How Far Can You Drive On Minimum Engine Oil?

While driving your favorite cars like Audi, BMW or Subaru, you have observed that low oil pressure light has illuminated on the dashboard which usually means that the oil level is quite low in your engine crankcase. After this, you might be asking the question: how far can you drive on minimum engine oil?

If the oil warning light is yellow or orange, it is safe for you to drive up to 25 to 50 miles so that you can get your car to your home or dealership to fill the oil. That light doesn’t mean that your oil level is low. It just means that your car has probably used up a quart of oil. So, you need to just get topped it off. If the oil warning light is red, you should immediately stop your car as too low oil level can hurt the crankshaft, seals, gaskets, pistons, camshaft and bearings. Moreover, if oil falls below a certain level, you continue to drive, it can also heat up your engine. However, sometimes if you just turn the key, the oil light turns on and then turns off after you start the engine, you don’t have to worry about it.

When the oil level is low in your car, I would recommend you accelerate slowly, turn lightly and avoid autocrossing.

When changing oil, you should also have an idea about engine oil viscosity. For this, you can check my guide on 10w30 vs SAE30.

Meaning Of Oil Warning Lights

Oil warning light has a sign like Aladin’s lamp. If the oil pressure is low in your engine (which is a more serious problem and the engine should be stopped instantly), the light will illuminate in red color.

If the oil level is MIN in your engine, the same indicator will illuminate, but with a yellow or orange color and a wavy line below it.

Difference between low oil level light and low oil pressure light

What Does an Oil Light On Dashboard Indicate?

The oil light on the car dashboard indicates that there is either not enough oil in the car or the oil is leaking due to worn-out engine components. The oil warning light comes on when the oil pressure drops below a certain level.  

Sometimes, the oil light on the dashboard may come on even though the engine is working properly. It is important that you check your car regularly for the oil level, oil leaks, and other oil-related problems. This could be a sign of a number of other problems, including a leaking head gasket

When the oil level is low, you need to add some oil to the engine and replace the filter. You can use a dipstick to check the oil level.

Here are the possible meanings of oil light on the dashboard:

1. Low Oil Level or Oil is Dark and Filthy

When oil is brand new, it is typically golden in color. As oil wears down, it becomes darker, thicker, and more viscous. 

As oil is consumed, it becomes more and more acidic and can become quite dirty. If the oil is used, it will also become oxidized over time. 

Engine oil is basically a combination of base oil, and a number of additives that provide properties like anti-wear, anti-corrosion, and friction reduction. You can check my guide on best oil for 350 Ecoboost engine to learn about engine oil properties.

As the oil ages, it can develop a number of problems including, among others, the formation of sludge, varnish, and gum that affect its viscosity and ability to keep the engine clean and lubricated.

I have written a detailed guide on the best oil for high-mileage engines. You can check that out to learn more about engine oils.

You should regularly monitor your engine oil condition and its level using a dipstick. One thing I would like to highlight is that dipstick does not touch the bottom of the oil pan. When your dipstick is bone dry, your engine still might have 1 to 2 quarts of oil left. Usually, the high/low marks on the dipstick are a quart or less apart.

Since the dipstick is not touching the bottom of the oil pan, we can’t predict if the oil pan is fully empty or if there is still a quart of oil left. So, you should add a couple of quarts of engine oil before you take your car to the shop to get the oil changed. If you do not add oil at this stage, the oil pump will run dry and will damage.

2. Oil Pressure Is Low

If you can see the red light on the dashboard, it means that oil pressure is low, which more serious problem than a low oil level. In an engine, low oil pressure doesn’t necessarily mean that the oil level is actually low. With time, the clearances between engine parts, such as piston and cylinder, crankshaft, and bearings, increase. When bearings wear out, they offer no resistance to oil flow, due to which oil pressure is decreased.

As a result, oil is unable to develop certain pressure to operate control valves and also make a protective film between engine parts. You should also see if there is any oil leakage from the cylinder head and camshaft. 

Moreover, due to increased clearance between the piston and engine cylinder, oil also enters the combustion chamber and burns with the fuel. This will also increase fuel consumption. I have also written a detailed guide on low pressure at idle. I would highly recommend you to check that out first before proceeding further. You will get answers to your major questions.

3. Oil Pressure Sensor is Malfunctioning

The oil pressure sensor converts oil pressure into electric signals and transfers those signals to the ECM (Engine Control Module). If oil pressure falls below a certain level, ECM turns on the oil pressure light. So, you also have to check if the oil pressure sensor is faulty or not.

4. Malfunctioning Oil Pump

Over time, as a vehicle incurs wear and tear, its components may fail or degrade. Some of the components of a vehicle are lubricated with oil, which helps to reduce friction and wear in moving parts.

While the engine of a vehicle requires little maintenance, the pump that pressurizes the oil is one of the most common parts you should replace if you notice that the components of the oil pump have worn out.

How Far Can You Drive On Minimum Engine Oil in BMW?

According to the owner’s manual of BMW, you can drive up to 50 miles if the oil level is low. On the dashboard of the BMW, it illuminates a light blue colored light below which it is mentioned at oil has dropped below a lower mark. In such a case, you can drive to the nearby service center and add one quart of oil.

low oil level light on BMW

How Far Can You Drive On Minimum Engine Oil in Audi?

According to the users, you can drive Audi up to 100 miles when you observe low oil level light on the dashboard. While low on oil, you should avoid aggressive driving.

low oil level light on Audi

Here is what a user says about this:

“I usually get the notification around 5000miles to add more oil on the Audi RS. Drove another 120miles with the notification without issue or computer saying anything else. Just kept RPMs low and no aggressive driving until I got it topped up.”

Will Driving With Low Oil Damage Engine?

Driving with low oil can damage your engine. You should always keep your oil levels checked regularly. A simple oil change will ensure that you have enough lubrication to operate your vehicle. If you notice that your engine has a high level of wear, it may be due to low oil. 

When the engine is running at low oil levels, it cannot absorb heat and lubricants from friction. As a result, the temperature inside the engine rises.

If the engine is overheating, it will burn oil and lose its lubrication. It can also damage the engine’s components, leading to engine failure. You need to have at least 2 quarts of the recommended engine oil in your trunk at all times so that when you see low oil level light, you get topped it off.