I went to a Quick oil change place, and they drained the oil from my new Fiat 500 and did not refill/replace oil.

After I started the car, I drove approx 1/8 mile before engine quit. The car would not restart. After the car stalled, I raised the hood, and pulled the dipstick which registered not a drop of oil.

I rolled the car into another garage next door that did a proper oil service (where it was also discovered the oil filter had not been changed by the Quick Oil Change garage as indicated on my receipt). After this correct oil service, the "check engine" light was ON, but is now out after driving the car 20 miles. The "service engine" light/code was "PO 300".

I called Fiat service center; they suggested I drive car to see if running normally. Is it possible damage was done to the engine life? The Quick oil change place is insisting I take my car to the dealer to diagnose any damage (which is why I ask about consequence to the life of the engine). Problem is, in order to diagnose any damage the dealer/service center has to disassemble the engine.

The Oil Change district manager said they would "make it right", so I'm trying to decide whether to have a new engine in the car, or get another car.

What are the consequences of running an engine, even a short distance without any oil in the tank?

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    Does this answer help you understand? In a word: YES. It affects the longevity of the engine. It will run for a short while with out too much adverse affect as there is still oil lingering on the surfaces (you cannot get it all out during an oil change), but as soon as the heat starts building, things will deteriorate quickly. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 14:51
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    Please define "short distance". And please state how long the engine was running without oil. Did you just cranked it and moved the car for two meters or where you driving 5 kilometers?
    – Martin
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 14:51
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    Get any promise from 'V. Instant Oil Change' district manager (yep, we know the company) in writing - don't take anything verbally at the moment. An email would suffice. Otherwise, the engine will be stripped down at the dealer, they'll recommend replacement, and the VIOC district manager can say "no, we never promised to that extent". At the first sign of any intransigence, call an attorney.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 15:50
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    A bit off-topic, but if your brand new car had no oil at all and did not turn on the check oil light as soon as you started the motor, that's a serious problem in and of itself! Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 20:47
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    Out of curiosity, didn't the oil warning indicator light up when you drove off without oil? Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 13:52

5 Answers 5


I personally dropped all the oil and coolant from a Rover K-series engine (in a scrap car) and the engine took a good twenty minutes of very hard abuse (redlining / rev limiter / dumping the clutch in 1st) before expiring.

That said, it may have cause a significant amount of wear which may not show itself for several thousand miles. If the car was driven off the garage forecourt and stopped because the oil light / buzzer came on then you may get away with it. If the car was driven some distance, there may be any number of problems waiting to appear.

I'd personally have them record the incident on paper so that, in the event of future premature failure, you have recourse to claim against them.

My final piece of advice is; don't use that workshop ever again. They clearly have a massive hole in their quality control procedures.

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    Having read your update about the fact that the car was driven until it stopped and that the car logged fault code P0300 (unknown cylinder misfire) I'd personally want an engine rebuild. P0300 can indicate a number of things, one of which is low compression which is not good at all. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 15:34

First, document everything as accurately as possible. Write down every step and keep every single piece of correspondence with V-Oil and their employees. Write down exactly the steps you took from soon as you left the oil change place. I would try to get a confession of an employee or from the manager that they acknowledge they did not put oil in the car. If you can do that then you probably have a legal leg to stand on when it starts getting messy. If they will not, you may have a hard time, especially considering that you went to another shop "right away" and had them touch it. Get a complete an accurate statement from Mr Tire (the second shop), notarized or legally certified, of their assessment of the condition of your car when you brought it there.

Your engine is likely damaged and needs either replaced or rebuilt. It will cost a lot of money either way. Your goal now is to get V-Oil to pay for it. They will likely resist. Hopefully the manager is upstanding and has the power to pay for those repairs, but plan for him not sticking to it. Getting a new engine or rebuilding it will be less costly than a whole new car, and V-oil isn't going to buy you a new car. You'll be out of your car for several days or weeks and need a rental. That will also be costly (call your insurance co and inquire). There is more of a legal and paperwork headache here than technical.

Unfortunately driving it to Mr Tire was a big mistake. You should have called V-oil on the phone right away and had someone drive to you to verify what happened. The extra driving and Mr Tire work has likely muddied your claim of bad service or engine failure.

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    The quick lube place probably has insurance to cover mistakes like this. They should be willing to make it right, as the damage to their reputation could far exceed the cost of the repair to your car. They should also cover reasonable costs for a rental car.
    – dlu
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 18:52
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    Also, if you're in a single-party-consent state, consider audio recording any conversations with them. But be sure you are, because otherwise doing so can be a criminal offense. As usual ask a lawyer; I'm not one. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 20:36
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    @chris, Unfortunately driving it to Mr Tire was a big mistake - I don't agree with you here, possibly driving there wasn't a good idea, but having a certified third party inspect what has been done before V-Oil had a chance to cover any tracks was probably a good idea. In court, V-Oil can lie their ass off and you'd have nothing but your own word to back it up. Mr Tire is now a credible witness. I personally wouldn't let them touch my car again.
    – Gary Bak
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 11:26
  • @GaryBak having another shop inspect the vehicle is a good idea, but having them fix the oil/filter problem is not. In this case, I think the ideal course of action is between the two options.
    – user4896
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 14:31
  • @Snowman - I'd agree.
    – Gary Bak
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 19:27

The cylinder walls can be inspected by a borescope, but the rings, main bearings, rod bearings, cam bearings, valvetrain, timing chain, and oil pump cannot be. Damage to any one of those components will shorten the lifetime of your engine.

I personally would accept nothing short of a new engine, or a dealer rebuild. Inspection can only confirm damage. Inspection can not rule out damage.


First, as far as running with out oil has way to many variables to come up with a definitive answer. Factors such as how much wear or age wear on your engine provide for tolerance changes allowing more oil to fill those voids, this oil is never fully drained with an oil change. Add in oil still remaining in the top end and oil passages will also have effects. Then if you have been using higher quality oils or not determine the oils ability to provide for protection. Oil viscosity, additives can make for better or worse protection.

A fresh change with a high quality oil and testing and examination of the oil added by the second garage as well as having the filter material inspected for metal is the best you can do with out a full tear down. No mater what some wear likely occurred, but how much can only be truly determined with a engine disassembly. If you can not get any satisfaction from the oil change center then I would at least have the oil examined. I myself would leave the tear down/rebuild as last resort if the engine fails or continues to show recurring check engine lights.

ECU code PO300 is an generic engine fault code for ignition failure, loss of oil pressure could have provided this code, not necessarily engine damage. If you have it cleared or clear it yourself and it returns then it is a concern and needs more examination. But if it stays cleared then in itself is not a concern. If the rings and or valve guides have damage then you would possibly see blueish smoke out exhaust and in a short time the ECU would have codes related to the oxygen sensor.

If you actually only drove a 1/8 mile, have regular oil service, use good quality oil you could with luck drive the car for many miles as if it never happened.

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    If he's using any "instant oil change" chain, he's absolutely not getting "good quality oil". All the chains use recycled/reclaimed/remanufactured oil, not what you'd get if you bought that same brand in a bottle in a store.
    – Jeffiekins
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 21:30

Engines can take damage and run for a substantial time afterwards. How long will depend on the type of damage and the components damaged.

Most cars use plain bearings which rely on oil pressure to work. With little or no oil pressure they will be rapidly damaged. A tiny amount of damage will get progressively worse (especially on the big end bearings). Not really possible to check to damage without stripping the engine, in which case most of the work required to replace them has already been done.

How much damage is difficult to tell. If you drive off hard, up hill (so a large load on the engine) then it would probably cause terminal damage within seconds.

In order I would suggest the components likely to be damaged:-

  • Big end bearings.
  • Crankshaft.
  • Cam bearings (which are probably an integral part of the engine rather than replaceable).
  • Main bearings.
  • Hydraulic tappets / cam followers.
  • Pistons / bores
  • Oil pump.

It would no need to go far down this list to make the engine a financial write off at new main dealer prices.

As an aside, was the car due an oil change? Does the car utilise an initial oil specified to aid running in?

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