What Happens if Your Car Runs Out of Oil?
Back in the deep, dark recesses of time, there used to be a type of business called a "full-service gas station." Easy to find on many busy corners in the typical town, the full-service gas station featured "attendants" who would pump your gas, clean your windshield, and perform other auto-related tasks. Frequently they would ask, "Can I check under the hood for you?" If you said yes, they would open the hood of your car and do a quick survey of the various fluids a car needs to operate correctly, among them the antifreeze/coolant, windshield washer fluid, and engine oil.
Photo: Christian Wardlaw
Attendants determined the car's engine oil level by using a dipstick, typically a long metal measuring device that extends into the crankcase, a big oil reservoir beneath the engine's cylinders. Now and again, the attendant would discover that the engine oil level was below the requisite mark indicated on the dipstick. Typically, the attendant would then show you the level on the dipstick and ask you, "Should I add a quart?" Smart drivers said yes because maintaining the proper engine oil level is fundamental to keeping a vehicle's engine running well.
Of course, the scenario just described sounds like something out of a bygone era when poodle skirts were in vogue, and three networks ruled the television airwaves. Service at a gas station? It seems like an ancient fairy tale.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that today's internal combustion engines need the proper oil level for precisely the same reasons as the cars of the full-service gas station era. One could make the case that an appropriate oil level is even more critical in today's engines, which are often highly stressed by technology like turbocharging, than it was for the engines of the "Happy Days" generation.
Now we ask you this: When was the last time you opened your vehicle's hood to check its engine oil level? Yeah, we thought so.