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Ask Dodgerench Your Own Question
Dodgerench, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 3407
Experience:  30+ years Dodge/Chrysler exp., ASE Master with L1 certification. Driveability/ combustion specialist
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Car died when ran out of oil; won't start after putting oil back in

Customer Question

My car died when I ran out of oil, put oil back in the car but it will still not start; no popping or riddling occurred when the car died. What's wrong with the car?

Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Dodge
Expert:  Matt replied 9 years ago.

Thank you for asking your question on JustAnswer.

How do you know it ran out of oil (when it did run out)?
When you ran out of oil did it just stop running or did you turn it off?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
the oil gage was fine then i starded going then the car putted and just cut off, all the lights stayed on but the engine just cut off no pop an no raddle then i turned it off, went to the gas station got some oil, put 3 qt. in an it still wont start.
Expert:  Matt replied 9 years ago.
Does it crank over or does nothing happen when you try to start it?

This could be really bad and i hate to tell you this but when you run a engine dry of oil it will seize up causing your engine to be toast and you will need to buy a new one.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Yea it cranks over and it sounds like it's just not firing up. I finally got my spark plugs out and they look a little burnt. I've been burning oil and there was some gunk on the plugs, I checked the gap on them and it was a little loose, shoud i get more and see if that works? And someone told me to unhook the alternator and take it to o'reily so they can run it and make sure thats not the problem. Would that even be worth my time? The car was never completly out of oil it still had a little bit in it but not much.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.

I have a 89 dodge dynasty and last week it just shut off while i was driving it, it was not completely out of oil but it was low. I put more in and it still didn't start so I tested the alternator at the auto parts store and it runs fine then I changed the spark plugs and it still wont start so i'm currently looking for a cheep place to get new spark plug cords. Am I headed in the right way? If not what should i do?

Expert:  Dodgerench replied 9 years ago.

Just a few questions to start...

  • A broken timing belt will make the engine sound "funny" when cranked, almost turbine-like. Does your engine sound like it always has? If not, pull the distributor cap off and check to see if the rotor turns when the engine is cranked.
  • Do you see a CHECK ENGINE lamp do its bulb test at each key-on? It lasts 2-3 seconds. No CE light indicates engine controller failure, a grounding of the 5v power feed to certain sensors or a power/ ground interruption to the controller.
  • If it's quiet, do you hear the fuel pump run for a second at key-on? NOTE: If you've initiated the code read function (below) no pump operation will be heard. A flashing CHECK ENGINE lamp will be the indicator for this.
  • If so, let's check for codes. Turn the key from off to on three times and watch the CHECK ENGINE lamp.. It will do a longer bulb test than normal, then go dark. When it lights again, it will be flashing. Count the flashes and note that there will be short and long pauses between them. Short flashes mean that you should keep counting and longer ones indicate the number is ***** and you're moving on. The last code will always be 5-5, end of test. Let me know what it spills out.
  • If at all possible, check for spark at the spark plug wire (plug) ends. If no spark is present there, check back at the coil. A breakdown in secondary ignition insulation anywhere along the way can cause spark to be lost. The rotor is held in place on the distributor shaft by a small bolt and it's been known to come loose, causing a stall.
  • I've been assuming the battery is still capable of cranking the engine. Your reference to having the alternator checked makes me wonder if the battery was dead after the engine stalled. If so, we've got basic electrical issues. If not, we can disregard the alternator question.

I think we can get your car burning gas again!


Customer: replied 9 years ago.

I myself knew nothing about cars from the alternator to the manifold, so i found this website and asked for help and got nothing. So i started myself, by checking the battery, it was low so i charged it, still no start. So i moved to the sparkplugs dirty ass hell, so i got new ones and still nothing, then i did a sparkplug test, no spark. A friend told me it could be the ulternator so i got it out and got it tested, and it runs fine. So then i move to the sparkplug cords got new ones and still no start so i did the spark test again and no spark. So then i move to the distrubuter cap (spelling might suck) and i notice a crack on the inside and the roter was burned a little on the bottom side as was the cap. So i went and got a new cap and roter and it fired right up sounding better then before. But now i have a different problem. My mufeler is spitting out some ***** ***** smoke and at first where the manafold connects to the muffler, it was spitting out some white smoke too but i believe it has stopped. The white smoke coming out of the muffler dies down but when you give it gas it starts up again. It's done it before (smoked) but not as much. What should i do now?

Expert:  Dodgerench replied 9 years ago.

Good work!

You found something that happens so seldom on the 3.0 I wouldn't have expected it. Rotor burn-through does happen and it can be a bear to find if you don't check for spark at the coil AND at the plugs. It can sometimes be caused by a burned out plug wire which induces the coil to build to maximum output... enough to blow a hole through a solid chunk of plastic. These coils are pretty strong!

The white smoke is most likely engine oil, Chris. That's the book on the 3.0 engine from that time period... they tend to burn oil. Like you said, it's done it before but you probably had a bit of an accumulation of oil in the exhaust ports from the prolonged period of no-start. The smell of the smoke is the best way to tell what the composition is. Engine oil has a distinctive smell that can be duplicated by dripping some on a hot barbecue grill or exhaust manifold.

Antifreeze has a butter-scotchy smell to it and the smoke tends to evaporate as it exits the tailpipe, where smoke simply dissipates as it floats away.

Technically, you're not burning all this oil inside the engine... it's coming down the exhaust valve stem(s), being burned as exhaust leaves the engine. Because you found deposits on the spark plugs, you may have some oil being burned in the combustion chambers, but I'd bet the majority is from the exhaust guide problem.

What happens is the exhaust valve guides drop down into the exhaust port.

They're made of a different metal than the aluminum heads and tended to lose some of their fit from expansion/ contraction of the head, falling into the engine. Once they dropped so far, the valve seal was popped off the top of the guide and oil had free reign to pour through as it pleased. The oil tends to show up more after a prolonged idle period, when the relatively low exhaust temperatures couldn't burn the oil off completely, allowing a buildup. You'll see considerable smoking for a few miles, then a sharp decrease as the backlog is used up.

Repair for this always involves cylinder head removal to correct the guides that have dropped. If you find a cylinder head that has three good guides, an alternate procedure to keep them in place is (was) available, involving cutting a slot in the lower outside of the guide and fitting it with a retainer clip. The special tool for that was something the dealer had at one time but may be hard to locate at this point.

The guides that fell out will need to be removed. With the head off, the valves are removed on the exhaust side and the guides are pressed out. Revised parts with the groove and clip already installed are then pressed in and the valve seats are then cut to ensure the valve will seat properly using the new guide, then the head is reassembled and reinstalled.

If it's been more than 70K miles since replacing your timing belt or water pump, the while we're at it fairy is sure to visit, running the bill up a bit... but it is a good time LOL!

Glad to hear the good news and as always, feel free to write back if there's anything I can help with.


Customer: replied 9 years ago.
but i guess the question is now, can i still drive my car or will it just break down again cause the smoke is really the only other problem. i also heard the smoke is from a blown headgasket is that true?

Expert:  Dodgerench replied 9 years ago.

It depends on what's coming out of the tailpipe, Chris. Oil smoke in no way indicates a head gasket problem on the 3.0 engine. Antifreeze... does.

If you're opposed to sniffing your exhaust (understandable lol), watch the visible emissions as they enter the atmosphere. Antifreeze will outright evaporate, disappearing within a few feet of the exhaust tip in summer temperatures, leaving no trace... it's a vapor.

Engine oil will keep diluting into the air as time and distance from the car accumulates and never really disappears... it just gets thinner. It will be visible in calm air up to 15 feet away sometimes, depending upon the "tonnage" it's burning.

If it's running OK now with no misfire, I'd cautiously recommend you drive it while keeping close track of coolant and engine oil so that it doesn't run low again. Listen for odd knocking noises that weren't there a week ago in case actual damage had been done to the engine from low oil levels. Given that engine oil has already been seen dropping, it's likely to be your mystery smoke.

The blown-thru rotor may have actually done you a favor, Chris, by killing the engine and causing a top-to-bottom unde rhood check LOL! My feeling is that you're in no worse shape now than before the engine stalled.


Customer: replied 9 years ago.

then yes the smoke is just the burning oil cause i went up the dead-end and came back and some of the smoke is still there. thanks for helping

Expert:  Dodgerench replied 9 years ago.

I'm glad to have helped in some way, and wish you all the best.