Watch What Happens to an Engine Running Without Oil
Running your engine without oil isn’t as explosive as you might imagine, but it’s certainly not optimal.
In case you’ve ever wondered about the adverse effects of running an engine without oil, thanks to Engineering Explained, we now have a more scientific answer. Granted, the example above isn’t a large GM LS engine with eight cylinders creating heat and power, but rather a small powersports engine with just one tiny cylinder. The principles are the same, however, and thanks to a couple of interesting tests, we can learn quite a bit about how our own engines operate.
At the start of the video, host Jason Fenske uses his FLIR heat-sensitive thermal camera to determine how much hotter an engine will get when there is no oil inside. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be much temperature difference between the “with oil” and “without oil” tests.
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There are a few variables to consider here, like the fact that the engine used in the test is an air-cooled engine. So your Corvette’s water-cooled V8 might act a bit differently, in terms of heat retention. Secondly, the added friction of running without oil shouldn’t have much effect on the cylinder or the exhaust temperatures anyhow, as those will be much hotter than any friction-induced heat would ever get.
When Jason disassembles the engine at the end of the video, we can see the real damage done had nothing to do with heat. From the second the engine crankcase cover is removed, you can see that the oil in the bottom of the engine is very dirty. And when he places some of the oil on a cloth, you can also see that it is full of “glitter” — small pieces of metal sloughed off of the crankshaft, camshaft, and cylinder bore. Without some kind of petroleum-based oil lubricant (even the cheap stuff) in the crankcase, your engine will start eating itself apart.
You wouldn’t want this to happen to your Corvette’s heart, would you? So make sure your oil is properly filled and changed when necessary. Err on the side of caution, we always say.