Can a bad oil pressure sensor cause rough idle?

A smooth-running engine is crucial for a comfortable driving experience and the overall health of your vehicle. One component that plays a critical role in monitoring and maintaining the engine’s health is the oil pressure sensor. This sensor ensures that the engine has sufficient oil pressure, which is vital for proper lubrication and preventing engine damage. But can a faulty oil pressure sensor cause rough idling? Let us explore this topic in detail.

bad oil pressure sensor

Will a bad oil pressure sensor cause car to stall?

A bad oil pressure sensor can indirectly cause rough idle. If the sensor provides incorrect readings, the ECU might think the oil pressure is too low, triggering engine protection measures that alter engine performance. This can lead to reduced power and rough idling. Additionally, a faulty sensor can mask underlying issues like low oil levels or a failing oil pump, which can cause poor lubrication and contribute to rough idle. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to warning signs are not just essential, but critical to prevent such issues and ensure the engine runs smoothly.

Where is the oil pressure sensor located?

The oil pressure sensor is typically located near the engine oil filter or on the block. Its exact position can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle. Here are some general guidelines on where to find it:

  1. Near the oil filter: On many vehicles, the oil pressure sensor is situated close to the oil filter, often screwed into the engine block.
  2. On the engine block: It can also be found directly on the engine block, connected to an oil passage.
  3. In the cylinder head: In some engines, particularly those with complex layouts, the sensor may be located on the cylinder head.

To locate the oil pressure sensor in your specific vehicle, it is always best to refer to the service manual or consult a professional mechanic. This ensures that you are working with accurate information and maintaining the safety of your vehicle.

Why does a bad oil pressure sensor cause rough idle?

A bad oil pressure sensor can cause rough idle indirectly for several reasons:

1. False oil pressure readings:

A malfunctioning oil pressure sensor may provide incorrect readings to the vehicle’s computer. If the computer believes the oil pressure is very less, it might adjust the engine’s performance to protect it, often by altering the fuel-air mixture or reducing power. These adjustments can result in a rough idle.

2. Engine protection mode:

Many modern vehicles have safety features that protect the engine from damage. If the oil pressure sensor sends a false low-pressure signal, the engine control unit (ECU) might trigger a ‘limp mode’ or another protective measure. This mode can restrict engine performance to prevent damage, causing the engine to idle roughly.

3. Delayed maintenance and diagnosis:

A faulty oil pressure sensor can mask other underlying issues, such as low oil levels or a failing oil pump. If these problems go unnoticed and unaddressed, the engine may suffer from inadequate lubrication, which can lead to rough idling and other performance issues.

4. Inconsistent engine operation:

Erratic or fluctuating oil pressure readings due to a bad sensor can cause the engine to operate inconsistently. The ECU relies on accurate data to maintain smooth engine performance. Inconsistent data from a faulty sensor can lead to unstable engine operation, manifesting as a rough idle.

Thus, while a bad oil pressure sensor does not directly cause rough idle, its impact on engine management and the masking of other potential issues can lead to rough idling conditions.

How to test oil pressure sensor?

Testing an oil pressure sensor involves a few steps to determine if it is functioning correctly. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Tools needed:

  • Multimeter
  • Mechanical oil pressure gauge
  • Wrench set
  • Service manual

Steps to test oil pressure sensor:

  1. Safety first:
    • Ensure the engine is cool and the vehicle is on a level surface.
    • Disconnect the negative battery terminal to prevent electrical shorts.
  2. Locate oil pressure sensor:
    • Refer to your vehicle’s service manual to find the exact location of the oil pressure sensor. It is usually near the oil filter or on the engine block.
  3. Inspect the sensor and wiring:
    • Visually inspect the oil pressure sensor and its wiring for any visible damage, corrosion, or loose connections.
  4. Disconnect the sensor:
    • Unplug the electrical connector from the oil pressure sensor.
  5. Test with a multimeter:
    • Set the multimeter to the ohms (Ω) setting.
    • Connect the multimeter probes to the sensor terminals (refer to the service manual for the correct terminals).
    • Check the resistance reading and compare it with the specifications in the service manual. If the reading is outside the specified range, the sensor may be faulty.
  6. Mechanical oil pressure gauge test:
    • Remove the oil pressure sensor using an appropriate wrench.
    • Install a mechanical oil pressure gauge in place of the sensor.
    • Start the engine and let it idle.
    • Observe the oil pressure reading on the mechanical gauge. Compare it with the specifications in the service manual.
    • If the mechanical gauge shows normal oil pressure but the sensor does not, the sensor is likely faulty.
  7. Reinstall the sensor:
  8. Reconnect the battery:
    • Reconnect the negative battery terminal.
  9. Check for codes (if applicable):
    • Use an OBD-II scanner to check for any stored trouble codes related to the oil pressure sensor. Clear the codes if necessary.

Testing the oil pressure sensor involves both electrical and mechanical checks. By using a multimeter and a mechanical oil pressure gauge, you can accurately determine whether the sensor is functioning properly or needs replacement. Always refer to the service manual for specific instructions and specifications related to your vehicle.

Does the oil sensor need to be reset?

Yes, the oil pressure sensor often needs to be reset after replacement or repair to ensure accurate functioning. Resetting involves clearing any error codes stored in the ECU using an OBD-II scanner. This process updates the system, ensuring it correctly recognizes the new or repaired sensor and turns off oil pressure warning lights. Resetting the sensor helps maintain accurate oil pressure readings, promoting optimal engine performance and preventing false alarms. Regular maintenance and timely resets ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and efficiently.

How to reset oil pressure sensor?

Resetting an oil pressure sensor involves clearing the error codes from the car computer system. Follow the below steps to reset an oil pressure sensor:


  • OBD-II scanner

Steps to reset oil pressure sensor:

  1. Locate OBD-II port:
    • Find the OBD-II port in your vehicle. It is usually located under the dashboard on the driver’s side.
  2. Connect OBD-II scanner:
    • Plug the OBD-II scanner into the OBD-II port.
  3. Turn ignition on:
    • Turn the ignition key to the “On” position without starting the engine. This will power up the vehicle’s electrical system and the OBD-II scanner.
  4. Access diagnostic menu:
    • To navigate to the diagnostic menu, follow the instructions on the OBD-II scanner. This may vary depending on the scanner model.
  5. Read and clear error codes:
    • Select the option to read error codes. The scanner will display any codes related to the oil pressure sensor or other engine issues.
    • Note down any codes for future reference.
    • Select the option to clear or erase the error codes. This will reset the oil pressure sensor’s status in the vehicle’s computer system.
  6. Turn off ignition:
    • Turn off the ignition and disconnect the OBD-II scanner from the OBD-II port.
  7. Restart vehicle:
    • Start the engine and check if the oil pressure warning light is off. Monitor the vehicle to ensure that the issue has been resolved and the warning light does not come back on.


While a bad oil pressure sensor is not a direct cause of rough idling, its malfunction can indirectly lead to engine performance issues, including rough idle, by providing inaccurate oil pressure readings or triggering engine protection modes. Regular maintenance and timely attention to warning signs and symptoms are essential to prevent such problems. If you experience rough idling, consider all potential causes, including the oil pressure sensor, to ensure your engine operates smoothly and efficiently.


Mohammad Shafiqule Islam is a seasoned mechanical engineer with over 16 years of experience in automotive maintenance and training. He combines technical expertise with a passion for the automotive industry. His extensive background includes hands-on maintenance, diagnostics, and advanced training, making him a valuable resource for industry insights and practical advice. Shafiqule's engaging writing style and deep knowledge ensure that his content is both informative and accessible, catering to professionals and car enthusiasts. His dedication to continuous learning and sharing insights helps you stay informed about the latest advancements and best practices in automotive maintenance.

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