I have a 1999 Toyota Camry with 193,000 miles on it. When I was driving a few days ago, the battery light came on and the engine died at a red light. It started right back up, so I didn't think anything of it at the time.

A couple of days later, it did it again, only it didn't start back up, it wouldn't even turn over, it just clicked. It turns out the oil was empty, so we added about three quarts and after about 15 minutes it cranked and ran fine.

The next day, we changed out the oil and filter. It ran and sounded better, but only for a day. I was driving and I started to hear this loud ticking/knocking sound that got louder when I accelerated. It sounded like a card hitting a fan. It then died and wouldn't turn over.

The oil was good and full. The engine was hot though. It didn't show on the gauge, but we sat there for about 30 minutes with the hood up to cool it faster before starting it back up, and when it did start, the engine only ran if the gas was being pressed. So we let it sit for about another hour. We started it again and now it ran without help.

When idling, it has an awful loud knocking noise and kind of shakes. When it's in gear and the gas is pressed it changes noise to the card hitting the fan, and it doesn't shake.

Does anyone have absolutely any idea what happened? Why it's making the noise? Am I about to blow a rod? Have I blown a rod? There's no sign of any holes in the engine block.

  • You've got problems. The battery light (actually, it's the alternator light) doesn't mean anything, on many cars of that time the alternator light will come on if the engine quits. There's many things it could be, valve, oil pump, water pump, radiator fan, loose motor mounts, and many other issues. You could have a vacuum leak or a cylinder which isn't firing, the list goes on. Get it looked at is my advice.
    – GdD
    May 5, 2017 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


Something has seized up due to the lack of oil. Once something has seized up a once smooth running surfaces now acts like a grinder and continues to be damaged until it fails, which doesn't take long at all. Overheated/seized parts will be severely damaged and way out of spec/tolerance, this gives the knocking sound.

The engine will need pulling apart to find out what has happened to it, however as you say it's been run with very little or no oil... The engine is going to require striping and rebuilding to repair it properly. Its no good at this point just to perhaps change a cam etc.. The whole engine needs examining as internal damage due to lack of oil could be everywhere.

  • Good advice. In addition, it may not even be worth rebuilding the engine. You can find reasonably priced used engines which (if you can prove they are good), will last you another 10 years, depending on how you take care of them. May 5, 2017 at 13:04

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