engine without oil video
YouTube: Engineering Explained

Video Shows What Happens When You Run an Engine Without Oil



Have you ever owned such a beater, a hooptie, an utter pile of crap car that you can't wait to get rid of it? Ever thought of draining the oil and running it just to see what would happen? Most chicken out, trade the thing in, and are left wondering.

Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained did something pretty close. Using a single cylinder Harbor Freight engine, he filmed using a fancy thermal camera to see the difference in temperature while running the engine with and without engine oil. Surprisingly, the temperature was not all that different and the engine seemed to run fine. Jason was naturally disappointed and decided to take the engine apart. He found near fatal damage done to a main bearing and the crankshaft. Looking at the little amount of oil left in the bottom we can also see pieces of metal indicating this engine was definitely close to death.

With bearing clearances usually less than the thickness of a sheet of paper it's amazing this engine lasted 15 minutes running.  I'd imagine running it much longer would have at the very least locked the engine up. Revving the engine up in the last few minutes may have even resulted in a fantastic show of engine guts spewed all over.


I performed a test like this during my tech school days. A friend and I bought an 80's Nissan Pickup for $100. Equipped with a 4 cylinder that had 350,000 miles when the odometer decided to stop recording, we decided to remove its life blood. We ran it hard for about 10 minutes and nothing happened. Proud of the Nissan we filled it back up and kept on truckin'.

Now I know some of you out there have cool stories of trying to murder innocent engines.

This post was originally published on April 6, 2017.

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