Can Low Oil Cause a Car to Shut Off? (Impact & Solutions)

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

can low oil cause a car to shut off

Little to no oil in car is a critical situation that should be handled immediately when owning a vehicle. Not solving this problem may lead to unwanted engine damage, which is not an ideal situation to be in. That’s why checking its level before car usage is a must to avoid this problem.

Considering this situation, one of the common questions that may arise is – can low oil cause a car to shut off? The answer is yes.

Role of Engine Oil


Driving with low oil pressure affects the stability and performance of the engine.

If the car is low on oil, the engine lacks lubrication, which can lead to system failure. Although, before that happens, the built-in failsafe system or low oil pressure shutdown system is set.

Most modern models have this system to prepare for the possible effects of low oil in cars. During this period, the car is prohibited from performing extraneous activities to protect the engine. In short, the car runs out of oil and shuts off.

Low Engine Oil Causes


Having a low oil level for the engine is not uncommon for vehicle owners. To easily prevent the problem, checking the level on the dipstick daily is necessary. That’s because if the oil is at a lower range, it means some factors cause it to happen.

Below are the common issues that can influence the oil level of the vehicle:

  • Leaking oil pan – The seal may have depreciated, resulting in oil leaking from the pan. It will not sustain the oil despite pouring the necessary amount.
  • Clogged oil filter – Another factor is a problem with the oil filter. Once it is clogged, the accumulated dirt can prevent a proper oil flow, resulting in low oil pressure.
  • Wear & tear engine parts – As mentioned, the oil serves as a lubricant for the engine. Brittle parts of the engine can consume more oil resulting in lower oil levels.

Signs and Symptoms of Low Oil Levels


Earlier, it was mentioned what happens if your car has no oil, which is engine shutdown. Luckily, low engine oil symptoms are easy to notice. But people shouldn’t misdiagnose it as a need for an oil change.

For instance, car shaking is not due to low engine oil but to a need to change oil due to an overdue oil change.

There can be instances like letting the scenario low oil before the oil change can lead to car shaking. However, most cases happen because the oil is too thick, signifying the need to change the oil.

Here are the common signs of low oil:

  • Oil Warning Light
  • Engine Overheating
  • Smell of Burning
  • Odd Sounds From the Engine
  • Reduced car performance

If one of these symptoms of low oil in the car is present, it would be best to visit the nearest mechanic shop.

Impact of Low Oil Levels on Car Performance

Understanding the situations that can cause low oil levels is vital. During observation, vehicle owners can inspect and identify the correct steps to prevent possible damages. That’s how a responsible owner should act once this mishap occurs.

Although, despite knowing that information, it can’t be helped to have downtime for the car’s performance. Lack of oil causes cars to stall and other possible consequences.

Here are some of the possible performance consequences of low oil level

 1. Poor Acceleration


One of the common consequences vehicle owners can experience is a problem with acceleration. The engine will already show signs of dysfunction before the oil level reaches its lowest point. It’s evident by not accelerating, and the car will not start because of low oil.

Furthermore, the engine will not run due to lacking lubrication and low oil viscosity. When that happens, the vehicle won’t have a continuous running system and will eventually stop until its last moment.

2. Dysfunctional AC


On the other hand, the low oil level can cause AC to stop working. That’s because of friction from the lack of lubrication that oil provides. Compressors won’t be able to function, resulting in the shutting off of AC.

That’s one way on how to tell if the oil is low.

3. Piston failure


Meanwhile, damaged rods from low oil can also cause piston failure. Usually, it happens after the part runs severely without the support of lubrication. Because of that, the engine’s probability of not turning on is high.

4. Dead Battery


In connection with viscosity, the texture of the oil may result in a dead battery. The oil’s thickness results in a low amount of lubricant pumped for the battery to work. If the oil can’t run smoothly, the battery also goes off.

In short, low oil causes the battery to die. One possible way to resolve that is by changing the oil. Purchasing a brand of oil that offers less viscosity will be the best choice for a less resistant oil flow.

Overall, these situations are expected to happen. Allowing the oil to go lower affects the lubrication, making the vehicle unsafe to drive. In short, the low oil pressure stops the engine from running smoothly.

Importance of Maintaining Oil Level


When it comes to car maintenance, owners must be knowledgeable and alert to understand the current situation of their vehicles. That begins with checking the oil level before and after usage.

As mentioned, it can affect the performance of the vehicle and soon be the cause of the depreciation of the engine. Low oil causes overheating because it is not lubricated properly. Therefore, maintaining a correct oil level is important, for it will result in a slick performance.

Most of all, maintenance is the best way to prevent increased expenses. If the engine oil is taken care of, there will be no expected damages. Thus, helping vehicle owners to save instead of buying new parts for the damaged car.

Preventing Car Shutdown From Low Oil


Aside from maintenance, what to do when a car is low on oil?

This is an exciting question to include in this discussion, for it can help solve one of the misconceptions about solving low oil. That matter is about the idea of – will adding oil make a car start.

In terms of adding more oil, it is only applicable if the warning light on the dashboard just started. Once the oil is refilled, it will be safe to start the cold engine. Don’t worry, as there will be no hiccups along the way.

However, adding oil can be risky if the driver used the vehicle despite having the warning light and critical oil level. That’s because the engine must have experienced friction already due to being used despite the lack of lubricant.

Steps to take if a car shuts off due to low oil

Driving the car even though the oil level is critically low will definitely lead to engine shutdown. Since the oil will not circulate to offer lubricant, the engine can overheat. So, to answer the question, will the car shut off if no oil, it is yes.

Supposing the car ends up shutting down, there is a troubleshooting guide that vehicle owners can utilize. Let’s begin!


  • Problem: Car overheats

Solution: Turn off the AC and pull over to check the engine. Check the oil level and coolant to know its status. Before pouring both materials, do ensure that the engine is cool. Afterward, call a tow truck or drive to the nearest mechanic store for a check-up.

  • Problem: The car engine won’t start

Solution: Check the oil level, oil filters, and oil pan for leakages and clogs. Let the vehicle rest and clean the filter if there’s clogged debris. If the oil pan has signs of leaks, it is best not to drive the car. Call a tow truck to drop you off at a mechanic store.

Frequently Asked Questions


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

One of the distinct warning signs you should pay attention to is the odd sounds your car engine produces. Those are often knocking sounds, sometimes clunking, and uncomfortable grinding noises.

Will it not start because of low oil pressure?

Unfortunately, the car will not start because of low oil. That can only happen if the vehicle is in pretty bad shape (e.g., overheating, burning oil, etc.)

Once that happens, it only means that the oil has reached its lowest level. The engine might fail without the lubricant, preventing the car from restarting.

How often should I check my car’s oil levels?

Dealing with low oil means timely checking of the oil level. The recommended span for checking oil level usually lands every 1000 miles. However, doing it at least once a week is also better. That way, any top-ups needed can be performed.

Can a car with low oil levels be driven temporarily? How long?

Driving a car with low oil is not encouraged, for it will damage the engine and other vehicle parts. If the time comes and the oil pressure is low, stop the engine and call for a tow truck.

However, there’s also a chance for vehicle owners to drive their cars even with the low oil warning. The car can survive the travel if the warning sign is not critical. It is safe to run for at least 25 miles and lets you visit a mechanic store for troubleshooting.

Can I use any type of oil if I’m low on oil?

Adding another batch of oil must fit the vehicle’s requirements. That involves knowing the viscosity of the oil based on the vehicle model.

In short, it doesn’t always need to be the same brand. As long as the product has the right viscosity, it will not affect the car’s health.


Ensuring the vehicle is in good shape also includes checking every part of it. That includes the engine and its lubricator, oil. Without engine oil, driving can be unsafe due to overheating, probable combustion, and shutting down.

So, can low oil cause a car to shut off? Of course, and that should be prevented at all costs. If you experienced the same problem, it would be best to follow the troubleshooting guide above or call a professional to help.

Read next: Does Low Oil Cause Check Engine Light?

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