Shominy

No oil on dipstick

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The car is a 2008 1.8 Duratec petrol. I've checked the oil level a couple of times in the last day or two and 9 times out of 10 it's reading as no oil on the dipstick. I've just checked it after not having driven it for about 16 hours and when I initially took the dipstick out there was oil about a quarter of the way between min and max so I added about 500ml of oil to top it up. Left it for a few minutes, checked it and there's nothing on the dipstick at all. Put it back in, twisted around, nothing. In, out, in, leave it for a minute, out, nothing. Every which way I read it there's no oil on the dipstick.

The car runs fine. No signs of any issues whatsoever. No white crud around the engine oil cap. Nothing.

Does anyone have any idea why the dipstick is reading as nothing? Surely there can't be so little oil that it's below the minimum after adding 500ml and it being fine?

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i think it takes 1ltr to go from min to max on dipstick so try putting more in and run engine for a min then re-check dip-stick

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The 1.8 Duratec HE engine is well known for excessive oil consumption. You should top up the oil to the MAX marking on the dipstick and monitor the oil level regularly.

On this type of engine excessive oil consumption is usually caused by worn/broken piston rings (especially the oil scraper rings). 

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Thanks guys, I'll give it a bit more tomorrow morning and see what happens. I guess I don't just want to chuck loads in and over fill it when in my head I'm thinking it's got to be a problem with the reading on the dipstick rather than their actually being so little oil in the engine that it doesn't even register on the dipstick.

I've read that excessive oil consumption can be worn piston rings as you say but also problems with the PCV and crankcase breather. Are there any major symptoms of this I should look out for?

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59 minutes ago, Shominy said:

I'm thinking it's got to be a problem with the reading on the dipstick rather than their actually being so little oil in the engine that it doesn't even register on the dipstick.

I've read that excessive oil consumption can be worn piston rings as you say but also problems with the PCV and crankcase breather.

The level of oil in the crankcase will depend on how much oil gets trapped up in the upper engine (camshaft area). If you start a cold engine, and turn it off while still cool, usually a lot of oil stays up in the top, and the dipstick reads low.

If you run an engine until fully heated (20 miles or more), then stop and let it drain overnight, then most of the oil will return to the sump, and the dipstick will read higher. So for accurate readings, always read the oil level after the same history, ideally the day after a decent run.

If the PCV or breather system is blocked, oil can be forced out of gaskets, oil seals or up through the pistons. Put a piece of card over the open oil filler hole with the engine idling. If the PCV is working ok, the card should be sucked down onto the filler hole, though it may shudder or vibrate a bit due to the pressure fluctuations. (Take care not to let anything get sucked into the engine though!)

 

 

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I think the bigger message is STOP driving it you are wrecking the engine.....

get the level right and monitor regularly

NEVER start any vehicle if when you check there is NOTHING on the dip stick (unless someone's life really, really depends on it and you like taking risks.... then drive very gently and expect to get less than 10 miles before walking, the person dies anyway and the car needs a new engine)

the fact you saw oil when you first pulled it out means there was a tiny bit left splashing around.... which if it had just dropped below and you were going to the paper shop 50 yards away and its got clean synthetic oil means you probably didn't do much damage...  if its been below min for 500 miles and you proceeded to drive for a further 16 hrs without the right level means at BEST you just took 50,000 miles of life out of the engine

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9 hours ago, Botus said:

I think the bigger message is STOP driving it you are wrecking the engine.....

get the level right and monitor regularly

NEVER start any vehicle if when you check there is NOTHING on the dip stick (unless someone's life really, really depends on it and you like taking risks.... then drive very gently and expect to get less than 10 miles before walking, the person dies anyway and the car needs a new engine)

the fact you saw oil when you first pulled it out means there was a tiny bit left splashing around.... which if it had just dropped below and you were going to the paper shop 50 yards away and its got clean synthetic oil means you probably didn't do much damage...  if its been below min for 500 miles and you proceeded to drive for a further 16 hrs without the right level means at BEST you just took 50,000 miles of life out of the engine

Fully agree with what you've said. This morning I consulted my father-in-law who is a fair bit more knowledgeable than me he said if it's not on the dipstick it obviously needs more oil and I just hadn't put enough in yet. We ended up putting 2 litres of oil in and now it's showing near max on the dipstick. I still cannot fathom how it has been driving absolutely fine considering it was lacking in oil by that much because as you've described I'd have thought the damage being done was considerable enough to cause an issue. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on oil consumption more carefully from now on.

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1 hour ago, Shominy said:

I still cannot fathom how it has been driving absolutely fine considering it was lacking in oil by that much

The oil pick-up tube for the oil pump will be low down in the sump. Provided the oil stays above this level, then pressurised oil is supplied to the critical crankshaft and camshaft bearings, and will spray out from them to lubricate the rest of the moving parts.

The moment the oil drops below the pick-up level, the engine note will change, usually to a rattle or knocking noise. And damage will then happen very quickly. The bearings are utterly reliant on the pressurised oil supply.

When starting a car after an oil change, air in the pipes or filter will cause a knocking noise briefly, but this should be at engine idle, and should not cause significant wear in that couple of seconds.

Hopefully if you have not heard any abnormal noises, then you will have got away with it. But it must have been close to the limit, with nearly half the oil gone!

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I agree with tdci-peter, there is usually some safety margin where oil does not show on dipstick but level is still high enough for oil pick up (but might not be if you go round a roundabout and oil in sump moves to opposite end of sump). Of course you should not rely on this if the oil does not register on dipstick, no one should think of sorting it out at the next weekend for example

hopefully also, if the level goes below where the oil pick up tube is, the oil pressure light will come on. 

Years ago a friend ruined his ford capri by running out of oil. I said surely the oil light would have come on to warn you. he said No. I checked under the bonnet and the wire had come off the oil pressure switch (on those cars they just push on. the loom was on the inner wing. the wire did not have much slack on it and I reckon the rocking of the engine on the rubber mounts had pulled it off.  So the moral of that is: Make sure the oil light comes on when you turn ignition on and goes off as engine starts, If it does not come on when you turn the ignition on, then it will not be able to warn you when there is no oil pressure and no oil pressure means wrecking engine. 

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I have a 2L Duratec petrol. The dipstick often looks 'empty' but the oil is so clear it can hardly be seen. So drain your oil, after warming it, then refill with the amount required in the handbook - ignore filter unless changed- . this will give you a definitive position on your dipstick. My engine uses no oil in a year at 73,000 miles. Not an oil burner but in fact a wonderful engine. Pity they are not like this now.

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I can agree with "Old Henry" - on my 1.7 Puma (108k) it was always difficult to see oil on the dipstick long after an oil change, even after wiping dipstick with clean kitchen roll.

Old Paul.....

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14 hours ago, Tdci-Peter said:

The oil pick-up tube for the oil pump will be low down in the sump. Provided the oil stays above this level, then pressurised oil is supplied to the critical crankshaft and camshaft bearings, and will spray out from them to lubricate the rest of the moving parts.

 

the reason it has 3.5 litres of oil in there rather than the 1 litre is two fold

1) as the engine revs rise the amount of oil circulating increases (pump runs at engine speed) but the time to return to the sump doesn't and with the crank splashing oil everywhere, you easily reach low level and suck part air, part oil

2) so the oil has time to cool down and survive the rigors of an engine working 

1 litre of oil might still be going round (just) but it will be damaged rapidly, as the properties its supposed to have are beaten to death.  Few engines run out totally, but many go bang as the limited oil is over stressed and gives up doing it job

 

the reason we see fewer failures these days is because of the increased prevalence of synthetic oil.... it should be noted "synthetic oil" is the wrong name …. its ordinary oil but with more crap taken out leaving a higher quality oil more capable of surviving high temps...  a very good one might just cope with 320C where a cheap nasty oil will start to fail at 190C… and some magic additives add their bit too when you buy posh oil

 

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