John Linden: Hi! I'm John Linden; Master ASE Certified Technician and North America Training Manager for Midas International Corporation. Today, I would like to talk to you about what to do if your oil light comes on while you are driving. If the oil light comes on while you are driving, it is an indication that the engine is extremely low on oil. Oil is a lubricant for a number of moving parts inside the engine.
Running low could cause premature wear or permanent damage to the engine. The best and safest thing you can do is to pull over and stop as soon as possible. After you have safely stopped, open the hood and check the oil level. When you are checking your oil, be sure to look to see where the oil level is. First, you want to remove the oil dipstick and wipe it off. Oil has a tendency to splash and if you do not wipe it off, you could get a false reading.
Next, reinstall the dipstick and pull it back up. There are lines on most oil dipsticks that tell you when the oil was low or within an acceptable range. Under normal condition, the oil level in most engines should not drop. If the oil is low, you might have a leak or a possible mechanical problem. If you can see oil on the dipstick, it is an indication that you have some oil in the engine. If you are in a situation where you must continue to drive, it is highly recommended that you add oil before you continue. Remember, anytime you add oil, you need to make sure you are using oil that manufacturer recommends for your vehicle by checking the oil filter cap or your owner's manual.
If you hear any type of metal knocking sound or any other unusual noises, or don't feel comfortable adding oil yourself, the best thing to do is shut the engine off and call your service provider or a tow truck. This noise could indicate engine trouble. So the cost of a tow or a full inspection is a whole lot less than a cost of a new engine.