Oil Life 0% – What It Means & How Long Can You Drive Like That?

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

If you’re worried about that ‘oil life 0%’ warning on your car’s dashboard, here’s everything you need to know about the situation.

An oil life 0% warning indicates that your engine oil has degraded to a critical level. You can continue to drive your vehicle for a short while (up to around 500 miles), but you should visit a service station to perform an oil change as soon as possible. Continuously driving your vehicle with worn out engine oil can cause irreversible damage to the engine.

What Does Oil Life 0% Mean?

You may be worried if the dashboard on your vehicle displays “Oil Life 0%”. This warning indicates that your vehicle is due for an oil change. The effectiveness of the oil has fallen critically low and you should visit a service station to address the issue.

Oil is an essential component of your vehicle’s engine. The oil functions as a lubricant to reduce friction. This ensures that the engine can operate smoothly.

The engine can overheat and become damaged beyond repair in the absence of oil that’s in good condition. It is generally safe to continue driving your vehicle for a short period after receiving the warning. However, you must prioritize an oil change at a service station.

How Often Should You Perform an Oil Change?

It is recommended to perform an oil change around every 3,000 – 7,500 miles, depending on the type of oil. This recommendation varies for different vehicles and oil types (mineral = lowest longevity, semi-synthetic = more longevity, synthetic = highest longevity). You should check the owner’s manual of your vehicle to ensure accuracy.

You should begin planning for an oil change once your vehicle indicates a 5% oil life. Regular oil changes will ensure that the oil quality in your vehicle does not fall to a critical level. This will improve the performance and prolong the functional life of the vehicle.

The oil life monitor does not automatically reset after an oil change. Instead, the service station must manually reset the monitor upon completion of the oil change. Your vehicle will continue to display “Oil Life 0%” if the monitor is not manually reset.

How Long Can You Drive with 0% Oil Life?

Your vehicle can still drive a significant distance after receiving a 0% oil life warning. The actual distance depends on the condition of your car. You will be able to drive for a longer period if your vehicle has been serviced regularly. It may run for around 500 miles safely without any adverse effects.

However, you should perform an oil change as soon as possible. The warning indicates that your vehicle is overdue for an oil change. Continued use of your vehicle can lead to excessive and irreparable damage.

In addition, the oil in your vehicle will generally contain some dirt and foreign particles. As the oil gets degraded, there is a higher probability that these particles will be sucked into the engine. This reduces the lubrication of the oil and increases the likelihood of damaging the components of the engine.

How to Check the Oil Level of Your Vehicle

Your vehicle has an oil sensor that monitors the oil level in the vehicle. Occasionally, this sensor can malfunction. This will result in an incorrect oil level reading.

Hence, you should regularly perform a manual oil check. This will ensure that your vehicle always has an appropriate level of oil. This will prevent the oil from reaching a critical level.

It is quite simple to perform a manual check of your oil level.

You should park your vehicle on a level service and allow the engine to cool down fully. If the engine is warm, you will receive an incorrect reading.

The dipstick should be located near the oil tank in your vehicle (check the owner’s manual for an exact location). You should remove the dipstick and wipe it with a clean cloth to remove the surface oil.

If you observe the dipstick, you will notice a ‘Maximum’ and a ‘Minimum’ line. Reinsert the dipstick and then remove it again. The oil level should be within the maximum and minimum levels.

If the oil level is too high, the engine can also become damaged. The excess oil can move towards the rotating crankshaft which will aerate the oil. This will cause the oil to become frothy. This reduces its lubrication and can cause the engine to overheat.

Final Thoughts

You can continue to drive your vehicle after receiving a 0% oil life warning. However, you should visit a service station at your earliest convenience to perform an oil change. Continuous use of your vehicle can cause irreparable damage.

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

6 thoughts on “Oil Life 0% – What It Means & How Long Can You Drive Like That?”

  1. I have one question my car oil life is just 0%. I book my car service appointment but its next month. Is that ok if I drive my car with 0% oil life?

  2. My chev has a reading of 0 remaining oil life..idk how long been there ..can I still drive my truck even if there’s oil in it

  3. I have a 2008 cadillac escalade that’s at 2% oil life my husband recently passed, he took care of these type of things I won’t be able to get oil change till Fri due to final expenses will it be ok to drive my vehicle if it reaches 0% before then? Thank u so much.


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