Down 3 quarts on a 4 quart system

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Jun 11, 2002
Clarksville, Tennessee
I had a coworker this weekend tell me that he was having car trouble, Was on a trip(DC from VA Beach) and he said he was hearing a noise in his engine. So he stopped and checked the oil. Come to find out he was 3 quarts low. From what I understand he filled it up and returned. Had the dealer check out the car and found no leaks, or anything wrong with the engine. The coworker did say when he went to add the oil, the top of the filler cap had a bunch of crude on it. I am going to take a look at the inside of the valve train with a lite today. I'm sure he probably has some scorched bearings. The car is a 98 Dodge Caravan with a V-6. I am going to Recommend an Auto R-X application, then eventually a switch over to Amsoil. I guess he had the oil changed yesterday. I told him to run that about 1500 miles then change it out again, then the last 500 of that change add the auto-rx. After that go to synthetic. How much long term damage would be caused from running that low on oil? Anyone have experience with this?
Every engine is different. I knew a person(to be generous) who only filled his car with oil when he heard valvetrain clatter. It would usually be 4 quarts low on a 5 quart 302 ford. He ran it like that for years. It may have not hurt it at all. If it still drives and sounds the same, it's probably fine. [ August 06, 2002, 10:33 AM: Message edited by: VaderSS ]
I would have liked to see the results of an oil analysis before he added 3 quarts. I'd think we'd have a new standard on how bad oil can get. This guy needs extended drain oil in the worst way.
Absolutely every used vehicle I purchase gets a complete change of all fluids. I learned this the hard way by assuming the differential oil in a Nissan pickup (Mexican built) that only had 10,000 miles on it would be good. Turns out they used GL-1. After 5,000 miles of deliveries the differential was shot. All that can be done on that vehicle now is see how it runs. Might be a good candidate for a cleaner as it probably overheated. Each engine is different in terms of how low they can go. The Navistar engines turn over their entire capacity en something like 7 seconds, almost no time for the foam to settle, so even 3/4 qt low can kill them if you run high RPM.
Patman I did same with used Sube Outback. Had oil/filter outa there that afternoon, and trans/diff oil out 2 days later (D1 in engine and Redline in trans/diff). Just couldn't help myself.
My Mom is a dingbat like that sometimes. [Roll Eyes] She had a Mitsu Eclipse with the 2.0L 4-cyl and I met her at a relative's house 100 miles from here. I checked her oil and it was off the dipstick. I added 1 quart and it was barely showing on the tip. Took nearly 2 quarts to bring it back to full and I think it was a 4-quart sump. [Eek!] I told her how serious this was and that she could easily sieze the motor and incur a $2,000+ repair bill. Then she laughed at me. [Frown] Her idea of taking care of the car is visiting the dealership every 3,000 miles. [Roll Eyes] "Why should I check my oil, I'm due for an appointment at the dealership in 2 weeks?" Where did I go wrong as a son? [Duh!] Luckily, the car ran fine until she traded it for a VeeDubb Cabriolet. I thought this was a mistake because the VWs I had been familiar with used a fair amount of oil and I was afraid that she'd run it dry and the seize the bugger solid. So far, though, it seems OK. --- Bror Jace
Originally posted by satterfi: I would have liked to see the results of an oil analysis before he added 3 quarts. I'd think we'd have a new standard on how bad oil can get. This guy needs extended drain oil in the worst way.
This guy just bought the van used, a 97 with only 30,000. He put over 7,000 and didn't change the oil. He said that he assumed they changed it before he bought it. So no telling how many miles were on the oil. You would think sitting right next to a guy that is so anal about his oil, (talking about me) that this guy would sort of be interested in taking better care. Oh well. Goes to show you [Duh!]
so, with only 37,000 miles on engine why did you recommend the course of treatment you did. It certainly cannot repair any mechanical damamge if any! Seems like a waste of money if all is running fine!
The first thing I do when I buy a used vehicle is to change all the fluids, check valve clearances, replace all filters, etc. Even when I buy a new vehicle I check fluid levels because I assume it wasn't done right. On one new bike I bought, they added oil with the bike on the side stand when it should have been upright and level. It was 1 quart too high.
When I picked up my 95 Formula last October, the first thing I did when I got home, before I even called out my wife to come look at it, was to crawl under the car and start draining out the old oil! [Big Grin]
How come none of these cars mentioned were showing a low oil warning on their dash? I thought all new cars now had a low oil level light. I know that most GM cars have it. They don't usually trigger unless the oil is more than a quart low (around 1.5 low I think) but at least it makes it harder for someone to run the engine dry of oil. Bror, my mom is the same way, me or my dad are the only ones that check her fluid levels. Her power steering fluid has leaked out slowly for the last 5 years and often runs totally dry. I'm amazed that the pump hasn't failed yet! (her car is a 94 Probe GT)
You would have thought that at idle, the oil light would have come on from insufficient oil pressure. I would love to see the oil analysis from the remaining oil in this vehicle.
Ugh, how about used car lots that do nothing to a car, but if it's running, sell it. [Wink] My friend bought a "certified" 2001 VW at the dealer...1q low on oil. [Mad] My friends sojurn to purchase a Volvo, after I told him to check it before driving 200 mi home and gave him oil to add, says "it's ok". [Frown] Idiot, the dipstick was dry, 2q+ low. Back to the car-lot thing... people ASSUME the car was fully serviced for some reason, [Confused] probally the ignorant optimisim that led my buddy to think his oil level was "ok" when he was not even getting a reading! Am *I* the wierd and anal one? [I dont know]
I bet the guy will 100k out of that motor. But if the van only has 37k and there are no apprent leaks, why didn't he catch this before? I mean everybody checks their oil everyday, don't they? [Roll Eyes]
If he made it back from DC to VA Beach OK, then the engine is probably OK. Might be a good idea to pull a sample after 1000 miles or more on the new oil, before changing to AMSOIL. You don't want to hear that the synthetic caused a failure, and if the 4-5 quarts of AMSOIL would double the value of the car or engine, it may not be worth changing over. You would also have a customer who apparently hasn't located the dipstick yet (I have a brother like that).
I looked at a car that was being sold on ebay that happened to be local. IMO this was the typical sleazy storefront used car operation, sold almost everything via ebay. Oil was just black but what really scared me was the tranny fluid (ATF), jet black also, car had under 50,000 miles, Scary!
My son let his Mazda Millinia get to 3 quarts low on a four quart system. His engine seems to thin out dino oil 5w-30 havoline to 20w from an oil analysis. He did not have any damage we can tell from an oil analysis. We now have him on delo 400 15w-40 and so far he has not had to add any oil. He has been about 3000 miles so far. My guess is his engine has some wear after 100,000 miles and he just needed a thicker oil that would not thin so easy.
My buddy now uses Amsoil in his van, though he does admit that the van now with around 80K uses oil! So I guess that some damage was done, how long his engine will last remains to be seen, hopefull the use of Amsoil will help it last longer. Also hopefully after some time the oil usage will go down.
About 10 years ago, I was driving my mother's car, when I heard some valvetrain noise. I pulled over and found out that the oil filler cap, had fallen off, and that oil was being thrown from the valve cover. It took 2.5 quarts to refill it (4 quart sump). That was about 80000 miles ago, and the car is still running. [I dont know] [ October 02, 2003, 07:43 PM: Message edited by: sbc350gearhead ]
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