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Sister's Engine

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Today my sister was driving her 96 Corolla...and apparently her engine oil light came on on the dashboard. She quickly pulled over ...and apparently she said the engine dip stick had absolutely no engine oil, when she pulled the stick out She was stranded and didn't want to drive the car any further..so some man helped her who had some extra engine oil in his truck. Problem is ....her Corolla engine takes 5W30 oil..but the man put in 10W30 or something like that. What's the difference? Will the oil now in the engine cause more damage?

The thing that puzzles my sister and me is that the car is serviced at proper mileage intervals from the dealer...but how did the engine completely run dry? There's no oil leak...cuz i don't see oil marks/spills on the driveway or anywhere her car is parked. I would appreciate if anyone knows any information or suggestions. Thanks

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The Corolla owners manual says both 5W-30 and 10W-30 can be used. The owners manual also recommends checking the oil level at every gas stop. Sounds like the dealer didn't fill the engine up properly with oil so it ran low, but now you can't prove it because your sister didn't check the oil level soon after the car was serviced.

Chances are the engine has been significantly damaged from running low on oil. If damaged, the engine will make more mechanical noise than it did before running low on oil. More tapping or knocking type noise. Or it may burn oil more rapidly. However, if the engine seems just as quiet as it used to and oil consumption doesn't go up, then maybe you got lucky and the oil level didn't get fatally low.

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I would pull the valve cover to get a feel for just how bad the engine may be. Look for sludge buildup and some serious varnish. If she was able too put some oil back in the car to get going and has not had any more issues then the engine may not be too bad off. Corolla engines are pretty tough. You need to find the leak if there is one. Check the coolant reservoir as the oil could be mixing w/ the coolant if you have a head gasket issue.

Make sure your sister has a complete oil change and puts a new filter in the car. I would potentially look at running a treatment of Auto RX (www.autorx.com) in the oil as well to remove some of the sludge/varnish if she ran it that low.

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The '83-'97 Corolla 4A and 7A series motors are extremely resistant to sludge build up and stay clean even if oil changes are extended out to 10,000 miles. Anyone can see this for themselves buy randoming taking off the valve covers of ten junkyard '83-97 Corollas. A certain amount of varnish is also normal and unharmful in any engine that uses conventional oil.

Auto-Rx is $25 a bottle snake oil in my opinion. The makers of Auto-Rx, like those of Slick 50, Duralube, Motor-Up, etc. target mechanically illiterate people - try to get them to think engine cleaner or friction reducing additives are necessary to correct and prevent engine. transmission, fuel injection and power steering trouble.

Nissan / Infiniti owners manuals flatly advise owners to never use oil, gasoline, transmission and coolant additives.

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