No Oil on Dipstick [Causes and What To Do]

A dipstick is something like a stick(not wooden, of course)that fits just right in the engine and is long enough to get close to the engine’s bottom. Since engine oil settles to the bottom of the engine, a functional dipstick lets your know the amount of oil you have in your engine. But what happens when there is no oil on dipstick?

In such an event, no oil on dipstick engine damage is a possible outcome. Engine oil is to the car while blood is to the human body. Car engines simply can’t work well without engine oil because that’s what keeps the engine running smoothly. Engine oil is designed to form a film that prevents friction between the moving parts and keeps the engine running smoothly. That is why it is recommended that you do an oil change regularly. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the no-oil-on-the-dipstick situation.

What Causes No Oil on Dipstick

Before you get to the no oil on dipstick how much to add part, understand that there are several reasons why you might not find oil on the dipstick, and not all of them are that bad after all. That said, here are some of the causes for no oil on your dipstick:

dipstick dry after adding oil

The Oil Level is Low

This is one of the more apparent reasons for no oil on the dipstick after driving. It just might have escaped your mind that your car needed an oil change. It’s quite easy to forget the last time you changed your engine oil while dealing with life battles.

One other reason that the oil level is low is that you did not pour the right quantity of oil in. Different engines have different capacities, so you must know yours. This will help you put in the optimal amount of engine oil.

One of the best ways to avoid these situations is to check your engine oil every morning before starting your car. It is a bad idea to wait until your engine check light comes on before checking your dipstick. Make it a habit to check your oil first thing in the morning, and you just might be able to escape the problems associated with a dry dipstick.

Oil Leaks

Oil leaks often come from faulty valve seals and other seals. They also come from cracks in the engine caused by wear and tear. Such leaks within the supply lines become outlets for the oil to seep out once you pour in engine oil.The rate at which the oil empties out of the engine depends on the number and severity of the leaks.Oil leaks are probably why dipstick dry after adding oil.No matter the quantity of oil you pour in; your engine will always be short on oil if you don’t fix your oil leaks.

Increased Oil Consumption By The Engine

There is no oil on the dipstick when cold because your engine had consumed much more oil than it should have between the last time you changed the oil and when you checked the dipstick. This is a serious issue and often indicates more problematic engine issues, like faulty engine parts, for example.

A faulty head gasket can cause your engine to consume more oil than normal. This is because the head gasket forms a seal between the car’s engine block and the cylinder head. When this seal is nonexistent or broken, the vehicle consumes more oil. This increased consumption means that you have much less oil in the crankcase than the dipstick can detect.

You Don’t Know How to Check the Dipstick

Checking your oil dipstick might be pretty straightforward but is it? Many people do not see oil on their dipsticks because they forget an essential part about checking the engine oil. That’s why they don’t know to ensure that the car is on a flat surface before they check the dipstick. Checking the oil while the vehicle is in a slanted position will affect the reading on the dipstick, and you might assume that there is no oil on the dipstick because the crankcase is empty. Then you may not have put the dipstick all the way in.

What to do if No oil on the dipstick

It is not the end of the world if you observe that the dipstick dries after adding oil. You might even be in a situation where there is no oil on the dipstick but no light. So what do you do?

no oil on dipstick but no light

The first thing you must do is to avoid starting the engine until you have verified the reason for the dry oil dipstick. Then you want to ensure that the car is parked on flat ground because, like we mentioned a few lines back, the car’s position can affect the reading on the oil dipstick.

You want to allow the car to cool to remain in that position for at least half an hour so that the car can cool down. The reason is that no oil on the dipstick when cold is a different ball game than no oil on dipstick when the engine running. This is because oil tends to stick to a dipstick much easily when the dipstick is cold. Allowing the engine to cool off also ensures that oil stuck in any sludge around the valve covers can find its way back into the crankcase.

Once you have done all of the above, you can then try to detect possible reasons for the dry dipstick. Start by ensuring that there are no oil leaks. Look out for telltale signs of oil dripping under the engine. You also have to ensure that you poured the oil into the right place. Ascertain that you did not unknowing pour the engine oil into the transmission instead of the engine.

One way to confirm this is to drain all the oil from the engine and estimate the quantity you have. That should give you an idea of what the issue is. After draining the oil, pour the recommended amount back into the engine. Then you check again using the dipstick. This time around ensures that the dipstick goes all the way in and touches the bottom of the crankcase. If there is no oil on the dipstick, then you might have a problem with the dipstick. It might be that your dipstick has been mistakenly changed the last time you went to a mechanic garage.

No Oil on Dipstick (FAQs)

Q: What happens if there’s no oil in your car?

Your car engine thrives on engine oil. That is why you want to avoid situations where there is no oil in your car.  When your car engine is running, many of its internal parts move at high speeds, and there is an increased possibility of friction occurring at such rates. The engine oil ensures that contact between these parts is smooth. When there is no oil in your car, these parts start to grind against each other, causing engine damage. How to tell if the engine is damaged from no oil? You will probably see symptoms like white smoke from the engine and an engine knocking sound.

Q: Is It Safe To Drive Without Oil Dipstick?

Driving around without your oil dipstick might not be unsafe especially when it doesn’t happen often. This is because it is rare for debris to get into the engine through the uncovered dipstick hole within a short drive. The problem with driving around without the oil dipstick arises when you do it often, and you have to go by some very dirty, dusty roads. Then there is the issue with excess oil pressure in the crankcase, causing the engine oil to flow out of the dipstick tube when there is no dipstick inside. The risk of contaminating the oil increases in such cases, and you are better off avoiding them in the first place.

Q: How long can an engine run without oil before damage?

It all depends on the engine and how it was built. The rate of the no oil on dipstick engine damage depends on the load and the speed of the engine. However, on average, the crank and the rod bearings get damaged within seconds. For some cars, it might take a few minutes before you notice any symptoms. For others, it might take a while longer before the engine stop running. The time it takes for these symptoms to occur differs from car to car. However, for all types of cars running on internal combustion engines, the engine’s damage begins within few minutes.

Q: What If the Oil Level is Too High?

When there is too much oil in the engine, the excess oil goes to the crankshaft. Since the oil is moving at very high speeds in your engine, it is only a  matter of time before the oil mixes with air and becomes foamy. This can be a problem because when the oil gets to this state, it becomes difficult to offer adequate lubrication to the engine. Why? The engine oil needs to form a film that allows the engine parts to move smoothly against each other. Foamy oil froths, so the lubrication is not as effective as it should be.

Q: Why is my oil light on if it’s full of oil?

Your oil light is a sign that you don’t have to ignore if you want to avoid severe engine damage. Here are some reasons why your oil light is on even when your engine is full of oil.

A Worn Oil Pressure Sensor: The oil pressure sensor monitors the car’s oil pressure and lets you know when it is too low for comfort. A worn sensor could send the wrong signals that cause the oil light to come on.

A Bad Oil Pump: This situation will prevent adequate oil circulation. Once this happens, the oil light will come up even if there is enough oil in the engine.

How To Check Dipstick & Engine Oil YouTube

Final Words

Your car should never be short on engine oil if you want it to remain in excellent condition. Maintaining the optimal quantity of fuel in your engine is the best way to ensure this. One great way to do this is to via your dipstick analysis. Going by the way the oil dipstick is built, it is easy to know your engine’s oil level.

No oil on a dipstick can be a potentially problematic situation if you do not go about it the right way. Thankfully, this article can serve as a resource that helps you manage such a condition when/if it occurs.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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