The bike just had the oil change, however they forgot to put the oil back into motor. I left on a trip and rode 124 miles before any issues. I starting hearing this loud, loud noise from motor and I pulled off. I found out there was no oil and the motor was real hot.

The service shop said to get diesel oil and put it in (nothing else was available). I put in the oil and started to ride but right off the bat I could tell I was running on half power.

I continued to ride until all kinds of smoke were coming out and then it would barely run enough to get off the highway. Then I shut it down and now it will only spin.

So how much damage did it cause?

  • The answers mention piston/ring/ bore damage, but you will have damage to all the bearings as well : crank, cam etc
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 14:34
  • 7
    how the heck did it last 124miles without oil????
    – DamoC
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 16:14
  • 2
    @DamoC There would still be oil stuck to the inside surfaces that is what lubricates the engine when it has been sitting for a while and you start it up. That said, it is quite a feat, it also damaged "all the things" ;-)
    – Ukko
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 17:14
  • Document everything so you have evidence for legal proceedings. You should get either a new or completely rebuilt motor and no labour charge.
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 20:50
  • What kind of Harley was it? Are you saying the engine will turn over if you hit the starter button? I'm pretty impressed if it will. I would imagine it would be cheaper to buy a new engine than rebuild this one. The parts I would think could be reused would be the cylinders (if rebored), the head, the crankcases, the connecting rods, but even those parts I'd want checked out thoroughly. For instance, if one of the main bearings was spinning in the crankcase it could take out the crankcase. I'd also want to make sure the oil tank and lines were cleaned out thoroughly.
    – Eric
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 20:56

5 Answers 5


It sounds like the engine has suffered severe internal damage. You would only get away with running a vehicle with no oil for a few minutes assuming there is a residual amount left in the sump and coating on all the components.

But running it for over 100 miles with what would be left in the sump and oil gallery's after draining it will only cause severe component failure and seizure.

I would suggest you now employ a qualified technician to assess the damage to the motor, and take an accompanying video just in case you need it.

Then approach the garage telling them what the engine damage is and what repair/replacement costs will be, plus any personal losses and inconvenience.

If they start arguing over anything, I'd start legal proceedings against the garage that was trusted to service your bike, and not destroy it.

  • This is all very true. Although the shop is responsible for not putting oil in the engine, the OP needs to take responsibility for not checking the oil before he left the shop or going on the trip. That may be a legal out for the shop, depending what local laws are where the OP lives. Either way, it's a horrible position to be in.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 14:18
  • 3
    @CharlieRB.. Understood. However If you've just paid to have your oil changed you should be able to expect it to be at, or very very close to the appropriate level. Leaving it empty is the fault of the garage, bad workmanship and on a bike can be very dangerous. As having the rear wheel lock up following engine seizure when you're not expecting it is not good at all.
    – Orb
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 14:46
  • @Orb so are you assuming that the OP paid for the service and pulled out of the shop to go directly on the trip? Then, yes, I would agree that one should expect the level to be fine, however, it could have been a week ago the oil change was done - we have no way to tell unless the OP enlightens us...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:04
  • @Solar Mike .. Nooo not at all., I'm just thinking that as the OP mentioned he'd 'just' had it changed, it was very recently done. And as no accident, lost sump plug etc was mentiond it should still have oil in it.
    – Orb
    Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:16
  • 5
    @CharlieRB - I agree with Orb in that there is a reasonable expectation the place which did the service is capable of putting oil back into it. Your statement assumes everyone has the wherewithal to do these things, but it's not so. People take their vehicles to shops to have them professionally maintained so they can enjoy them without the worry of maintenance items. Yes, it could have been avoided had the OP checked, but really, this falls directly back on the shop. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 15:22

Without stripping the engine down and looking it's going to be impossible to be specific about the extent of the damage. It's pretty safe to say "a lot" though.

At the very least I'd expect damage to the piston rings and the valves but you could be looking at damage to the cylinder lining and possible piston damage as well. Hopefully you'll be able to get some sort of admission of responsibility from the garage that did the oil change because I don't see the repairs being cheap.


I am sorry to hear about that. Running it without oil likely seized up something in the engine. The description you give is kind of vague, I'm not sure what "will only spin" means, but that's probably what happened in your case.

Now that it's over, the only thing you will need to focus on is documenting everything because the service shop that did this is responsible to replace your engine. Document everything right away. Pictures, calls, who you talked to, who recommended diesel oil, how long it ran, etc.


Unfortunately its probably going to cost quite a bit as your engine has seized up. Basically as their is no lubrication between metal...this will cause friction and everything will be warped and thus not move.


I went to the shop today,, they are saying it wasnt the oil but the tenchinors broke apart,, causing all this mess, then stopping the flow of oil, then when i put int he extra oil then when i got back on hwy the oil came out everywhere due to too much oil,, so he is saying this is mfg part defect causing this,, and he said nothing is damaged,, due to there was oil ,, so now after today i did look at this, and did see all the broken parts inside he said they have to clean it all real good, get the new tensioners, and reassemble,, and should be ready in two weeks

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