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Loud engine and low oil - Simple cause and effect?

JavenJaven Registered User regular
edited June 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
Title just about says it all, with a few caveats.

I was on my way to work, but didn't get very far before my engine suddenly went up a few decibels. It happened when I was idle, and is definitely coming from the front end, so it's not a muffler issue. I checked my oil to find it really low, though the oil light never turned on, and the check engine light hasn't come up either. I've read that low engine oil can lead to loud engine sounds, but my question is mainly, if I get the oil flushed and replaced, should the sound go away, or is it already indicative of a larger problem? As far as I can tell, other than the sound, the car runs fine. Accelerates at a normal pace, though I didn't dare try taking it over 20-25 or so, RPMs seem normal and all the other gauges on the dash read fine. I'm taking it in tomorrow, I just want to get a feel or the possible scenarios beforehand.

Javen on
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Posts

  • Great ScottGreat Scott Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    My initial thought is that the low oil is a effect and not a cause. Note that you have to be truly out of oil before the oil light will come on - if that light DOES come on, stop the engine immediately.

    How recently have you changed your oil (miles or time)? Without more information it's tough to say what this could be.

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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

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  • BlazeFireBlazeFire Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Yes, more information would be needed. The easiest to get would be to add more oil and see if it gets quieter again.

    Also, I'm pretty certain oil changes are supposed to be much more frequent than yours. For synthetic oil I think they recommend 4months/5000 miles.

  • Great ScottGreat Scott Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    It sounds to me like it's time for a oil change anyway - you could wait until after the change to see if the noise continues, or you could ask a mechanic to verify everything is OK at the same time. It depends on your budget and how much longer you will keep the car.

    It's quite possible that a car that age with that many miles on it is burning (a little) oil - which means that you could run out at a bad time. I would check it every three months or so just to make sure it's at least at half full.

    EDIT: What BlazeFire said. It really should be changed at least twice a year (many mechanics will state 3 months/3000 miles for non-synthetic motor oil).

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  • CrashtardCrashtard Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    I can't say much regarding the engine being loud, but typically you want to get an oil change around 3000 - 3500 miles (depends on how new your vehicle is. my 2010 Hyandai can go 6000 per the manual). Usually your car manual will give you an idea of how long you should wait.

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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Humorously enough, even before this happened I had made an appointment with my mechanic for tomorrow to get an oil change and tire rotation. I have the AAA coverage to get me there by towing anyway, just in case.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    What is the sound exactly?

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  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Just throwing my two cents in: My cars engine becomes noticeable louder when it's low on oil. It has a constant leak and every few months needs more oil. Quiets right down as soon as I get it filled up properly.

    It's very much a direct correlation between the engine noise and oil level in my car.

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  • NeitherHereNorThereNeitherHereNorThere Registered User
    edited June 2011
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    As far as your engine sound, it can be nothing or it can be bad. Can't really tell unless we hear it, so good luck at the mechanic!

  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    There's no car made recently that needs oil changes that often. Check your owner's manual, but 7,500-10,000 miles is more in line with reality.

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Six wrote: »
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    There's no car made recently that needs oil changes that often. Check your owner's manual, but 7,500-10,000 miles is more in line with reality.

    3,000 miles is outdated, but the oil change places still go by it because that's more money you're giving to them. The owners manual is what you should follow.

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  • CycophantCycophant Registered User
    edited June 2011
    Six wrote: »
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    There's no car made recently that needs oil changes that often. Check your owner's manual, but 7,500-10,000 miles is more in line with reality.

    3,000 miles is outdated, but the oil change places still go by it because that's more money you're giving to them. The owners manual is what you should follow.

    Exactly. And changing the oil once a year isn't so bad either, as long as you're not operating in a really harsh environment. I'm glad most folks err on the cautious side of the oil-changing frequency, but it can be a bit overkill.

    As for the OP, just try adding some oil and see if it goes away. It's not going to do any harm at this point. My initial thought is that your engine has hydraulic tappets that are going to make noise once your engine oil level is excessively low. Topping it up should fix it with no lasting harm.

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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Well I'm at the mechanic now getting the oil change (I thought of just adding some oil myself but decided I could use filter changes and an oil flush and a tire rotation too, basic tuneup stuff) and asked them to take a look at the exhaust as well, just in case. We'll see what comes of it

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    If it's more of a periodic chugging sound it might be your fuel pump's bearing going out.

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  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    So, the problem has been resolved! For less than 50 dollars!

    It did turn out to be an exhaust issue. A small piece had rusted off that allowed air to get in, thus causing the noise. They wanted to place the whole thing, 500 bucks all told. I said fuck that, and took it to a 2 man muffler shop down the road. They cut off the rusted bit, welded a new piece on, took about an hour, 50 bucks and the noise disappeared. Made me wish I'd went to them for my oil/tire rotation too, since I'm sure I could have got it cheaper there. On the plus side, I found a new great mechanic. On the downside, I didn't find out about them sooner.

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  • SpudgeSpudge Registered User
    edited June 2011
    Glad you got it taken care of

    But you really shouldn't run your car so low on oil. It takes a couple minutes to check your fluids, air filter and tire pressure. Try to do it once a week at least

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  • DisrupterDisrupter Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Yeah. I went about 8 months w/o an oil change.

    Engine seized up. Car dead. Had to buy a new one.

    Car was sort of a POS anyway. Lights on the dash went out so Im not sure if the oil light ever came up. But apprarently I was pretty much out of oil.

    Dont let this happen to you. Get your oil changed frequently!

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  • BlazeFireBlazeFire Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Or at least check it frequently. You don't have to get your oil changed to keep it from burning up.

  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Six wrote: »
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    There's no car made recently that needs oil changes that often. Check your owner's manual, but 7,500-10,000 miles is more in line with reality.

    I'm with Six. The old rules of thumb no longer apply. Even at 10k miles, odds are that your filter needs replacing more than the oil itself does (though you might as well do both at the same time).

  • wmelonwmelon Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    wonderpug wrote: »
    Six wrote: »
    Javen wrote: »
    Last oil change was about a year ago and 10k miles. Car's got 115k on it, 98 camry.

    Woah! That's both too much time and miles. Get an oil change every 3-4 months or 4000 miles, whichever comes first.

    There's no car made recently that needs oil changes that often. Check your owner's manual, but 7,500-10,000 miles is more in line with reality.

    I'm with Six. The old rules of thumb no longer apply. Even at 10k miles, odds are that your filter needs replacing more than the oil itself does (though you might as well do both at the same time).

    It very much depends on the vehicle. I say follow whatever the manufacturer recommends, be it 3k, 5k, 10k.

    There are still vehicles that require a minimum of an oil top off every 3k miles, the RX-8 for instance.

  • JavenJaven Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Last time I got an oil change I got synthetic instead of petroleum based, which I thought was supposed to last longer? I was under the impression that the "3 month/3k miles" was a mantra that was repeated by automakers way back in the day because the oil degraded faster than what they put out now? It was more to prevent sludge than anything else, which is much less common in todays cars/ motor oils.

    I'm not exactly sure how much the oil I got put in last time claimed to be good for, probably closer to 7k miles, so either way I was still overdue, but when I mentioned to the guy how long it'd been since my last oil change, he didn't see any sludge or warning signs of a damaged engine. So I guess under the circumstances of what it could have been, I ended up pretty lucky.

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  • GafotoGafoto Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Not to get off subject but changing your own oil is criminally easy. For many cars it's a single bolt to drain the oil, changing the filter by hand (screw on/off) and then refilling the oil.

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  • DhalphirDhalphir don't you open that trapdoor you're a fool if you dareRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    changing your own oil is easy, but many other things that should be done for a regular service (tyre rotation, etc) are not unless you're experienced with the car, and the timing on oil changes tends to line up with regular servicing of a car anyway, so you might as well get it all done at once.

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Gafoto wrote: »
    Not to get off subject but changing your own oil is criminally easy. For many cars it's a single bolt to drain the oil, changing the filter by hand (screw on/off) and then refilling the oil.

    The main problem is what to do with the oil after you've changed it. Oil changes are infrequent enough that the expense is worth the hassle.

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  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Gafoto wrote: »
    Not to get off subject but changing your own oil is criminally easy. For many cars it's a single bolt to drain the oil, changing the filter by hand (screw on/off) and then refilling the oil.

    The main problem is what to do with the oil after you've changed it. Oil changes are infrequent enough that the expense is worth the hassle.

    I change mine outside of autozone or pep boys - wherever I buy the oil. They'll dispose of it for free for you. I also use an extractor so the old oil's in a nice container ready to go. The whole process takes 15 minutes and costs me the price of an oem filter kit ($12) and oil (about $40).

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Six wrote: »
    Gafoto wrote: »
    Not to get off subject but changing your own oil is criminally easy. For many cars it's a single bolt to drain the oil, changing the filter by hand (screw on/off) and then refilling the oil.

    The main problem is what to do with the oil after you've changed it. Oil changes are infrequent enough that the expense is worth the hassle.

    I change mine outside of autozone or pep boys - wherever I buy the oil. They'll dispose of it for free for you. I also use an extractor so the old oil's in a nice container ready to go. The whole process takes 15 minutes and costs me the price of an oem filter kit ($12) and oil (about $40).

    Wow. I pay like $35 to have a shop do everything.

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  • SixSix Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Six wrote: »
    Gafoto wrote: »
    Not to get off subject but changing your own oil is criminally easy. For many cars it's a single bolt to drain the oil, changing the filter by hand (screw on/off) and then refilling the oil.

    The main problem is what to do with the oil after you've changed it. Oil changes are infrequent enough that the expense is worth the hassle.

    I change mine outside of autozone or pep boys - wherever I buy the oil. They'll dispose of it for free for you. I also use an extractor so the old oil's in a nice container ready to go. The whole process takes 15 minutes and costs me the price of an oem filter kit ($12) and oil (about $40).

    Wow. I pay like $35 to have a shop do everything.

    What kind of oil and filter are you getting for that price?

    Edit: $35 for just the oil I'm using (Mobil 1 0w-40) would be a pretty great deal, let alone filter and labor.

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Uh... whatever is cheapest that the shop uses. Probably Quaker State or something similar, 10w-40.

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  • jefe414jefe414 The dirtiest Sanchez TortugaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Yeah the 3K miles thing was pretty much BS for the last 20+ years. Always check the owners manual (my Xterra needs it every 4K if the majority of use is HEAVY off road/4WD. otherwise, it's 7,500). You should be checking your oil every gas fill up. It takes a minute. Have you tried topping it off? Maybe you have a leak or something.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Changing your oil frequently never hurt anybody though, maybe your wallet (a bit) but it's never a bad idea to get your oil changed.

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  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    edited June 2011
    In the US, any auto parts store will take the used oil off your hands when you're done, free of charge.
    There are also some cities and counties that also do that. Where I live, there are two places in the city that the city takes care of to dump old, used oil. There's also a county site, and like four or 5 auto stores that will do it.
    I don't know what kind of setup anyone has overseas, but in the US I'd say it's a non-issue.

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  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Rogue Coral Springs, FLRegistered User regular
    edited June 2011
    Funny this thread should happen, my car abruptly was low on oil the other day. :( I refilled it once I realized it, but the car was vibrating at 45-50 MPH on the way back. I pray it's not related.

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  • SpudgeSpudge Registered User
    edited June 2011
    Yes most primary recycle centers also have a hazmat fluid center where you can drop off oil, coolant, tranny fluid, etc

    You should know how to do these things yourself. Not only does it help you understand your vehicle(s) more, but (until we lose dependence on dinosaurs) you learn a valuable life skill

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