your car and get back on the road safely?

In this post, we’ll take you through the process of starting your car after running out of oil, and the preventive measures you can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

A car running out of oil

What Happens When a Car Runs Out of Oil?

When your car runs out of oil, it’s like running with an empty gas tank – eventually, it’s going to stop moving. But the consequences of running out of oil can be much more severe. Your engine may start to overheat, and you might hear strange noises or see warning lights on your dashboard. 

If you ignore these signs and keep driving, you could end up with a blown engine or other costly repairs. In short, running out of oil is not something to take lightly. It can cause serious damage to your car’s engine and lead to costly repairs. 

So, be sure to keep an eye on your oil level and take action if you suspect that your car is running low. Your engine (and your wallet) will thank you.

Can You Fix an Engine That Ran Out of Oil?

Yes, it is possible to fix an engine that has run out of oil, but it largely depends on the extent of the damage caused by the lack of lubrication.

If the engine was only run for a short amount of time without oil, and the damage is minor, then it may be possible to fix the engine. This could involve replacing damaged components or repairing any leaks that caused the oil loss.

Symptoms of a Low Oil Level

1. Warning Lights

The first sign of a low oil level is usually a warning light on your dashboard. This light is often shaped like an oil can, and it may come on when your oil pressure is too low.

2. Strange Engine Noises

When your car’s oil level is low, you may hear strange noises coming from the engine. This could include knocking, ticking, or grinding sounds, which are all signs that the metal parts in your engine are rubbing together.

3. Overheating

If your car’s engine is running hot, it could be a sign that your oil level is low. Without enough oil to lubricate the moving parts in your engine, friction can cause the engine to overheat.

4. Decreased Performance

A low oil level can also cause your car’s performance to suffer. Your car may feel sluggish or unresponsive, and you may notice a decrease in acceleration or power.

5. Exhaust Smoke

When your engine is low on oil, it can cause the exhaust system to produce smoke. This smoke may be blue or gray, and it’s a sign that oil is burning in the engine.

Steps to Start a Car After Running Out of Oil

1. Confirm You Indeed Ran Out of Oil

If you suspect that your car has run out of oil, there are several signs that you can look out for to confirm whether or not this is the case. The most reliable way to confirm whether your car has run out of oil is to check the oil dipstick. The dipstick is a long, thin metal rod with a flat handle that is usually located near the engine. 

You can pull it out and wipe it clean with a rag or paper towel, then re-insert it and pull it out again to check the oil level. If the oil level is below the minimum mark on the dipstick, it means that your car has run out of oil.

2. Drain the Oil Channel and Add Fresh Oil

By draining the oil channel, you can remove any remaining oil that may be contaminated with metal particles or debris that could damage the engine.

To drain the oil channel, you need to locate the oil pan, which is typically located at the bottom of the engine. Once you have located the oil pan, you need to place a large container or pan underneath it to catch the old oil. 

Then, you can use a wrench to remove the oil drain plug from the bottom of the oil pan. Once the plug is removed, the old oil will start to drain into the container or pan. You should allow the old oil to drain completely to ensure that all the contaminated oil is removed.

Once the old oil has completely drained, you can replace the oil drain plug and tighten it with the wrench. 

3. Take Out The Spark Plugs And Fuse For The Oil Pump

To take out the spark plugs, you need to locate them in the engine. They are usually located on top of the engine and have wires or cables attached to them. 

Once you have located them, use a spark plug wrench to remove them from the engine. Taking out the spark plugs is necessary because it disables the ignition system, which is responsible for creating the spark that ignites the fuel in the engine. 

This prevents the engine from starting up while you are working on it and allows you to crank the engine over without it starting.

By cranking the engine over, any remaining oil will be circulated through the engine and oil channels, allowing it to lubricate the engine components that were previously starved of oil.

4. Turn The Crankshaft

The bolt may be difficult to turn, so you may need to use some force to get it moving. It’s important to note that you should only turn the crankshaft in the direction that it normally rotates when the engine is running. 

You can find the rotation direction in your car’s manual. As you turn the crankshaft, you should listen for any unusual noises or resistance. 

If you hear any strange noises or feel resistance, it may indicate that there is damage to the engine components, and you should stop immediately.

5. Crank The Engine

Cranking the engine is the next step to take after you have turned the crankshaft and manually circulated any remaining oil throughout the engine. Cranking the engine is done to get the oil circulating through the engine components while they are carrying the minimum load possible. 

This helps to ensure that the components are properly lubricated and reduces the risk of damage when the engine is started.

6. Reinstall The Fuel Fuse And The Spark Plugs

After you have cranked the engine and the oil has been properly circulated throughout the engine components, the next step is to reinstall the fuel fuse and the spark plugs. This is necessary to allow the engine to start up and run properly.

7. Insert Your Key For Fuel Circulation

After you have reinstalled the fuel fuse and spark plugs, the next step is to insert your key into the ignition to enable proper fuel circulation. This is important to ensure that the fuel system is properly primed before attempting to start the engine.

To do this, insert your key into the ignition but do not turn it to the “Start” position yet. Instead, turn the key to the “On” position and wait for a few seconds to allow the fuel pump to engage and circulate fuel throughout the system. You may hear a faint buzzing sound from the fuel pump, indicating that it is working properly.

8. Monitor the Engine

After you’ve started the engine, it’s important to monitor it for any unusual sounds or warning lights. Keep an eye on the oil pressure gauge or warning light to make sure that the oil is circulating properly. If you notice any issues, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

9. Check for Leaks

After you’ve started the engine and driven for a few minutes, it’s a good idea to check for any oil leaks. Running out of oil can cause damage to engine seals and gaskets, which can lead to leaks. Check under your car for any signs of oil dripping or pooling on the ground. If you notice any leaks, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic to have it checked out.

How Long Should I Wait to Start Car After Adding Oil?

After adding oil to your car, it’s generally recommended to wait for at least 20 minutes before starting the engine. This allows the oil to settle in the oil pan and circulate through the engine properly, ensuring that all the moving parts are lubricated.

Will a Car Shut Off if It Has No Oil?

Yes, a car can shut off if it has no oil. The oil in a car’s engine is essential for the lubrication, cooling, and cleaning of engine components. Without oil, the metal parts in the engine can grind against each other, causing friction, heat, and eventually engine failure. In extreme cases, the engine can seize or lock up, which can cause the car to shut off abruptly. 

Read: How to Stop Brakes From Squeaking Without Taking Tire Off


Running out of oil in your car’s engine can have severe consequences, including engine damage, overheating, and even engine failure.

If you suspect that your car has run out of oil, it’s crucial to stop driving immediately and check the oil level. If the oil level is low, it’s essential to add the appropriate amount of oil and follow the necessary steps to start the engine safely. 

Failure to address low oil levels can result in costly repairs or even the need to replace the engine altogether.