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 you know the amount of oil you have in your engine. But what happens when there is no oil on dipstick?

In the event of no oil on dipstick, engine damage is a possible outcome. Engine oil is to the car, as 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.

oil dipstick reading wrong

No Oil on Dipstick – Causes and Solutions Table

Pin-pointed solutions to the specific causes of no oil on the dipstick will make fixing the issue far easier. Here you start.

Causes Solutions
Excess mileage Run by the car Change the oil Immediately
A low amount of oil pour Pour the Proper amount of oil
Oil Leakage Fix The Oil Leakage
Engine blow-by Fix the Engine Blow by
Oil Sump gasket leakage Fix the Oil sump Gasket Leakage
Main Oil Seal Leakage Fix the Main Oil Seal
Vehicle Parking on Uneven Places Park The vehicle on the plane place and Check
Small-size Dipstick Use Proper size Dipstick Gauge

What Causes No Oil on Dipstick?

Several reasons are there why you might not find oil on the dipstick. Here are some of the common causes that may trigger this issue.

The Oil Level is Low

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 normal to forget the last time you changed your engine oil while on a rush.

Another reason of low oil level 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 the 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 would be no oil on the dipstick when cold because your engine has 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 oil dipstick might be pretty straightforward. But 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 how 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 there is no oil on the dipstick

It is not the end of the world if you find 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, as 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 down to remain in that position for at least half an hour or 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 the dipstick when the engine running. This is because oil tends to stick to a dipstick much more 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 unknowingly 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, ensure 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 was mistakenly changed the last time you went to a mechanic garage.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

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 do you 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.

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.

How long can an engine run without oil before damage?

It all depends on the engine and how it was built. The rate of 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 a few minutes.

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.

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.

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 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 certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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