Q: Car went low on oil and now Check Engine Light and engine shaking

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So it's been a little over 4,000 miles since my last oil change and the other night when I was driving all of a sudden my check engine light started blinking and when my car was stopped at a light it was shaking really badly. I pulled into a parking lot and shut it off and when I turned it back on it shook right from the start and makes a thumping like noise. I drove it to my friends house where it sat overnight. The next day my friend checked the oil to find it was super low so he put some in for me, however, when I went to drive it again it was still making the noise and shaking really bad. I drove it home and parked it and that's where it is now. I plan to take it somewhere to be checked out but I want to know what to expect as I don't have the money for much right now.

My car has 177000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Well, a blinking Check Engine Light (CEL) is often more serious than a "steady" light because that typically means the engine is misfiring. You can’t drive a misfiring engine very long without causing additional damage.

The good news is there will be diagnostic trouble codes to download, because the CEL did set, which will reveal where the fault lies. It is hard to say what relation, if any, the low oil level had in causing the CEL to illuminate.

If the low oil pressure warning light came on, too, there could be a connection simply because running the engine too low on oil will cause mechanical damage and thence malfunctions of all kinds.

Hopefully, the red oil pressure warning light did not come on during this incident. But nobody will know until the codes are read and who knows you could get lucky and find that you simply have a bad spark plug wire (that will cause misfiring) and the low oil level was just coincidental to the misfiring.

Generally, with a car of your age and mileage, unfortunately you have to check the engine oil level every time you buy gas in order to be sure that the level doesn’t drop too low. My advice is schedule a Check Engine Light Diagnostic during which the mechanic can let you know the full story. A certified professional from YourMechanic can come to your car’s location to diagnose the Check Engine Light and address all of the issues on your car.

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