For the engine to be properly lubricated, engine oil is crucial. Engine parts may experience friction issues if they are improperly lubricated. Therefore, an engine’s overheating issues may be caused by a lack of engine oil.

Engine overheating can cause permanent wear and tear on engine components. In this article, we’ll look at signs that your engine is overheating and what to do if it’s running low on oil.

What happens when engine oil is low?

Engine parts need more oil for lubrication when the engine is low on oil. This causes friction in the metal parts. This will result in engine overheating and a clunking sound. Don’t confuse low engine oil with the transmission.

Symptoms for Engine Overheat

  1. High-temperature readings on the temperature gauge.
  2. When the hood is opened, there is steam or smoke.

Because of low oil, the engine cooling system cannot resolve the overheating problem. This is because the oil transports heat from the engine to the radiator. If there is no oil in the engine, the coolant system will not function properly, and the engine will overheat. 

Symptoms of low oil in a car

  1. Clunking sound
  2. Burning oil smell
  3. Low engine performance
  4. Engine noise
  5. Oil light turn on

For a detailed guide on this, you can check the article on low oil symptoms, where we cover this topic in detail.

How much oil is too low in your car?

It is critical that the engine’s oil level is not low, and you should check the oil level regularly. The oil level can be checked using a dipstick. Dipsticks have two marks: “add” and “full”. The oil level is normal if the oil level is between these two marks.

Anything below the MIN or Add mark on the dipstick indicates low oil in the engine. If the oil level on the dipstick is low, adding a quart of oil will restore it to normal. Just make sure you don’t overfill the extra quart, as that can cause a ton of issues.

Will the oil change fix overheating?

The only way to deal with engine overheating and friction is to add oil. If the engine oil is old, changing it is the best option. Engine parts will be properly lubricated, allowing oil to transport heat to the coolant system.

However, if the oil level is low due to a leak or oil burning, it is best to address that issue first. Topping it off is the best option if the engine oil is low. 

A few things to remember when adding engine oil:

  1. Engine oil must have the same viscosity as engine oil.
  2. The oil you add must be of the same type.
  3. It is suggested that the oil used for the topping is of the same brand.

How to top up Engine oil?

  1. Check the oil level to determine how much oil is required. A quart of oil is usually sufficient to take oil level readings from MIN to MAX.
  2. Take the oil filler cap off. Slowly pour in the engine oil. Make sure the cap is not opened in a hot engine.
  3. Use a neck funnel for adding fresh engine oil to avoid spills.
  4. Recheck the oil level. Add more oil if the oil level is still at the full mark. Make certain that the tank is not overfilled.

FAQ’s on Low Oil Cause Overheating

If the engine runs out of oil, the coolant is unaffected because the engine oil is not properly reached in hot engine parts. However, the water pump that circulates the coolant may be damaged. Overheating caused by a low engine level causes the water pump to work harder and wear out faster.

If the oil level is too low, the engine will overheat. This will cause the engine parts to wear out. In that case, some vehicles have an automatic shutoff to prevent further damage. Even if the car does not stop automatically, the engine will eventually die due to wear and tear after some miles.


To summarize, overheating is a major issue in the engine. Overheating can cause engine parts to wear out and become permanently damaged. The main cause of engine overheating is a lack of engine oil. In that case, topping or changing the oil is the only option. If the engine continues to overheat after adding oil, the cooling system in the engine is most likely malfunctioning.

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