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I have a 2009 RaV4. I had the oil changed at a "nationally known service chain". My wife took the car the next day to visit family about 140 miles. I arrived the next day in an another vehicle and noticed oil beneath the Rav4 and coming down the front of the grill.

The car had 177,000 miles, so I thought that maybe I had a head gasket failure. I opened the hood and noticed that the oil cap WAS NOT replaced and oil had splattered all over the inside of the engine compartment.

There was no oil on the dipstick. Took it to a local shop for the service chain - they cleaned the engine comnpartment. However, the engine rattles for about 2 seconds every cold start-up as if there was no oil in the cylinders. It has been doing this for 6 weeks. What is the likelihood that the oil had gotten so low to cause my vehicle's cold start-up engine rattling issues for about 2 seconds?
 

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Immediately contact the claims department of the "nationally known service chain" and never take your vehicle to any "nationally known service chain" again.
If you had no oil on the dipstick, and you are now getting noises, the oil absolutely was low enough to cause engine damage.

If you can not change your own oil, take it to the dealer.
 

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The oil pump picks up oil from the sump area of the oil pan. It then pumps the oil under pressure to the top of the engine, and gravity carries it back to the oil pan. The oil lubricates the engine components on it's way back to the oil pan.

If there is very little oil in the sump, and the pump begins to suck air, it will not develop the same amount of pressure, and a pressure sensitive switch will turn on a warning light to alert the driver ( commonly known as the idiot light). Whenever that light comes on, engine damage has already occurred and will continue to worsen each second longer as the engine runs.

So if your "idiot light" did not come on while the wife was driving, then oil was being circulated as well as it normally was.

So the important question is, did the idiot light come on when your wife was driving?. Does your idiot light even work? Does the light come on when you turn on the ignition, but not start the engine?

Still, despite this theory, it seems like too much of a coincidence that your noise started after the loss of oil. I would certainly continue seeking some restitution.
 

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With oil sprayed all over the hot engine I'm surprised the smell wasn't her first clue something was wrong.
 

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I almost hate to say this because in today's "politically correct" environment almost anything negative can result in some sort of charge of being biased, but I've had conversations with several women who think that the oil pressure light illuminating simply means that more oil will need to be added at some point, rather than that a severely damaged engine is imminent.
 

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Tried to add to my previous post, but in Edit mode it disappeared! If there were a low oil pressure situation the engine protection system should have gone into operation, slowing the vehicle with enough warning time so that it could move safely to the road shoulder.
 

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I almost hate to say this because in today's "politically correct" environment almost anything negative can result in some sort of charge of being biased, but I've had conversations with several women who think that the oil pressure light illuminating simply means that more oil will need to be added at some point, rather than that a severely damaged engine is imminent.
dont even get me started on this lol.....had a gf once that drove the car home faster once she noticed that it was overheating.....she figured the sooner she got home to park it and let it cool the better it would be.....i cant remember how many cracks were in that head but there were many lol.....while i try not to stereotype women...when it comes to being oblivious about cars i dont hold back.....most just dont pay close enough attention or notice things easily......im sure some women are very attentive to all things automotive but i have yet to meet one lol......
 

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If there were a low oil pressure situation the engine protection system should have gone into operation, slowing the vehicle with enough warning time so that it could move safely to the road shoulder.
I don't find that in the manual. Got a page number?
Thank you
 

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However, the engine rattles for about 2 seconds every cold start-up as if there was no oil in the cylinders. It has been doing this for 6 weeks. What is the likelihood that the oil had gotten so low to cause my vehicle's cold start-up engine rattling issues for about 2 seconds?
hopefully, it didn't damage the crankshaft bearings :frown
 

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I don't find that in the manual.
In the 2012 post the OP had reported his engine died when the oil light came on while going up a steep hill. I claimed that low oil pressure caused the fuel pump to shutdown and kill the engine. I made that statement based on my knowledge of GM vehicles, I had wrongly assumed that all manufactures used the same method.

In GM vehicles the purpose of this "circuit" was not to protect the engine when the oil pressure was low, but rather to turn off the fuel pump in the event of a collision which stalled the engine. In a serious collision most drivers don't think about turning off the ignition ( or are unable to do so), so this system prevents the fuel pump from pumping fuel out of broken lines.

I first learned of this system on my 1986 GM vehicle. Since that time, with the advancements in ECM controllers, recent models seem to be using the crankshaft sensor to determine if the engine is running, and will once again turn off the fuel pump if the engine is not running. The fuel pump will run for 2 seconds when the key is first turned to get the engine started, and then it will be turned off if the crankshaft sensor does not detect engine rotation.

Ford uses an inertia switch which removes power from the fuel pump in the event of a collision. I have heard that hitting curbs or large potholes will sometimes activate this switch and kill the engine. This switch can be reset by the owner if required (provided he read the manual and knows where it is located).

So please ignore my incorrect statement that low oil pressure will cause the engine to shut down our RAV4's. Well actually it will in a few minutes, but not immediately as I had claimed. Toyota does not use this system, and it seems that most manufactures are now monitoring the crankshaft positioning sensor to determine if the engine is running.

Still this seems like a good method to protect engines, but I suppose it could be a safety risk if the engine were to shutdown in the middle of a highway. I guess it's better to ruin an engine that get run over by the 18 wheeler.

NOTE: I have updated the 2012 post to reflect my more recent findings.
 

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In GM vehicles the purpose of this "circuit" was not to protect the engine when the oil pressure was low, but rather to turn off the fuel pump in the event of a collision which stalled the engine. In a serious collision most drivers don't think about turning off the ignition ( or are unable to do so), so this system prevents the fuel pump from pumping fuel out of broken lines.

Ford uses an inertia switch which removes power from the fuel pump in the event of a collision. I have heard that hitting curbs or large potholes will sometimes activate this switch and kill the engine. This switch can be reset by the owner if required (provided he read the manual and knows where it is located).
My 1984 Mustang had this. It was my first fuel injected car. In case of a collision, you had to open the hatch and reset a white button in the back--it looked almost like a circuit breaker. Fortunately I never had to use it.
 

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I built a sports car in the Seventies with a manual kill switch that shut off all power to include the electric fuel pump. The idea was a natural from years of building motorcycles. I didn't think I'd ever need it and then one day an oil line burst and dumped Mobil-1 on the header collector and exploded! It saved my butt. Today if I were smart enough I'd find a way to automate that.
 

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In my truck driving days the then- GM Detroit Diesels were equipped with both an oil pressure gauge and a system which when if the oil pressure dropped too low triggered a buzzer warning in the cab, and then there would be about 30 seconds to allow the driver to pull off the road before the engine would shut down. I adopted a buzzer system for my Chev pickup truck which also had an oil pressure gauge, which also had a low oil pressure idiot light switch connected to an under-dash buzzer, but no engine shut down switch.


In part because I can't readily see the low engine oil pressure warning light on my motorcycle (difficult with full face helmets) I installed a handlebar-mounted in-my-face electric oil pressure gauge.
 
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