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My ATV oil drain plug is an allen 6mm bolt.

The bolt was all rusty, and what I expected to happen happened - I stripped it.

Instead of wasting times trying to remove the stripped bolt I drained oil another way:

  • Removed the oil filter.
  • Unplugged the spark plug cable so that the engine does not start.
  • Started (keeping the key turned for approx 5 seconds, then wait 15 seconds between each iterations to avoid heating of the engine).

I managed to drain all the oil by the filter that way in less than 5 minutes.

For completeness sake, I had to start to get the oil to drain because the oil was not reaching the filter otherwise.

Is there any damage I may have caused trying to start with reducing oil level (until no oil at all)?

The ATV is a two cylinder Sportsman 700.

  • I'll let someone else answer, because I'm unsure, but I believe this will do two things. First, it will flood the cylinders because the injectors are shooting fuel, but there is no spark to burn it up. This fuel could sit in the cylinders and seep into the oil pan or even eventually cause hydrolock if enough builds up. Second, using the starting motor continuously will wear it out faster. They heat up very quickly with continuous use and are not designed to be run for several minutes. This might mean replacing it earlier than you anticipated. – Poisson Fish Aug 19 '15 at 17:04
  • @PoissonFish There is no injectors, it uses a carburetor. As for the several minutes, it took less than 5 mins. – Jean-François Savard Aug 19 '15 at 17:18
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    A carburetor would have the same issue. I wonder if some fuel injected engines might have a shut off if there is no power to the spark plugs, but this is certainly not the case with carburetors. Either way, if you started the ATV after the oil change without issues, I'm sure this isn't a problem. I would still be concerned about the starting motor being used for 5 out of 20 seconds for five straight minutes. – Poisson Fish Aug 19 '15 at 17:23
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    Another concern I would have is that you aren't getting any of the sludge out of the oil pan by draining via the oil filter connection. When you drain oil out of the pan, you are taking some of the sludge out with it, which is a good thing for obvious reasons. I've even heard you should start the engine and let it warm up for a few minutes before draining the oil to churn up some of that sludge and ensure you clear out as much as possible. I imagine you wouldn't get this benefit by draining out the filter. – Poisson Fish Aug 19 '15 at 17:25
  • Yep it is written in the atv manual to warn the engine before changing oil for a better drain... As for when I started the engine, I've noticed no strange sound and it started as fast as always. I'm mainly asking this question by curiousity and for the sake of re-using this method if I ever have the same problem. – Jean-François Savard Aug 19 '15 at 17:27
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It's not a good idea to run the engine dry like that because the bearings on the crankshaft need oil pressure for lubrication.

Having said that, some engines can run without oil for a short amount of time thanks to whatever residual oil is trapped between the bearing surfaces. I don't think you would spin a bearing with a limited amount of cranking, but you can expect the useful life of the bearings to be reduced.

Quantifying the amount of wear is difficult because it depends on so many factors. Best not to repeat it and fix that stripped bolt before the next oil change.

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    But the engine never actually ran dry, when I saw no oil was coming left I immediately stopped. – Jean-François Savard Aug 19 '15 at 18:07
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    @Jean-FrançoisSavard : I don't mean dry literally like that, there will always be a little bit left in the system. What I meant by dry was that there is no more oil at the oil pump pickup line, so nothing to pressurize the oil ay the bearings. – Zaid Aug 19 '15 at 18:17
  • I see. I think you have a good point with crankshaft bearing. I'll wait and see if others comes up with something else, then accept. +1. – Jean-François Savard Aug 19 '15 at 18:20
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I wanted to get my comments compiled into a full answer, to make sure we are thorough. Draining oil through the filter connection by running the starting motor to pump the oil brings a few concerns to mind:

  1. There is the possibility that fuel will flood the cylinders as you turn the engine over without a spark to burn the fuel. As you said, the ATV started up fine after the oil change, so I doubt that this is a concern at this point.
  2. Starting motors tend to overheat very quickly. Even using the motor for 5 seconds with a 15 second cool-down period is exposing it to additional wear and tear if this is continued for five minutes. I'm sure that you didn't do any long-term damage just this once, but I wouldn't make a habit of it. Any extra wear and tear just means more chance of needing to replace it down the road.
  3. The contamination and sludge in oil tends to settle at the bottom of the oil pan as oil cools. For this reason and for a more complete oil removal, most manufacturers recommend you drain the oil while it is warm. I imagine that pumping the oil through the oil filter connection did not address the sludge in the bottom of the oil pan.

I also agree with Zaid that the internal workings of the engine need oil for lubrication and cooling and the oil levels will naturally drop as you drain the oil. That's just more wear and tear that you don't want to have to deal with in the future.

Still, that was a neat idea as a "band-aid" fix for your problem.

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